I flipped the last page of the calendar just now, and there it is: December- the roller coaster month, the bipolar month, the best of the best and the worst of the worst. What is it about December that turns our world topsy-turvy? On the one hand we tend to be more generous and kind and loving during the twelfth month. We donate to the poor, help the elderly, and rejoice with small children, even if they aren’t our own. We get teary-eyed over commercials and send cheery greetings to people we haven’t spoken to in ten years. On the other hand, we complain about our endless “to-do lists”, grumble impatiently at store clerks, and find fault with all the lines in which we are obliged to waste our precious time. We spend too much, eat too much, and expect too much.
I suppose that last statement really does provide the reasons behind our love-hate relationship with the last month of the year.
We spend too much money because we want everyone to love us and admire us; spending lots of cash seems to be the nationally accepted way to do that. If we don’t have cash there is always plastic, and eleven new months ahead to try and pay for our indulgences. So what if we lose sleep worrying about how we are going to juggle all of the new balances? Did you see the look on Johnny’s face when he opened his present? Wasn’t that worth everything? Well…maybe, maybe not.
We love to eat anyway, and during December there are all these wonderful foods made just for the holidays. Everything edible can be turned into a green, red, or white culinary delight, complete with sprinkles and sparkles and, of course some type of chocolate. There are brunches and lunches and parties and get-togethers, and innumerable excuses for eating. If we find ourselves too full to function and too miserable to sleep, we just dismiss those feelings as part of the traditional holiday experience. It will be over soon. Besides, January is the official “dieting month”.
And of course we expect too much. That’s the American way. We expect too much of ourselves and others and our country, even other countries. We want everything and everyone to be happy, healthy, and peaceful for the holidays. We want poverty to stop and wars to abate and problems to take a sabbatical for at least thirty days. We want to enjoy the magical dreams of our childhood. We want Santa to be real and wishes to come true. But expectations and reality often clash just as violently in December as they do in July. We can’t have everything we want. We can’t have a perfect December, a perfect Christmas.
I may sound pessimistic to some, but I’m really not. I’ve found that if I am more sensible and practical about December I actually enjoy it more. Yes, there will be lines and delays and traffic and rude people. But there will also be joy and gladness and peace and harmony. There will be all the little traditions I cherish: the simple pleasure of unpacking old ornaments, the joy of corresponding with people who are precious to me, the fun of buying or making a few inexpensive but meaningful gifts. I also enjoy savoring a few special foods. But most of all I love, love, LOVE making children happy. I buy a gift for an “angel child”, I buy little things for my students, and I contribute to our town’s efforts to entertain our children.
Yes, December is here. Our last page on the calendar. Let’s all make it a great month!