Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Christmas Cards (11/06/08)
TITLE: Bah Humbug
By Johnna Stein
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I decided to boycott the Christmas hubbub and forego the formalities. No gift hysteria. No messy baking. No “holiday” tree. And, above all, no Christmas cards. Those Christmas cards were a nail in my coffin. I slaved over one hundred twenty cards each year. I could save time and donate the saved postage to charity.
I felt rather energized by my executive decision. I entered Advent with a newfound sense of excitement. Truly focusing on the “reason for the season” might bring a peace I’d never before experienced.
My three teenage children became suspicious when I didn’t rush out the weekend after Thanksgiving to join the throngs of shoppers.
“Mom, what’s up? Where are you hiding our presents? They’re not in any of the normal places.”
I anticipated sharing my revolutionary idea at our Advent time, but they’d cornered me.
“We’re doing something different this year. No piles of presents. We’re going to draw names and make one significant gift for that person.” I saw eyes begin to roll.
“What about the IPod I need?”
“What about the opal earrings on my list?”
“Does that mean no puppy this year?”
I treated those questions as rhetorical and smiled at my disbelieving offspring.
“It’s going to be the best Christmas ever. You’ll see.” I gave them that You’ll thank me later look.
“Mom, what else are you NOT planning to do?” My daughter asked wide-eyed, arms crossed.
“No tree, no lights, no décor, no baking. And definitely NO Christmas cards. What a relief that will be this year. You kids just don’t understand the pain and effort that goes into those cards. It takes the fun out of Christmas. I feel ten pounds lighter just thinking about it!”
“You will be ten pounds lighter if there’s no fudge or Gingerbread men to eat.” My fifteen year old son aptly remarked.
“I hadn’t thought of that bonus. Thanks for catching that one.”
I received the silent treatment from all three kids. Another bonus I hadn’t anticipated.
The next day minimal conversation ensued during our Sunday Advent celebration. We secretly chose names and the planning began.
About a week into my new experiment, I noticed all three teens abruptly change their attitude. Their coldness vanished, replaced by an almost irritating secretiveness. They resumed their “normal” teenage communication and treated me with unusual courtesy. I became suspicious, but on the other hand, enjoyed their kindness.
Cards poured in the days before Christmas. I must admit I felt twinges of guilt for not reciprocating. The lightness I had experienced in shirking the annual card writing was replaced with a deep sadness. Would our friends and family think we no longer cared? Would they think I had finally gone off the deep end? I reassured myself that I’d jump back in next year with newfound enthusiasm, but couldn’t shake the gloominess.
“Mom, John wants me to come over for cocoa with his family tonight. Can we open our presents Christmas morning instead of Christmas Eve?” My daughter asked.
“Well, we’ve changed other traditions this year. Why not?” My old bones liked the idea of getting to bed earlier.
It took hours to fall asleep Christmas Eve fretting over the lack of Christmas atmosphere in our home.
“Merry Christmas, Darling,” my husband said as he kissed me good morning. “Stay right here. I’ll get some coffee.”
Minutes later my husband and three kids waltzed into the room. My oldest son cleared his throat and stood on the bed. “Mom, we adapted your gift exchange. We all chipped in for your gift. Follow us.”
I gleaned a whiff of pine as I neared the living room. By our fireplace stood the biggest Christmas tree I’d ever seen, decorated with lights and all of our favorite ornaments. Plates of gingerbread men and fudge filled the coffee table. Our traditional candle collection glowed throughout the living area. Under the tree, stood the crèche and one card for “Mom”.
My fingers shook as I opened the envelope. Tears streamed down as I read my “gift” :
We know the pain, our fingers ache;
One hundred twenty Christmas cards,
Have been readied, signed and mailed off
With your best wishes and regards.
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