Playing Santa

‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la la la la.

Demonstrate our great folly, fa la la la la la la la la.

Ah, Christmas.  Where did the magic go?  The days when I used to agonize over the perfect gift, going store to store to store–returning home frustrated and desperately in need of a nap.  I would put up decorations, wrap every gift with homemade bows.  And I always, always sent Christmas cards.

Then, the circle of friends with whom I exchanged Christmas gifts started to shrink.  As we grew older, there were fewer things we wouldn’t just buy for ourselves if we wanted them.  Besides the occasional bottle of wine in a reusable, decorative bag, we were down to just exchanging gifts with family.

Then, my family had what I like to think of as the “epiphany Christmas.”  We realized that we didn’t know what to get each other and it was silly, as adults to be making lists.  We called a truce on gift buying and agreed just to get the kids gifts.  This simplified shopping and allowed us to focus on the boys, who really made Christmas fun.

But then, my nephews seemed to lose their enthusiasm.  They used to try to stay awake all night so they could catch Santa; now they sleep later and later on Christmas morning.  They used to carefully open each toy, set it aside and play with the box for so long that we’d have to remind them to open the next gift if we wanted to finish in time for lunch.  Now, gift opening barely lasts a half an hour.  And their wish lists get shorter each year.  Until, finally, the youngest stop producing them all together, preferring to be “surprised.”

I have to agree that wish lists feel like cheating.  There’s something really special about a gift that says someone was paying attention to the things you’re interested in or, even better, found the perfect symbol of something special between the two of you.  I love giving gifts when I know I thought of something only I could have thought of and only the receiver can appreciate.  Even if it’s a silly, cheap gift, when it feels like the exact right gift, it really is magical.

The problem is it’s impossible to think of that perfect gift for everyone I know (and remember what it was).  In fact, if I don’t see someone regularly, the probability that I’ll have any clue as to what to give them is so small that it depresses me.  The thought that I know so little about what my father, step mother, brother, sister-in-law, nephews, friends, etc have and don’t have, need and don’t need, want and don’t want serves to remind me that I haven’t been paying enough attention.

Perhaps that will be my New Year’s Resolution–to know the people I love well enough to think of the perfect gift for each of them.


It’s begun to look like we will be in Chattanooga for longer than we originally thought.  As such, it’s time to get serious about getting organized.  I am torn between getting organized and getting rid of more stuff.

We still have things laying around that we haven’t used in years, but it’s still functional and we have yet to get our money’s worth out of it.  With only one large closet and virtually no furniture that creates storage space, we are constantly moving stuff around from spot on the floor to spot on the floor and we’re never able to find any of it when we actually need it.

We’ve asked the building manager if we could have an extra door put in our very large closet to give us better access to about 7 feet of space currently behind a wall.  Now, we need to get the rest of our stuff out of the way and stored so that we can easily cover it up when they come to do the work.

So, today, our big undertaking will be to find an inexpensive and reusable way to store the miscellaneous stuff that we want to have accessible inside the apartment.

Now, Pat and I have different ideas about how to tackle tasks like this.  Me, my priority is efficiency.  Pick the place most likely to have what we’re looking for, go to it, and if they have anything even close, buy it and go home.

Pat has a different approach to shopping for home goods.  I don’t really understand his approach, but it usually involves making multiple trips to several places several times and not buying anything.  If I have no vested interest in a project and I’m not forced to go shopping with him, I’m OK with him spending time looking at things and not making a decision.  But, I am not wired for shopping.  I like to get in, buy something, and get out.

Today is one of those days when we will compromise.  I let Pat take us to Home Depot “just to look,” and then to Target, and finally to Lowe’s.

Then, just when it looks like Pat is content to go home, I talk him into a couple of sets of industrial-looking shelving units that are on sale and some baskets.  We have to return to Target to get more baskets to put on the shelves.  While this breaks one of my cardinal rules, “Thou Shalt Not Go Backwards,” I figure it’s less backwards than going all the way home and coming back another day.

We get home and begin assembling the shelves.  The instructions say it takes 10 minutes to assemble them.  Ten minutes in, we have the first set out of the box and have removed the plastic wrap.  There really are few things that test a relationship more than assembling something together that’s supposed to take 10 minutes.  Especially when I’m already cranky from our shopping excursion.  We manage to get both sets assembled in about an hour without filing for divorce.

Next, we need to put our stuff into the baskets and put the baskets on the shelves.   My sweaters go in one basket.  Jeans go into another.  The stockpile of lightbulbs goes into a third.  The collection of miscellaneous bike tools and accessories goes into a fourth.     Then there is the pile of cables that we don’t seem to need anymore, but I’m sure we will need the second we get rid of them.  I decide they can go under the lightbulbs.  The dirty laundry gets a basket for each sort.  Then there is a small basket for gloves, hats, and scarves–items I’m sorry to say I’m starting to wear more and more.  I am quickly running out of baskets.  Is it really possible that I still have this much stuff?

We’ve sold, donated, given away, recycled, and, when all else failed, thrown away all of the miscellaneous crap that we thought we could live without.  We’ve gotten rid of dishes, glasses, furniture, area rugs, electronics, camping gear, and what seems like an endless amount of clothes.  How is it that we still have piles of stuff we don’t know what to do with?

My sudden desire to get all of the crap that has piled in the corners of rooms up off the floor expands into the living room.  I find myself standing at my desk (which is really a table) and wondering if I need an actual desk.  One with drawers so I wouldn’t have the entire top covered in crap.  Then I ask myself, am I heading down a dangerous path?  Am I about to start replacing all the stuff we just got rid of?  Does it really make sense to buy stuff in order to organize stuff that we probably don’t need in the first place?

All this thinking about stuff is making my head hurt.  I decide I’ve had enough for the day.  We now have the things I haven’t known what to do with it hidden away in baskets that look, well, if not nice, better.  It’s sort of dorm-room like in decor, which is not exactly the look I was going for.  But, that’s OK.  Better a dorm room than something less reusable.  After all, someone can always use shelves.