It was Christmas Eve 2005 and I was rushing from Park Avenue to Times Square after work, trying to catch Toys R Us before they closed their doors for the night. I needed to get my then almost 11 month old son a few Christmas gifts. The walk wasn't terribly far. So, I decided to brave twelve New York City blocks in whipping wind, an improper coat and four inch heels. When I got there I noticed the huge Toys R Us signage was unlit and just below it stood a decent size crowd that had gathered outside the large revolving doors. They weren't pissed, just annoyed that the store was officially closed until December 26th. The sign on the doors revealed the sad news. I joined them in their soft huddled conversation as we all watched a few workers inside, with the lights on preparing to close up. We were all in slight disbelief that they could see us outside, in the cold and wouldn't allow us in to shop for our (what would be) disappointed children. They had no pity and shut their doors promptly at 5 pm. "What about the procrastinators?", I thought as I looked at my watch. It was 5:05 pm, I'd just missed them. Walking slowly to the train, I wondered what I'd do. It was freezing cold outside and I deserved every bit of it. As I slowly defrosted on the train and then the ferry ride home, I thought, "never ever will I do this again. Never ever will I wait until the last minute to prepare Christmas for my deserving good little boy." Thank God he was only 11 months old and wouldn't remember his mommy's epic fail.
Fast forward twelve years later, it's a week after Halloween. I'm walking to work, shocked as shit that they are adorning Christmas ornaments and lights everywhere. Surely it is too early, I think to myself. I scrunched my eyebrows and rolled my eyes in mild annoyance. Some of my friends and coworkers had joined in the mayhem, they too were ordering gifts online and were having things delivered in slow succession. Some mentioned that they were doing it since the end of the Summer. I had never even thought of Christmas while I was enjoying Summer rays.
Then, Thanksgiving passes and some of them had started Christmas-like activities; skiing, ice skating at Rockefeller Center or going to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. Then, I start receiving cards in the mail, which I love giving as well, but the feeling was just not fully there yet, so I continued with life as usual. I was really busy and I just gave a weird brow to the idea of taking or at least choosing a suitable holiday picture of my son and I. Then I think, he's thirteen. How old is too old to be a cute little kid on a Christmas card anyway? Idea dismissed...Well kinda. The more I received them, the more I realize that I am not okay about not sending them out. Welp, time just kept on passing and I didn't do a card. People I knew started attaching countdowns to their timelines on social media, which only added to the pressure and my mini anxiety. I just stopped looking as it was highly annoying me.
Three weeks before Christmas, I received a gift card and holiday treats start showing up at work, as does a Christmas tree with all the trimmings. A slight sense of urgency sounded an alarm within me and I start asking my child (who also had no sense of urgency) what he'd like for Christmas. He has almost everything and seemed unbothered, but sent me a picture of a couple of items via text message a few days later. In my mind, I pictured a tree (that I didn't yet have) with two gifts under it. Why bother in that case. But I had to at least get a tree, right? Yes, and it had to be now or never.
Any real New Yorker living in a small apartment knows that there is no adequate space to store off season clothes, let alone a whole tree of any size. So, off to Target I went to purchase the same exact little rose gold tree that I purchased the year before at around the same urgent time. It was on sale yet again! However, it was sold out. I even asked if I could purchase the display tree out of desperation...of course the answer was no. I mentally gave up for a couple of days. I did purchase the smallest table top tree that had snow and pine cones on it and set it on my kitchen window sill. I was failing at Christmas yet again. Within the course of a week, I mentioned my lack of a tree to one of my cousins, who told me that she got an artificial tree from Home Depot, easy and lickety split. So, I woke up very early one morning and scoured their online site for a couple of hours and stumbled upon a beautiful Martha Stewart slim fur tree. IT WAS ONLY $55!! I bought it immediately and had doubts about it later. Christmas just might be saved after all. Although, I would have to wait until it was delivered on December 19th to feel the joy. Damn, it only left a week before the big day. Well, I decided to take it.
To my surprise the box was delivered early via UPS. No one had stolen it from in front of our door like I'd envisioned, because it showed up just after we got home on the 15th. I was excited, but the box was smaller than I imagined and it wasn't terribly heavy. I tried not to over think the fact that I had possibly made a horrible mistake. After dinner, I removed it from the box and set it up pretty easily in a perfect corner. It fit and it was miraculously 7 ft tall just like they said it would be. The more I fluffed the branches, the more my heart sang. My son was thoroughly excited, helped and then plugged it in. She was absolutely gorgeous and looked very real. I said, "girl, you're perfectly slim thick like your mama (me)." I called her Eloise in my mind and seeing this one thing undecorated, in our space created a feeling of expanding. I pulled out my containers of ornaments and hung a few strings of lights in our kitchen and Christmas stockings from the year before, even jingle bells. I left the light on all night while we slept, since it is artificial and turned the lights on as soon as we came home everyday. All dressed up, Eloise looked like a princess especially once I added the silver angel and fluffy, homemade chenile crocheted tree skirt. I ordered a few gifts very slowly and they arrived. I shopped for the rest literally just days before Christmas. My son asked if we would ever have gifts under the tree by the morning of the 23rd and I assured him that we would.
On Christmas Eve, as usual I sat down to the daunting task of wrapping and packaging it all beautifully. This usually took hours and I'd get minimal sleep before it was time to rip all my hard work to shreds and toss it in a big bag for the trash. Everything had to have actual ribbed fabric ribbon or fluffy metallic bows. This year I decided on this glittery wrapping paper which I quickly regret after wrapping two gifts. It took two whole days to get up all the sparkle. In the course of my last task, I fell fast asleep - but woke up early enough to power through and when it was complete I straightened it all. Everything including my place. Decided on a nice breakfast of pancakes, bacon and eggs. Finally, I sat down with a cup of tea and relished the quiet hour before my son woke up. When everything twinkled and sparkled with wonder and Christmas music played softly from my Beats Pill. My space was warm and cozy. Picturesque. But why was I so tired?
P R O C R A S T I N A T I O N. I needed a nap. I sat still with my cup thinking about the almost empty Christmas of 2005 and I shook my head. It could have easily happened this year and it would have been remembered this time and not only by me. Thank God for the Internet and constant warnings. Next year, I promise to be one of my crazy friends who starts shopping for loved ones at the end of Summer during the rays. I will be one of the cautious ones who takes holiday photos in the Fall, as opposed to not sending one at all. For those folks propel that good feeling and cheer and I will be one of them. I'm proud to say that I was able to provide a slim thick Christmas. One that consisted of a thin, but full enough tree that sparked just enough good feelings with its soft white lights.
G R A T E F U L L Y, J A S