Like many people, I do not choose to engage in the annual spending orgy of Black Friday, opting instead to celebrate Buy Nothing Day on the Friday after Thanksgiving. And I recommend it, really – spending the day going on a long, foresty hike with loved ones as we vainly attempt to walk off the over-eating of the day before. And puzzles. And leftovers. And more puzzles. Always a good time. Also, it’s good for me to take a breather in the midst of holiday madness.
Because, this time of year, and every year, I go mad. Completely, totally, bonkers, bananas, loony-toons, cookoo-for-cocopuffs, both Hatter and March Hare, mad. And, if I was a betting man (or, in my case, woman), I’d wager that you do too. And it isn’t your fault. It’s the damn holidays.
The holidays are crazy-making. The expectations. The lunatic scheduling. The jittery children. The lists. The shopping. The cupon-cutting. The oppressive darkness. The cold. The near-constant phone calls. And the pressure on parents (and perhaps it’s unfair of me to assume that the pressure is worse on moms. It feels to me like it is, but since I am not a dad, and because the dad in my familial context is the coolest of cool cucumbers, it is difficult for me to say) to make things just so. To make things perfect. We become the guardians of the happiness of every person on earth, and god help us if we fail.
Instead of the normal shopping-tastic Black Friday with its door-busters and Walmart fistfights and television sets for pennies on the dollar and whatever, I have in its place, every year, my own personal Black Friday. My Black Friday is far worse than everyone else’s. I’m not saying that to brag. It’s just the truth. It begins the night after Thanksgiving. And it happens in my dreams.
This is my Holiday Mom Black Friday Anxiety Dream:
I wake up in my bed because of the thunder of feet as my children stampede into my bedroom. (Now, if I ever attain the gift of lucidity while dreaming, this should be my first inkling that I am, in fact, dreaming. My daughters haven’t woken up earlier than me since they were five. Leo, my son, still does wake up early – usually around six or six thirty in the morning, but he never comes into my room. Instead, he goes downstairs and puts water in the electric kettle and puts a tea bag in my favorite mug and either plays his ipod or draws until someone comes down and hangs out with him. And by “someone”, I mean me.) (Also, I should know I’m dreaming because my kids are filling the room. I only have three. And while it often feels like there are masses of them – like I am Girl Genghis Khan, mothering my massive Mongol Horde – I do understand that this is only a stress-induced perception augmentation. In my dream, however, I did not have three children. I have hundreds. Hundreds. And I truly love them all.)
“Mom!” my hundreds of children cry. “Mom! Mom! Mom!”
“What!” I say, wrenching myself out of sleep. I rub my eyes and smile.
“Can you believe it’s Christmas already?” my hundreds of children sigh.”Isn’t that wonderful?”
At this I leap out of bed, my mind and body racing. Christmas? I think in a panicked blur. Christmas already? I’m not ready! I don’t have a tree! I haven’t decorated! I haven’t made the Christmas cards! I haven’t bought any presents! There is nothing for Christmas breakfast! Or dinner! And oh god oh god oh god! I am out of milk!
It’s the milk that gets me every time. Because if there is no milk, then we can have no tea. And if there is no tea, then the thin threads tethering my mind to any semblance of sanity sever one by one.
This is where I wake up, dripping with sweat. This happens every night. Every single night. Starting the night after Thanksgiving and lasting until Christmas morning.
And I think about famous holiday anxiety dreams – Joseph seeing the possible stoning of Mary and having an angel give him what-for, or Ebenezer Scrooge and his three ghosts – and I start to feel anxious about my anxiety dreams. Because at least those guys had dreams that did something. Safeguarding the childhood of the Lord, for example. Or giving an old geezer his heart back. But what do my dreams do? Besides making me into some kind of Mother Goddess, which, frankly is not that bad. I wouldn’t mind mothering a horde, if truth be told. Still, this dream gives me no insight, no perspective, no world-saving change. It just makes me crazy.
And it’s too bad, because this season is wonderful. We are pink-cheeked and singing. We are thinking of the people who matter to us and wondering what would make them happy. We are spending more time at church, at one another’s houses. We are paying attention to snowflakes and the scent of pine and cookie recipes. We are lighting candles. We are making things. Perhaps I am waking up too early from my dream. Perhaps, in my anxiousness, I’m not asking the fundamental next question. “So what?” I should be asking. And then I should hug my kids.
To the rest of you moms and dads who are, right now, hanging onto your sanity by your fingernails, I raise my glass to you. May your goblets flow with wine, and may you be given chocolate for every meal. May your days be filled with sweetness and your nights be filled with song. And may you, in this most blessed of seasons, be filled with light: light that conquers darkness; light that vanquishes misunderstanding or division or despair; light that is conceived, gestated and born, again and again, into our arms. Happy Holidays, my dears. To all of you.