Hat on Top, Coat Below


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December 18, 2002

I’ve come down with a bad case of holiday stress. I’ve done so little, and I want to do so much, and there’s little time left to close the gap. In my fantasy life, I buy perfect presents that surprise and delight Mr. Karen and our parents and siblings and nieces and nephews. In reality, I got my Mom the same things as last year—subscriptions to Prevention magazine and a fruit of the month club— because that was easy and have so far bought nothing for anyone else, other than ordering two items for Mr. Karen that could just as well be for me. In my fantasy life, I write long, personal notes in each of the Christmas cards I send. In reality, I scribbled at most a line or two in a rush to get them done and in the mail yesterday. In my fantasy life, I have festive decorations both inside and outside my home. In reality, all the lights and ornaments are sitting in their boxes in the basement and will likely remain there this year; there just have been so many other things to do, and now it’s so close to the holiday that we’d only have to take them down again almost immediately if we did put them up, so there doesn’t seem to be much point. In my fantasy life, I bake a variety of tasty and attractive goodies to share with friends and family (just like Jenipurr did, but without the trip to the emergency room). In reality, at most I’ll manage to make one kind of cookies from store bought dough.

Now that I see it written out like that, I think part of the problem is I’ve got someone else’s fantasy life confused with mine. I don’t really want to spend a whole day baking. I used to make cookies from scratch, creaming the sugar into the butter and stirring the dough and feeling impatient because I wanted to get to the decorating part. Since I starting buying the tubes of refrigerated dough, I’ve had more fun because a much larger portion of my time in the kitchen is spent playing with the cookie cutters and food coloring and frosting and sprinkles, and that’s my favorite part of making cookies. I’ve thought about just buying plain cookies at the store and decorating those but decided I’d miss being able to choose which shapes to make. Also, my mom has a big collection of cookie cutters, and bringing out my own and using them takes me back to when she and I made cookies together—we didn’t do it often, but when we did it was a good time. If I now enlist the help of the Pillsbury Doughboy to get that same feeling, so be it.

Compromises on the gift giving front might also be in order. Mr. Karen and I have been planning to exchange our presents to each other closer to New Year’s than Christmas, a plan that’s worked out well for us in other years. That means I’m not as far behind with shopping for him as I feel I am with the rest of the holiday preparations, but I’m having a hard time getting my shopping mojo working, and I know he is, too, because we talked about it the other night. If I haven’t bought anything for him yet, and he hasn’t bought anything for me, perhaps that’s a sign that we should consider doing something else this year besides presents. That’d be a radical step for me, since I’ve always been the one who really wanted the stocking full of little somethings and a pile o’ boxes under the tree. Now, it doesn’t seem as important. Often, we buy each other things that we could just as easily get for ourselves, and sometimes it’s clear that we shopped at the same stores. It just seems silly for him to go to REI to buy something for me when I was just there buying something for him. I haven’t come up with any brilliant ideas for what to do instead, though. Go shopping together for some big fabulous something for the house? Go see the next big musical to come through Detroit? Take a weekend trip to somewhere we wouldn’t usually go? I’m stumped. Plus, I worry that I’ll miss opening presents. Maybe we should just wrap up stuff we already have. Since I haven’t been doing at all well with my decluttering effort, there are plenty of things around I wouldn’t miss if they were wrapped up and used as Christmas present substitutes. In fact, doing that would help the decluttering effort, as we could just gather up the gifts along with the piles of wrapping paper and throw the whole lot away.

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