There are dreams I have, sometimes recurring, disturbing dreams from which I wake, shaken, spent and drained, as if Iâ€™ve had no sleep at all. Thereâ€™s the awful waitress dream where I canâ€™t get to all the tables fast enough, unable to serve the clamoring customers, becoming buried deeper and deeper, until itâ€™s so horrific I finally realize it must be a dream.
â€śWakeup!â€ť I command my sleeping self, â€śNow!â€ť
I answer, â€śOkay, okay, I will but just let me first bring the bread to table six.â€ť I awake exhausted, feeling as if Iâ€™ve worked a full shift without being paid. Sometimes I wonder about all the people still waiting for the food that will never come, sitting there stuck forever in the Bad Dream CafĂ©.
Then thereâ€™s the lost cat dream, and the acting dream in which Iâ€™ve forgotten my lines, the confusing married to the wrong husband dream, and the out-of-control driving dream, but very worst of all is the no Christmas presents nightmare. This torturous Christmas dream can unfortunately occur at any time throughout the year. I might wake in April panicked that I have nothing to help Santa fill up the stockings or that I forgot to get presents for my children or my brother. In early September I could dream that itâ€™s Christmas Eve and the stores are all closing before I can finish shopping. And the Christmas disaster dream must be somehow contagious, like the new omicron variant, capable of spreading through the ethers, traveling the midnight freeways, invading the peaceful sleep of others. Just the other week my son Riley reported, â€śI dreamt I came home for Christmas and you didnâ€™t have any presents for Miranda or me. I was really sad.â€ť
Hence the pressure is on. Youâ€™d think by now, after lo these many years, I would begin my shopping early, say in May. I could now be resting easy, having the gifts all wrapped and labeled, finished, no pressure, sitting with feet up, sipping eggnog, while others fight for parking spaces and squabble over the one remaining sky-blue golf sweater rather than being stuck with presenting oneâ€™s brother-in-law with the other color choice, that of the unfortunate and ugly, dirty mustard. Oh, God help me, even though I will try to make some gifts and shop at small neighborhood stores, inevitably Iâ€™ll be out there, at the mall amidst the clamor and calamity, trying to keep a carol in my heart.
I attempt to ready myself, to buoy my stamina and spirits. â€śYouâ€™ve got this girl!â€ť I chant. â€śYouâ€™ve done this a million times. You just need coffee and candy canes. Take a small purse, donâ€™t wear a sweater or jacket, it gets hot in the mall, donâ€™t get stuck behind slow-moving shoppers, remember the ladiesâ€™ room is on the bottom floor of Macyâ€™s, donâ€™t waste time in long checkout lines, instead try the home wares register on the third floor. Use your magic Christmas antenna to zero in on the good items right away; if they donâ€™t make themselves known at first glance, leave the store. Smile at people, appreciate how lucky we are to even be able to shop, take a moment to sit at that little bench in front of Swarovski Crystals and pray. SAVE ALL RECEIPTS! Remember thereâ€™s a bar, top floor of Nordstrom. Put money in the Salvation Army collection bucket and be sure youâ€™ve made a note of where youâ€™ve parked. Then repeat until finished.â€ť
Of course, we try to shop online but so often there is a problem with our orders; we canâ€™t always remember how we paid for the purchase, what site we bought it on, when its due to arrive and when it finally does, finding itâ€™s not at all what we wanted. Last year we ordered a unicycle for our son and panicked when we realized weâ€™d ordered it twice. Who the hell needs two unicycles? It defeats the whole purpose.
This year, yet another holiday hurdle has appeared, like something thought up by The Grinch. News channels were warning that due to drought conditions and transportation problems there is a Christmas tree shortage. I imagine a panicked populous in a mad rush to get trees, with families battling each other over the last overpriced spindly, Douglas fir. Soon, except for a few trampled branches and fallen pine needles, all the tree lots would stand sad and empty, like the deserted toilet paper isles during the pandemic. Above the sound of crying children only the Grinchâ€™s evil laugh would remain echoing in the Santa Ana wind.
I just hope it doesnâ€™t come down to the Beleaguered Husband and I going out with an ax in the dead of night to chop down our own tree. I foresee broken ankles, poison oak and spiders.
Yes, I know Christmas doesnâ€™t come from a store, and whether a family sits around a magnificent evergreen or one small candle, they are still a family. I know besides the garish, assaulting commercialism, frantic spending, rushing and bustling, that there is a quiet part of Christmas. It is that still and softly shining part that I want to carry with me through the trials ahead.
And in that very stillness, may I hear the sound of one clear bell, growing, resounding, and vibrating across our weary world, all the way from here to Bethlehem.
May it be heard by all of us!