A Christmas Column


by Elisha Shumaker, Eugene Daily News 

There is a certain addictive characteristic about the unique euphoria that comes from the holiday season. It seems that every year, we all experience the post-holiday blues, when our fix sustained by cookies, candy, presents, trees, lights, over intoxication, ornaments and Bing Crosby, is suddenly ripped from our hands. We are left with a forecast of gloom… 4 more months of pitiful weather, and all that was beautiful and good has been tucked away in an attic now full of boxes labeled “X-mas”, oversized bags stuffed with extra tubes of rolling paper and giant inflatable lawn characters. All of it gone.

My mother is a Christmas junkie. She has serious troubles letting go. The snowmen in the yard begin to melt in early April as warm rains steal the spotlight that had been long occupied. Finally, my mother begins to accept the passing. Watching this process every year is like watching a work week. The high of the weekend starts Friday afternoon, just before you leave work. The excitement of anticipation, the way you begin to feel in October, when the stores start pushing the Halloween crap onto the clearance racks and replacing it with a giant amassing of Christmas decorations, foods, gift ideas and more.

Merry Christmas Mom!

Friday is the day my mother would leave work early. She needed to shop, she needed to bake cookies, she needed to write a shopping list, she needed to decorate the house – inside and out. My mother went into manic overstimulation. Every square inch -more accurately, probably every cubic inch – was occupied by a thick collection of Christmas ornaments, crafts, and other memorabilia that had collected naturally over years of family history. Friday was everything leading up to the main event. Friday inevitably would become Saturday. Saturday morning was crunch time. By morning, I mean from 8 at night on Christmas Eve, until 5 in the morning Christmas day, there was a creature stirring in our house – not a mouse, not Kris Kringle, but my mother. Short bouts of bustling around the kitchen were the punctuation for hours of wrapping presents on the living room floor. She would have watched “A Christmas Story” four times before reaching her breaking point, and would then switch to Christmas music. It played softly in the living room, so we wouldn’t wake. Hours later the scent of fresh cinnamon rolls marked the commencement of approximately thirty minutes of unwrapping the gifts she had spent all night awake wrapping.

The weekend goes on, being the weekend, wonderful, lazy, and exciting. Everything you knew it would be. And you are satisfied. But quicker than you know, the easy Sunday morning becomes Sunday afternoon. A few football games is all that stands between you and going to bed early. Because tomorrow, tomorrow is Monday. Monday is work, Monday is responsibility, Monday is drab and dull, Monday is the most boring, homely girl you’ve ever met and Monday is swapping your sweats for something less comfortable. Monday is the day most people choose to kill themselves. The misery of the beginning of the work week is knowing that it is the point in the week when you are the farthest from your precious weekend. In relation to the Yule season, January and February are Monday. The holiday high is wearing off, quickly for some, for others it departs more begrudgingly. We’ve become fat, we are tired, we are broke, and we have to go back to work. The next celebration seems obscenely far on the horizon. Psychologists like to call it “Seasonal Affective Disorder”. Really, masses of people are recovering from malls, traffic, parking lots, credit card swipes, and wine-soaked nights. A two month hangover, in the cold, in the drear, among a collective breeding pool of negative emotion. Monday is the day we return the less appealing of the gifts we received to Wal-Mart.

We all trudge through it and Tuesday’s not much better, but it’s definitely not worse. Wednesday is when the outlook really starts to turn around and your bitterness starts to subside. Not too much longer now! For my mother, Wednesday, the hump day of her holiday cycle, hits in the month of April. Up to this point, she has resisted, in a veil of procrastination, she has loathed and refused to accept her Monday. She has called in sick, stayed at home in loafers and a house robe and watched Drew Carey host The Price is Right. Christmas has faded from the outside world. Snowmen linger, but holly and ivy have gone along with the mistletoe. Trees adorned with lights, manger scenes and blinking icicles disappeared from sight long ago.

On West Ninth Street in Elmira Heights, one still has a hard time feeling that the season has gone anywhere. It had been customary that the holiday decorations were still up at this time of the year. No one we knew, would even think of still having their Christmas decorations up. After all, it was getting pretty damn close to Easter. Mom would kick into overdrive at this point. In a whirlwind, the packing and putting away that most had done before the start of the New Year, four months ago, was now happening in our house. The sudden change, is Wednesday, the changing of mentality, the realization that there is finally something on the horizon. Late Wednesday into Thursday distract you, and they come and go like the fireflies of summer. June, July and August fly this way. The only thought being given to the holiday is the weekly stashing of cash in the “Christmas Club” account at the bank. Suddenly it’s Friday again.

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