Christmas. Ain’t it just grand? Fairy lights strewn from everything that is (or isn’t) pinned down, your Netflix suggested list encouraging you to drown yourself in every ounce of festive cheer, carols on repeat blaring from speakers in stores usually reserved for the Iikes of Sam Smith or T-Swizzle. And it’s all wrapped up by the distinct overriding vibe that the end is near. The end of school and the end of year but you still have one mammoth task ahead; to survive the chaos that is gift giving. Dun Dun Duuuun.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. It has always been my favourite holiday. The food, the family get-togethers and of course the elusive fat man making a cameo on Christmas Eve to deliver a gift we all know Mrs Claus organised but claims the glory none the less. Christmas as a kid is nothing short of magical. Even after learning the reality of the life long fable, I still laid my sack out each year and played the part because it was exciting. Nieces and nephews soon came along and the cycle began again of going to great lengths to keep up the charade. Then the ultimate, you become Mrs Claus the moment you birth that baby. I’d insert a GIF here of an overzealous, sugar hyped child clapping if I could. You get the vibe though, stoke levels are at an all time high.
For your first born on their first Christmas, it’s heavenly. It’s easy, they’re small and no lists are involved. You choose what you want them to have and that’s that. But as subsequent children come along, in your own family and your extended, everything just gets unsuspectingly bigger, kind of like the bubblegum Violet Beauregarde chows down on in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. It’s all fun and games until you’re puffing up like a giant blueberry and praying someone sticks a pin in you, stat. That was me, 3.4 weeks ago. Consumed by the lists and requests and everything that must get done before school ends for break. I could feel the burst coming.
I spoke to my husband months ago about Christmas. Just starting loose conversations about what our two boys might need with the aim of getting in front of the eight ball. His contribution is always trucks or vehicles and often what I suggest is met with questionable stares like I’ve completely lost it. Much like the time we got our son a kitchen for his room instead of a car garage. Shock, horror. Needless to stay the kitchen is played with EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I’ve learned for the most part to take his stares with a grain of salt because I still like to pretend gift gifting is a collective endeavour. So fast forward to 3.4 weeks ago and a phone call to him feeling so overwhelmed I didn’t even know where to start. Crying may have been involved.
I had lists in my phone for our boys. The lists start with the child’s name and are then broken into sublists that read like this: From Us. From Santa. From Nanna and Pa. From Nanna Don. From Granny and Nonno. From Nanny. From Poppa. From Aunties and Uncles. For each child I have a budget from the respective gift giver and I have to find appropriate gifts that go with each. Then the next set of lists is friends children and the couple of birthdays that fall on Christmas Eve, totalling six gifts. Then we do KK as adults across three families, which adds another six gifts. If you’re still with me and haven’t drowned your head in a bucket of eggnog yet, that rounds out about 34 gifts, unless the child gets a few smaller things that fit within each budget, which of course they do. So let’s call it an even 45. Queue giant POP.
After my SOS call, darling husband agrees to sit with me that night and finalise the short lists I’ve created. I feel relief. We sit in bed and I have 361 tabs open on google, flipping between pages and lists and I can hear his brain frying as I do it. His eyes are glazed over and I know I’ve lost him. He’s mumbling things like “that’s good” and “yeah that one” randomly, like he’s got me fooled. Fact, he does not. Never the less we forge on and finalise the list and he swiftly puts Fortnite on and disappears into the abyss. The following night I tell him about how my day was trying to hunt for gifts and he looks at me, perplexed. “But we finished the list last night?” In his brain, a list means we are done. As if the gifts just show up. For a moment I wonder if he still believes in elves. I explain to him that now I have to try and find everything from only a handful of online stores, ideally at the lowest prices, to minimise the shipping costs. All he could say? “Fuck. I promise I’ll be better help next year babe.” I snap back, “It’s NOVEMBER. You can still help me this year!”
The following day I put my youngest to bed, sit the other in front of the TV, make myself a triple shot coffee, strap a stack hat on and sit at the laptop. Game on. Consequently it’s Black Friday so my inbox is being flooded with discount codes and propaganda of everything my child needs that isn’t on my list. I’m ticking things off, finding codes and members rates for anything I can. Within two hours, three quarters of the list is done, my bank account is drained and I’m laughing sporadically like you do when you’re over tired. I’ve crossed over to the dark side. Within another 24 hours, I’m done. Baskets are empty and my inbox full of ‘Thankyou for your order’ subject lines. I pity any poor fool who does this at the shops, requiring some level of actual human interaction.
The following week my Dad arrives around 5pm each night to deliver whatever arrived on his doorstep that day. I send it to their place because they have a reception desk so no parcel gets carded to the post office, I don’t have time for that. I’m checking lists to ensure the postie didn’t steal anything and packing it away for wrapping when I can sit and watch Love Actually on repeat. As I’m checking parcels my husband tells me how great they are and that he doesn’t know why he ever second guesses my gift giving skills. All I can do is roll my eyes and laugh.
Expecting my husband to have any thorough input is like expecting Santa to slip down my non existent chimney on the 24th carrying a slew of must have gifts that make us feel like kids again. Ultimately the festive season of 2018 has been one of great realisation, finally understanding that the greatest Christmas hoax doesn’t involve a dude in a suit. Instead it’s that the task of gift giving is a two parent affair.