Christmas is a Mess

Christmas is a mess. Rolls of wrapping paper cluttering the table. Gifts stacked haphazardly in family groupings. Or wrapped but not yet mailed. Gold and green ribbon curls into a knotted tangle, too much of a metaphor for my emotions.

What should be done hasn’t. Everyday life doesn’t stop just because Christmas is coming. There’s no swap—you can’t quit washing dishes and spend an hour and forty-five minutes mailing gifts instead. Christmas simply layers onto what always demands attention. So laundry piles high in the basket, dust bunnies hop from beneath the sofa.

Christmas sucks all the air from the room. It demands priority—the clock is ticking! Something like a roaring train ignites in me, and I’m researching recipes, adding yet one more responsibility to the mix.

My novel sits ignored. Poor baby, it has a deadline too. Self-imposed, but if you can’t be true to yourself, who in the world should trust your word?

Then everything is in the mail. I’m disappointed with half my purchases. I vow to come up with a system next year to gift better. Something efficient, I tell myself, but mid-sentence, I realize I won’t do it. I’m one of those gifters who want at least a bit of individuation in what I give. I want it to feel like it’s for you. This year, there was too much uniformity while not quite rising to a theme.

I feel like I’m sitting on the sofa with my chin in my palm.

But, you say, the point isn’t material gifts. It’s the coming of the Christ child. That’s a false dichotomy. I give people gifts because I love them. I want to create a flicker of happiness for them. You can tell from my focus on mailing that, other than my NOLA folks, my loved-ones don’t live near me. The gifts are my remembrance to them.

Christmas just isn’t hitting right this year. Maybe it’s the billowing cloud of Omicron. Or my mother not being here—again, and forever. Perhaps I’m experiencing that sadness so many associate with the holidays.

What I can tell you is that I miss my sisters. I miss the towering tree at 505. I want my daddy coming down the stairs and kissing me good Christmas morning. The hard church pew and the interminable, fidgeting wait for Christmas Eve service to start. The lowing cattle and our nightgowns and oyster dressing and the stark winter fields of Mississippi. I am lost in times of love, which shouldn’t hurt so much.

There. I have loved Christmases past. I will love this Christmas. People will lie and tell me they like my gifts. I’ll appreciate the shielding. I will fall asleep Christmas Day with love in my heart. This, too, is readying for Christmas: untangling my jumbled emotions along with the damn tape dispenser that eats its tail like a sticky snake.

May love hold you close.

peace in creativity, Ellen

May love hold you close

Christmas 2021, Christmas depression, Preparing for Christmas

Comments (14)

  • Jesus, E, one of the best things you’ve written I’ve ever read that hits it on the nailhead. We all embrace this harried frustration and and harried anxiety at a time, annually, when we feel we should be perfect. Fuck that, babe.

    I think this also is not a familial memory and expectation—or even dysfunctional familial, as well as happy one—but a hormonal, estrogen-level one. I don’t think guys have any idea what this means to us. Poor Mary, she had no idea on that long trek to Bethlehem, that she was opening but also obligating us all to as women. Let alone the three wisemen with their gold, frankincense, and myrrh— the subliminal basis of our harried Christmas season.
    Love you.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      Thank you, Suzanne. I HATE complaining when my life is so lovely, so to hear it hits right for you gives me all kinds of relief. And to imagine I’m part of a larger group of women struggling through these last days like Mary on her trek makes it SO MUCH EASIER. No worries about editing–your words are greatly appreciated. As the old version of the poem says, Happy Christmas to you!

  • Thanks for this post, Ellen. I also miss my sisters, one in Texas, one in Florida (How can they continue living there? Ha, ha, Paul Simon sings about “how can you live on the banks of a river when the floodwaters flow from the mouth . . .”) Back in hometown Dallas in the Fifties, we had no stairs, but I had a loving daddy, like you. When you had the best, you have the longing.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      You’re welcome, Patricia. I love that Paul Simon quote. 🙂 You made me smile, talking about your daddy. And your statement about having the best and longing is perfect. <3 Merry Christmas to you this year.

  • I am starting to not like the process of getting gifts for others. This year the kids get checks and I have cut down on who else gets gifts. I feel very ick about the whole process. Instead I plan on doing more projects for people. First one is an elaborate wedding junk journal for daughter. That will take a year, no doubt. Happy days, Ellen.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      I so agree. I almost put in this post that maybe next year I’ll make things for folks. But in my head it sounded like a pipe dream. I love your journals, and I’m sure your daughter will be overjoyed with one honoring her wedding. <3

  • The only way I get through Christmas is by keeping my expectations way low … so low as to not have expectations. It’s become another day for us, made possible by not having family nearby. We have friends but they have their own families (full with grandchildren and in-laws) and so we decline any invitations, not wanting to be outliers that everyone but the hosts find curious and strange.

    I imagine you’ll repeat this craziness next year 😉 I don’t know why Christmas has to include so much stress, but it’s how our society is wired. In the end, though, you will be happy, you will feel loved. You’ll pine for the past, but enjoy and hopefully share the memories.

    One year I made something for every member of my family. I was 19 or 20 and had a lot of time on my hands. One year. Haven’t done that since 😉

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      I’ve often turned to themes in my Christmas giving (I’m a theme person). One year I gave everyone something I had discovered that year and adored (so my mom got a can of Glory Greens) Another year I gave them something they absolutely would never buy for themselves, but seemed for them (my sister got mirrored sunglasses.) But my theme-maker was broken this year. It may return. I may follow your lead and start now making something for folks next year (I am, in fact, this afternoon making one of my son’s gift bc I couldn’t find what I wanted to give him.) This is the year’s delusion: in the past it was wonderful; it will be perfect in the future; now, it’s like dragging an anchor across the seabed. And, as you say, in the end I will feel loved.

  • Wishing you the blessings of peace, joy, and love, which are always appropriate and never need wrapping. I attended an online support group by hospice about dealing with the holiday season, which is our first without any of our elder generation. One of the suggestions was to travel for the holidays and I’m writing this from London, where my elder daughter and her family live. It’s been a bit tricky with omicron raging but I’m grateful to be here. I did almost no decorating, wrapping, baking, etc. at home before we left and presents that we brought had to be small enough to transport, so things are pared down in unusual ways.

    I’m sure that the recipients of your gifts will not be fibbing when they say they love them – or that that will be a shorthand way to say that they love you, which is true every day of the year.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      Oh, yay! You are in London! That makes me so happy, to think about you with your daughter and family from whom you were separated for so long over the last several years. And the gift of parameters, including suitcases. So appropriate for a poet. Have the merriest of Christmases!

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