Tuesday, December 05, 2006


All I want for Christmas...

.. is to manage to put it all into perspective.

So suggested my very smart husband this morning when I was doing the big angst about fitting in the visit to my family. (After my sister blabbed to my mother about some thoughts I'd had, even though I asked her not to... which has got me even more tense about it all than I was already.)

"At least you don't have to wrangle with Malaysian companies over a contract worth a couple of million dollars."


But I'm going to have a whinge all the same.

I am not that into Christmas.

There, I've said it. Sorry. I am not religious, so I feel a bit of a fraud, actually... Perhaps you can justify the whole materialism aspect of it if you can put it into the birth of Christ/wise men bearing gifts context.. I've never really understood where Santa fits into that... and basically my whole life I've just gone along for the ride, doing what you are supposed to do.. but without any deep feeling of specialness about it all. Trying to make up Santa sacks that the kids will go 'ooh ahh' about. Trying to summon enthusiasm for a tree that makes the living room smaller than it already is., and even harder to vacuum.

Bah humbug. Trying to do this by myself, because the Daddy here is not into it at all, and, given our division of labour (Him Breadwinner, me all the Other Stuff), then it is all down to me to make Christmas Christmassy. And I am just no good at it. (I blame it on my upbringing.)

Christmas has, to me, just come to represent stress. Stress about what presents to get everyone. And stress about having to have a ridiculously large and "special" meal, twice, with each side of the family. Somehow.

Every year we face the decision of which side of the family we'll spend Christmas day with... and how and if we also catch up with the other side of the family. Dependent on the distance factor.. given that we live a few hundred kilometres away from everyone.

Each year that we travel to family, we curse our insanity for leaving the beach (where we live) for the heat and humidity of Sydney and surrounds. Last year we stayed here, but ended up with family houseguests for a whole week.

Most years, though, we have travelled to them. And we will again this year, to spend Christmas with Marc's mum. Around 650 km from here to there.. 8 hours driving time. Each way. It will be a difficult one because his Dad passed away in August. We have rented a holiday house near her holiday house, and his younger sister will be up from Melbourne. At least it will be in the relative coolness of the Blue Mountains, a couple of hours west of Sydney... well.. it might be only a couple of degrees cooler than the usually sweltering Sydney at that time of the year. Or it could be misty and something like 13 degrees. Pack for all seasons.

We have to travel through Sydney to get there. We have friends who live between Sydney and our destination, and we haven't seen them for ages, and, as we saw all my family in Sydney a few weeks ago, I decided this time we wouldn't stop on our way through, and we'd stay a night with the friends. Which leaves the problem of when to catch up with my family.

I have just the one sister, so when we go to Sydney we usually do the family meal thing then, with our parents, sister, her husband and two kids. So there is nothing extra special about getting together at Christmas, except that it seems to be a prerequisite to provide, then attempt to consume, HEAPS of food. Usually a buffet style spread of cold meats and more salads than you need. Enough food for a week put out for one lunchtime meal. (And I'm trying to lose weight, for heaven's sakes.)

This year I tossed around the idea of meeting my family half way somewhere during the week we are in the Blue Mountains.. and to do something different (a picnic?) and then use our new tent, and camp our way home via the inland route.

I decided to trust my sister with my thoughts... but she has blabbed to our mother, who rang up last night to do the 'Oh' thing about it. "Oh, you're not stopping on your way though? Oh, I don't really want to do a picnic.. what if it's hot, or raining, and I wouldn't know where. Oh, you might not be coming home through Sydney." Etc etc etc. Thanks Sis. Given Marc and I hadn't had the chance to talk about it the last 3 weeks, but had started to think it was all 'too hard basket', I didn't need The Phone Call.

I suppose we will have to do the 'week late' family 'do' on our way back home. It's the easiest thing. Even if it's not the thing that would be most enjoyable for me.

I haven't done any shopping yet. I have spent the last few weeks in a kind of 'fingers in ears going 'lalalalalalala it's not really getting closer to christmas is it, I can't hear you' state. I have no clue at all this year what to get anybody.

We will have to cart the Santa presents there and back. Instant size-of-presents issue. (And if you have ever heard my husband grumble about packing the car, you'll understand why present shopping for that stresses me.. because on top of bringing back what we took there will be extra to come back from the presents they receive when they are down there - despite the fact that we will have taken some to give away. He has never gotten over the glitter that pervaded the car one year because of some glittery, girly present given by Grandma. Or the dolls house he had to squeeze into the car, somehow. ) Only the youngest still believes in Santa, so it must still be done for her sake. Despite the fact that it might be more sensible to buy them each a larger item that they really need, instead of a heap of stuff that has been bought simply because it is transportable.

I also have no clue what to get my nephews. If I ask my sister for ideas, she will organise me into what to get, and offer to buy it for me. Which I HATE.

The only thing I really get a kick out of doing at Christmas is maintaining the contact with friends made over the years that you don't always get a chance to keep up with. Since we got married our christmas card has always been handmade, and reflecting something about our family... It used to be stick figure drawings of what we were doing (paddling a canoe, or building a house ourselves)... now it's usually a photo of the girls to mark the season. (Because they are more photogenic than Marc and me.) I usually write up a 'year that was' spiel, because it gives me a chance to reflect on our lives over the past 12 months, and to look ahead to what we are hoping to achieve. I enjoy it when I receive the same in return, because I know that even though you can't catch up in person with everyone that has become a friend, or touched your life in some way over the years, it is nice to make an effort to make sure it happens. And I enjoy their updates or reflections.

I know that the same should apply to family at Christmas .. Not sure whether it's just me, or my whole family, that is too dysfunctional to make that a reality.

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Ugh. Christmas. It seems like everyone is wearing their feelings on their sleeves, and something that would ordinarily evoke "humph" now causes sleepless nights and hurt feelings and all manner of mess.

Tell you what, since you're used to a Summer Christmas, and I, a Winter one, you come here and I'll go there and we'll pretend it's entirely the wrong time of year for Christmas and act like it's not even happening. Whadya say?

The only thing I truly like about it is poinsettias. I think they're pretty.
You know I think you'd be totally freaked by a hot Christmas! And, I don't know that a white, cold Christmas will really convert me. I think I'm too far gone.

Is there anywhere I could go where I could get away with pretending it's not happening?

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