Catching up with Christmas

I have this one reoccurring dream, among many, that involves an incredible sense of panic over having forgotten to get Christmas presents.  Usually, it is Christmas Eve and the stores are closed and I'm left feeling like a total turd.

I'm not sure where this fear of not being ready comes from, but it is rooted in me like nothing else.  It explains, perhaps, my penchant for always arriving at meetings early, often before anyone else.  It supports my practice of being fully prepared for any eventuality and my habit of thinking ahead.  I wonder if I traumatized myself in my youth by having forgotten someone's birthday?

Normally, a couple of weeks before Christmas, I'm hard at work writing Christmas cards, arranging for presents and designing our annual Holiday Hello, a picture-laden newsletter that has become an anticipated arrival in the mailboxes and Inboxes of friends and family.  But this year was anything but ordinary.  A heavy schedule, that often involved six days and nights on the go with a bonus day to catch up on household chores, left no time to get ahead of Christmas. With one week to go, I'm playing catch up.

Last night, I began the process of pulling pictures from the year into the pre-formatted Holiday Hello.  I end up keeping a similar structure for a few years before blowing it up and starting from scratch.  This proved to be godsend this year, as it meant all I had to do was select pictures that would be the markers of the year that is about to pass.  I bounced back and forth between folders located on this computer, an external hard drive and on Facebook for a couple of hours, finding the right mix and balance.  It's surprising how much one forgets.  The pictures rekindle the embers of memory, allowing the narrative that followed to naturally reveal itself.

Ben insisted on writing his own section of the Holiday Hello last night.

"Now, if you'll notice Ben, I've always written these sections in the third person," I said, thinking he'd have no idea what that meant.  He is only nine.

"No, I get it.  No problem," he said, sitting down at my laptop and starting to write immediately.

It was fun reading when he was done, seeing what emerged as the highlight of his year.  His experience with Digging Roots at the Big Spirit Festival proved to be the thing that rose to the top (Thanks Raven and ShoShona).  Should Ben go on to a career in music, as he fully intends to do at this point, this singular encounter could represent the turning point.  Shortly after, he began guitar lessons with the incredible Simon Budd, his natural acuity for music encouraged, enabled, inspired.

Dylan was too busy studying for a math make-up exam to write his own piece in the Holiday Hello.  This was the year of his major growth spurt.  He is now a towering lumbering teenager, already taller than Heather and destined to stretch above my 5' 9" frame within the year.  He's a great young man who is a natural born leader.  It was fun watching him and a group of buddies work on a video public service announcement project at the house last week.  Without being pushy or overbearing, he kept them moving in the right direction, making everyone feel like they had a voice in this finished product.

The final words in the Holiday Hello always fall to Heather.  She will sit down at my computer, the InDesign file open, and put in the thoughts that will fill in the spaces between the pictures.  So, while I play the role of chief archivist and bottle washer in the family, everyone pitches in to ensure this portion of our Christmas tradition remains intact and enjoyed by friends and family across North America.

Heather has done the bulk of the shopping this year; there is not much left for me to do.  That said, I will still wander the stores, usually in the early morning hours when they are likely to be less busy, and search for some extra surprises.  There is a joy in giving that is more difficult to feel when I've only played a modest role in helping to pay the bill.

Piles of Christmas cards have been delivered to Canada Post each day for the past several, going into the delivery stream in modest chunks to increase the remote possibility that they might arrive by Christmas Eve.  If not, it's OK.  Getting nice messages post-December 25th feels just as good, if not better.


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