Christmas Countdown – Illustrator
It’s the countdown to Christmas. Since the Toy Show, children have been double-checking their wish lists, posting or burning letters in the fireplace. They can now relax, excitedly waiting for Santa’s imminent arrival. But what about us adults? What of all the jobs we have to do? If only we could write a letter and have Santa’s elves clean the house, do the shopping and magic a cooked turkey onto the table? Christmas is a wondrous time but is it worth all the stress we put ourselves through?
Check that ‘To Do’ list:
Write and post cards: (if not done by now, too late!)
Choose tree: This seems like a simple task. Pile kids in the car, drive to local garden centre and select an aromatic pine. Bring husband/partner/muscly volunteer to do the heavy lifting. “It’s one of the things we do together as a family,” a friend confided. “We walked through aisles of trees. The kids inspected branches for prickliness and ‘piney’ smell while husband stood on tip-toe, reaching upwards to gauge the height. The garden fella got fed up and left us to our browsing. It took an hour. As we’d driven in two cars, myself and the youngest transported our final choice while the rest travelled with their Dad.
On the way home daughter screamed, ‘Spiders!’ We hate them. Steering manically, I rolled down the window while daughter swatted the offending bugs and threw them out. Then the sneezing started. Oh no, her allergies were kicking in. ‘It’s OK Mam, I’ll take my medication. Doesn’t matter that this is a real tree, the dust on a plastic one would have the same effect!’ The tree lay outside in the rain, wrapped in netting for another week. When we eventually dragged it in, we couldn’t remember why we’d even picked it!
Decorate house: This can involve several tasks like putting up holly boughs, candles and outdoor lights. Anything that involves ladders and heights? Forget it! I’m not risking my neck or electrocution! Then there’s the tree. After the effort of dragging it in, who’s going to dress it? I listened with envy as the spider-screeching mum described how her family would decorate the tree together. Could my cynical gang do the same? No chance. I nagged 15 year-old son to help carry our plastic specimen from the shed to the living room. It stood in its box for 2 weeks before I did the job myself in a panic, 4 days counting to Christmas.
Clean house: It’s all very well putting up tinsel and a tree but pointless if the place looks an unholy mess. This is where Santa’s dust-busting elves would be handy but alas, I’m home alone when it comes to cleaning. Where are those teenagers when I need them?
Music: Driving home for Christmas (dropping 15 year-old back from school) I’ve the radio on. “Do we have to listen to that crap?” he moans reaching for the dial. “Don’t be a Grinch,” I swat his hand away, “That’s David Essex, the Harry Styles of my youth.” “Uugh, I’m listening to my phone,” he moans, plugging in earphones to kill any chance of mother/son conversation.
Food: We can get totally stressed about producing the perfect, cake, pudding and dinner on the day, but as another pal reminds her ‘foodie’ loving brother, who’s an invited guest, “It’s not about the food but all about the fun.” “Sounds better already,” he agreed.
Panto: My friend’s husband bought panto tickets. “Oh no you didn’t!” she yelled, “Oh yes I did!” he shouted back. The kids started roaring too. “Hah! Our fiendish plan to have them join in and practise worked a treat – should be a great night.”
Presents: Why do we suffer so much pressure to find the perfect present? An organised lady advised me about surprise and anticipation. With planning, you can drip-feed hints beforehand. For example, if it’s concert tickets for some big gig next year you could leave a magazine article about the star casually lying on the kitchen counter, the following week give a cd of favourite hits or e-mail info about the hotel for the overnight stay, the idea being that the seeds are sown – they will really LOVE receiving those tickets and enjoy looking forward to the event. “Brilliant,” I thought, but so much work! Let me order online or buy something quickly and be done with it.
Surprise: With three teenagers shouldn’t Christmas shopping be easier? No way. Items of interest are either extortionately expensive or computer game-related. And I’ve been playing a losing battle trying to wean the boys off PlayStation. I’ve asked outright “What do you want? I’d rather spend the money on something you will definitely wear/like.” “Yeah, but that’s no fun,” daughter argued, “It’s nice to get a surprise.” Uuugh, parents can’t win. For the past week I’ve been frantically searching the internet for appropriate gifts and praying that Amazon won’t let me down. The words ‘May not arrive before Christmas’ or ‘Sorry, this seller doesn’t deliver to Ireland’ send my blood pressure soaring. Life was so much easier when they wrote their letters and Santa took care of it all!
Deep breath – the final countdown – it will all come together. Regardless of the state of the house, the tree or whatever’s wrapped underneath, it’s the bringing together of family for Christmas that counts.
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Maeve O’Keeffe, the Frazzled Mammy! ©Maeve O’Keeffe 2015
(This article was published in the Cork Evening Echo, 23rd Dec 2015)