December Madness

 

I could see her grimace in the mirror. For a second, her hands stopped moving, brush in mid-air above my head.

“No, not in the afternoon… I can fit her in, no later than 12.”

Yes, they were closed on the 25th, she mentioned just before that.

“On the 24th around 5 or 6 would be more acceptable… mom needs to finish all the preparations before getting her hair done. It’s the day before Christmas, after all.”

Seriously? I couldn’t help turning my head and throwing a mean, disgruntled look to the rude woman. Not that she minded… So she does know it’s the day before Christmas. My eyes moved from her to the elderly lady standing quietly next to her. She had no problem letting her daughter do her dirty bidding.

“I’m sorry. 12 is the best I can do. But if she’d rather come another time…”

There was a small glimmer of hope in her eyes.

“Oh fine… It’ll have to do,” the woman growled before leaving the salon, closely followed by her mother.

It’s a small place and the woman colouring my hair is the owner. She’s very good at what she does, but that’s no longer enough. We’re not exactly friends, but we know each other for years, so there is a certain familiarity and trust. I know she’s a traditionalist when it comes to holiday celebration; I also know she loves to cook and her children probably expect her to spend some time with them too. All her clients know that. I also know that she needs to go above and beyond, her family’s livelihood depending on her.

But above all, I know she’s a human being… just like those of us who are her clients.

‘Tis the season… ‘tis the season to forget that there are people behind all those services we require to cater to our every need (and more) during these December days. It’s funny to notice genuine outrage when some see employers demanding their employees work extra hours during the holidays; yet the same people throw a tantrum if they see the “closed” sign anywhere during the same days. After all, we’re all excessively busy and under a lot of pressure this time of year, “they” should be there to make our lives easier…

Don’t get me wrong, I understand how the economy works and why things happen this way. But perhaps we could make a small effort as well for those who have no choice but to work at a time when we’re resting, relaxing, celebrating.

“You’ve come prepared, I see,” and she smiles at me, eying the canvas totes I had just pulled out of my hobo bag.

I really don’t feel like making small talk with the girl who starts scanning my groceries; but I smile back, because she’s so cheerful and friendly at a time when her colleagues are generally tired, bitter, snarky and rude.

“One more trip and you’re done with your Christmas shopping.”

I know, there’s almost a week to go until Christmas.

“I’m not stepping in this place until after Christmas,” the words escape my lips involuntarily as I’m arranging the bags.

She tilts her head, a puzzled look on her face, this time not quite managing to smile convincingly. I’m about to become the main character in an anecdote, the crazy lady who’s bought half the ingredients for a Christmas meal, which cannot possible be combined in any festive dish.

“I already got the rest, I want to avoid the madness of last-minute shopping.”

I’m not lying to her. Everything that could be purchased in advance is already in my fridge/freezer or in the cupboard. Sure, my small kitchen is busier than usual, but I like it that way; to me, that kind of stocking up means Christmas is near, and I’m looking forward to cooking and baking.

“That was wise,” and she gives me another wide smile, wishing me a good day and happy holidays.

I keep hearing all sorts of “recipes” for a stress-free Christmas. I agree with some, I find others purely extreme. I suppose we do what we need to do, to not only survive, but even enjoy the season. One of the things I do my very best to avoid is last-minute shopping… or last week shopping, to be more specific. I like to see the hustle and bustle before the holidays, but I no longer leave anything relevant or absolutely necessary to be purchased in those final days. I have done that many moons ago, I blame it on youthful naiveté. “Final” is exactly how it all feels, it’s a “buy or die” scenario and I hate to fight over the last one of this or that item. I hate the monsters we become in such instances.

So no more of that. Not for me, at least. I like to think that in some small way, my absence from a crowded, crazed line helps somebody, offers them a couple of minutes to breathe. That’s all I can do. Somehow, it’s becoming more and more difficult to tear ourselves from that vicious circle, from that exponentially increasing madness. But should it really be this difficult? Perhaps it’s because I like to plan in advance, so Christmas doesn’t sneak up on me. Perhaps it’s the fact that I still remember my childhood days, when almost everything was closed for the holidays, but somehow everybody survived just fine, purchasing everything they needed in advance. I don’t know… What I do know is that it shouldn’t be so hard to remember that there are real people behind the shelves, bars, screens, phone lines and all those other services we feel we are entitled to consume.

So to those of you who make our holidays better and safer, a heartfelt “thank you”!

Happy holidays!

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9 Replies to “December Madness”

  1. truly a nice tribute to the many that work on Christmas – and other holidays.
    I have so much to share about this – but will limit it to two short stories – k?
    and first, must comment on the post.
    I love how you noted what you had done “many moons ago” because same here – we try to improve our holiday experience by improving – drawing boundaries – and see so many of those”monsters” come out. ugh
    also enjoyed the details about the sharing with the cashier – so rich.
    and quick stories:
    my son volunteered to work on christmas day and then it turned into a double – he was working with his (somewhat) new girlfriend and so of course that played a part – but we were so sad cos I was expecting him – and it went from see ya at 3:30 to then 5:30 to then can’t come at all. Had we known we might have driven the 90 minutes to quickly see him – anyhow, I am not a big holiday person and so I had to grapple with that – my first time not seeing my oldest on xmas day – and it was totally ok – but did not expect that tinge of disappointment.
    second – on xmas eve we had to stop and get a can of soup.
    I told FIL I’d make a green bean casserole (first one ever) and somehow – the soup part was all I had not gotten – even splurged for some nice crunchy onion topping – so anyhow, when all stores were closed on the 24th and 9:30 pm – I was shocked – cos it seemed like many stores were getting away from that closing down – but looks like it is coming back in vogue to pause for this time-
    and I also remember many moons ago when
    “almost everything was closed for the holidays, but somehow everybody survived just fine”
    yes yes yes
    let’s pause even if not for the holiday to just enrich our life and pause to stop going going going….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We learn from our past mistakes, even when it comes to “festive” behaviour… or so we should 😉 I was just thinking of this, when my mother told me that once again she left her Christmas shopping for the very last moment. As usual, she was shocked and irritated by how crowded it was. No comment 😉 .
      How generous of your son to volunteer to work on Christmas day. At least he had the girlfriend there, to keep him company. But I am sorry you didn’t get to see him. I’m sure you’ll make up for it on another occasion.
      As for pausing… I’m learning, I’m learning, I’m still learning the joy of pausing 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. thanks for the reply – and I agree that we learn from the mistakes and sometimes repeat them if we forget the lessons – or if they were a long time ago
        ha
        I have some new goals for xmas going forward with older kids – but it took this year to see how it would go –
        and cheers to the pausing and double cheers to learning to embrace it.
        lastly, was at a blog earlier and
        it kind of ties in to the festive chat…
        and had to share:

        Yes, despite a long list of challenges, there is so much to be thankful for. Never mind that a holiday forces us all to think about thanks every November. It would be easy to call it what it is: Hallmark blackmail: be grateful, be thankful, or you’re not American. There’s something wrong with you, if you can’t give thanks.

        Yes, despite a long list of challenges, there is so much to be thankful for. Never mind that a holiday forces us all to think about thanks every November. It would be easy to call it what it is: Hallmark blackmail: be grateful, be thankful, or you’re not American. There’s something wrong with you, if you can’t give thanks.

        “Here I am, it’s 1am and I’m writing. The words pushed me out of bed, as I thought about the things I’ve just mentioned, and… gratitude. Yes, despite a long list of challenges, there is so much to be thankful for. Never mind that a holiday forces us all to think about thanks every November. It would be easy to call it what it is: Hallmark blackmail: be grateful, be thankful, or you’re not American. There’s something wrong with you, if you can’t give thanks.”

        Liked by 1 person

        1. In some cases, it’s great fun to “forget” the lessons learnt and repeat the same mistakes… in others, it’s purely a waste of time and energy. Of course, telling which is which is such a subjective matter 😉
          I can only imagine what an adjustment period this must be for you, with the kids growing up and finding their own path…
          Thank you for sharing this fragment, it’s so to the point. No Thanksgiving to deal with in my little corner of the world, and I am thankful for that; another major holiday so close to Christmas would be a bit too much for my taste 😉

          Like

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