Resetting the calendars to October always brings home the fact that the crazy season in now upon us. Here come the holiday decorations, three months of beautiful neighborhood displays that get bigger and brighter every year. Here come the birthdays, four birthdays in as many days just in our house, plus more birthdays of family and friends at the same time. Here comes Halloween, the biggest holiday on a witch’s calendar, with trick-or-treating and finding the right costumes to handle the unpredictable weather and parties and seasonal foods. Here comes the first snowfall, the little dumping that closes the schools now but just gets ignored if it happens in February. Time for better tires on the cars and one last cutting of the lawn before the snow covers it like a blanket until spring comes to wake it up. Here comes Thanksgiving and all the expectations of the Norman Rockwell family holiday, with happy relatives and huge feasts and that tribal ritual of sporting events and guests expecting to be waited on. Then it’s December with more parties, buying coats and boots for all the children again, finding and making hats and mittens and scarves and doggie snowsuits. Time to throw the budget in the waste bin as Yule and gift-giving approaches. What is that secret to gift giving that it seems the whole world but me has? Presents for the children, for the husband, for the mother and the father and the brother and the new sister, for the church family, for homeschool friends, presents for everybody if only we can figure out what to give and how to procure it. Yule vigil and Christmas mess and New Year’s thaw and January polar vortex with a snowstorm on my birthday, and the world is frozen over and my toes are cold and my mind and heart are exhausted from all the social pressures.
So many expectations. I remember the years I actually handmade costumes for all my kids, real sewn costumes for Peter Pan and Captain Hook and princesses and Pooh and Piglet and Tigger, too. I remember the times we had parties and I made beautiful cakes, hand made and decorated, for all my birthday kids, with a pinata and party games and even decorations in a clean house. I remember sending out holiday cards once upon a time, hand-addressed cards to everybody I knew, to addresses I still have but which probably aren’t good anymore. I remember putting up the tree the weekend after Thanksgiving along with decorations, outside lights, the works, and then taking it all down and putting it away after my birthday. I remember making a full Thanksgiving feast by myself, with a turkey and dressing and sweet potatoes and rolls and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole and fruit salad and pumpkin pie. I remember attending holiday parties at friends’ houses, so neat and clean and perfectly decorated despite the residence of homeschooling children. I remember years when the tree was dwarfed by the present pile on Christmas morning, one year by donors, one year by grandmas, but no year recently. I remember going to New Year’s parties with social clubs, leaving the kids with grandma and staying in the hotel, drinking and dancing and more all night long.
Every year I go into October thinking all these things are going to happen, that this year is going to be the year that all my ducks are in a row, the stars are aligned, everything works out. I can’t avoid the crazy season altogether, but how do I avoid the minefield of expectations and experience that comes with it?