I’m busy with last-minute holiday panic. It comes in two varieties:
1. Getting the stocking stuffers. Hint: If the kid gets everything out of the stocking, looks at candy bars, lottery tickets, hand warmers, an egg sandwich in cellophane and snuff, you’ll have to explain that Santa now stops at the gas station before he makes his rounds.
Of course, it’s not any easier shopping for adults. At the mall, you see desperate men at the perfume counter, telling the clerk, “Well, she’s a size 4, does that help?” Or they’re in the appliance section trying to find a Belgian waffle maker that is Bluetooth-enabled and sends a message to your phone when the waffle is ready.
2. Worrying over weather ruining travel plans. In the old days, you could take the train, and those diesel beasts could blast through anything. They wouldn’t be delayed six hours because the track had been closed for plowing and now there were 36 trains circling the station.
In the era before trains, a storm meant you simply didn’t go, because you would perish. If it was dicey, you’d pack a good knife in case you had to spend the blizzard inside a dead horse to keep warm.
We can imagine the conversation couples had before setting out:
“Did you pack the knife in case we get caught in a storm and the horse dies and we have to get inside?”
“Yes, woman, I packed the knife.”
“A good knife? I remember the Christmas of ’98, when you didn’t sharpen it before, and you were out there sawing away for an hour.”
“It was 45 minutes, at the most. And we didn’t die.”
“Well, you’re the one who’s going to be working on cold horseflesh, not me, I’m just thinking of you.”
These days we consult satellite weather maps and fret when the TV news shows people in long lines at snow-struck airports. “Oh, no! Long lines at the airports. That can’t be good.”
It’s all stressful, right? Well, yes — unless you decide otherwise. Everyone has a bad Christmas at some point. I don’t mean the time the tree fell down, the turkey burned or you bought the wrong-sized perfume. I mean a Christmas of loss, of sadness, of absence.
They happen to all. But the Christmases that follow are burnished by the memory of the bad one. You’re less stressed about what you didn’t do. You’re happy to have what you have.
Let me tell you the true, absolute secret to non-stressed, utterly satisfied Christmases. It’s ...
Oh, shoot. Got to sharpen the horse-sawing knife. Next year, perhaps.