Battling Bah Humbugs
I’m not much of a Christmas person to begin with, but I am having an extra-hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. I’m busy, and I’m broke, and neither of those things is really conducive to shopping. I don’t have anything in particular that I want (except a full night’s sleep, GEORGIA RUTH), and I don’t have any great gift ideas planned for any of my loved ones.
My father flat-out told me that he won’t be getting me anything and that he doesn’t want anything. “I’m turning 75 on Saturday, I’m in the middle of my fifth divorce, and I have a colonoscopy scheduled for next week,” he told me when we talked on Wednesday. “I am really not feeling festive.”
But what my dad and I are lacking in Christmas cheer, Ruby can easily make up for – if by “Christmas cheer,” I mean “consumer frenzy.” Her Christmas list is extensive; it encompasses anything and everything that has ever been advertised on television, up to and including mail order catheters. She wants a Dream Lite. She wants Stompeez slippers. She wants Cuddleuppets and a Slushy Magic and a Cool Baker Cake Pop Maker. “Mom, are you over 18?” she asked me the other day. “You are? Good. You can call now! They’ll even double your order!”
I don’t need anyone to double my order, but it’s true that I am doubly on the hook – her birthday is just four days before Christmas, and it hardly seems fair to short her on presents just because I was dumb enough to get pregnant in April. And even if I were tempted, she’d never let me get away with it.
“I need the Press Dough! Cookie Maker,” she told me a few days ago. And in response to my taking a breath to respond to her, she shouted, “And don’t even say it! I don’t want to be grateful for what I have!”
I would be more worried about this brattiness were it not so seasonally appropriate. I remember feeling exactly the same way as a little kid at Christmas and at my birthday, and they weren’t just days apart. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want her to be aware of just how lucky she is. I want to instill gratitude in her rather than entitlement, obviously. I’m just not sure how to do it. We’ve donated toys to needy kids and given money to families that were affected by Hurricane Sandy, but none of this has seemed to have a real impact on what Ruby wants. She is happy to give toys to needy kids, just not her toys.
When we went to go see Santa, we had to bring a toy for charity, which Ruby helped me pick out, and as she sat down on Santa’s lap, she whispered in his ear: “I picked a toy for a little boy because a girl toy would be too hard for me to give away. I hope that’s OK, Santa. Can I still be on the Good List?” Poor Santa looked bewildered. And I am, too, honestly. I could force her to donate her own toys, I suppose, but forcing charity doesn’t feel right to me either.
I do know that I am going to be careful not to go overboard this year, but it won’t be easy – this is the first year since I brought her, 4 days old, home from the hospital in a stocking that I won’t be spending Christmas morning with her. She will be up in St. Louis, having a great time and being spoiled rotten by her dad’s family, and I already can feel the stirrings of some irrational urge to make up for not being with her by buying as much plastic crap as possible.
The idea of not having Ruby for the holidays is also having an impact on my Christmas spirit. It’s hard to want to put up a tree or dig out the stockings knowing that she won’t be here to appreciate them. It makes me sad that this will be the first year that I haven’t carried her, heavy and sleeping, from the car after Midnight Mass. That I haven’t had to write a note from Santa or leave carrots out for Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer. That I won’t see her face when she wakes up on Christmas morning. It’s especially sad because this may very well be the last Christmas that Santa holds any magic for her.
But I am trying my hardest not to dwell on that. I am trying to focus on how much fun she’ll have in St. Louis. I am trying to focus on Georgia’s first Christmas, even if her fondest desire right now is just to find a way to put the wrapping paper into her mouth. I am trying to focus on the beauty and joy of the season. I am trying, unlike Ruby, to be grateful for what I do have.