Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Christmas Crunch

Christmas is only a few days away and as usual, I am not one of those enviable types that are ahead of the game by a long shot. This time of year my closet is designated as The Area Which Shall Not Be Entered, otherwise known as my hiding place for presents. I’ve been pushing packages in there for weeks, shoving them to the back, piling plain brown bags on top of the plastic ones with more obvious markings. Spouse and Second Born forbidden to follow me through the house as I slip through the hall with packages and close the door to the bedroom, dropping my finds into their temporary digs.

It's not like I have these things protected by lock and key.... or even a door, for that matter. It is just the unspoken threat of what might happen to those packages that usually deters any poking around. When First Born was living here, it was a different story. She was (and I believe still is, according to The Fiancé) a world class snoop. I had to just about booby trap bags and boxes, or wrap them immediately when she was around. Second Born rarely even makes it a challenge, and Spouse is afraid if he goes anywhere near my closet I will demand a door, so he wisely avoids that area at all costs.

Now comes the most challenging part for me - labeling wrapped packages correctly. Since you’re not me, your ability to retain a thought is probably longer than that of a gnat. I, on the other hand, will wrap an item, place it on the bed and turn around to grab a label… and forget who it was for, let alone what it is. This could be dangerous. Nobody wants Uncle Ned to unwrap the Hello Kitty Pop-Up Board Game while little Annie is displaying a collection of Cuban cigars. You get the point even with made up names. I should also really consider keeping some kind of chart to be sure I have accounted for every gift that was buried in my closet, to prevent unearthing items three months later.

It’s the stocking stuffers that are my real downfall, though. Every year the little things I pick up in preceding weeks manage to morph into mounds of stuff that will never fit into stockings. I swore I only got a few things, but it turns out it was more like a few dozen things. I would like to believe that I am not the only one who faces the same struggle at 11 p.m. each Christmas Eve, trying to shove socks, card games and five pounds of chocolate into each overflowing stocking.

When it comes to identifying gifts for those outside the family and close friends, coworkers for instance, it can be tricky to choose the appropriate Christmas label. I am a tad biased about who is given the more festive design, hoarding the delightful reindeer or adorable angel stickers for those who share my love of all things peanut butter instead of the guy in accounting whose name I got in the Secret Santa pick. For his gift a wreath label will suffice.

I should point out that we don't actually have a Secret Santa or even an accounting department in my office - but if we did the guy in accounting would probably get a wreath label.

You may also have to think carefully about what you’re going to write on that label. What if you wanted to bring a small box of homemade cookies to your hair stylist? Should you just stick to the to-and-from format, or can you add a small note that your roots are showing and you need an appointment?

In the last few years I’ve taken to baking cookies as small tokens of my appreciation (also to feed Second Born’s college roomies). There are some folks you probably should avoid giving homemade Christmas treats to because word spreads. I am regretting sending cookies home with the guy who replaced our hot water heater last year. I’m convinced he told the oil tank guy who appeared this year. But I’m on to them. I’m tired of picking out a red ribbon each year to place on an appliance.

Once I’m done with wrapping the hidden presents, stuffing the already overstuffed stockings (along with nibbling on a little chocolate at the same time) and placing everything under the tree for a wonderful celebration on Christmas morning, it is usually close to midnight. The positive side of being up in the middle of the night is that all is calm, all is bright.

At least until I find one more bag hidden in the back of the closet.

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