I haven't started Christmas shopping.
The month started out pretty well, considering all the usual things and add-ons happening. Thanksgiving had gone off well, despite the oven being broken. The birthday parties for the kids earlier in the month were also a success, despite a few bumps and scrapes at one and wet feet at the other. We'd even snuck in a weekend away and graduation without skipping a beat. So I was happily wandering into the shops thinking summer clothes, when I was caught off guard by the loudly heralded comment that came from a shop attendant - "I've finished all my Christmas shopping!"
For a moment I was stunned, frozen to the spot. Then my my mind started racing, spinning in a cascade of thoughts chasing each other like a cat and mouse in my head: Finished Christmas shopping? But Christmas is in December...at the end of December...oh my, it's December...already a week into December...so a couple of birthdays coming up too...how did this happen?! A lurch from my stomach up through my throat and dropping back down like a stone brought me back to Earth. I looked around at the brightly decorated shop, hearing again the carol I had been humming just moments before, and wondered how it could be that the connection to Christmas shopping had not yet been made. I swallow, bite my lip, and fight the urge to punch the smug attendant in his serene, smiling mouth. Returning the smile, I slowly replace the skirt that had once seemed so inviting on the rack and turn to exit the shop. I realise I am still smiling like I've been hypnotised as my head kicks back to life, immediately turning to the bookshop to check some essentials off the list that is rapidly building in my head: the kids, my family, his family, nieces and nephews here and in the US, teachers, close friends, stocking fillers...the list builds and crushes all my hopes of a day to gather (and clothe) myself.
As I head to the counter with way too many books, I complain to the attendant about the "finished-my-Christmas-shopping" guy, and she laughs. "Why is it", she says, "the four people in the world who have done that are always telling other people about it?" And I realise it's true - nobody is out there telling whoever they meet that they've not even started their Christmas shopping. So this is my gift to all others out there like me this Christmas season, who are buried in life and concerts and end of school year and caring and working. Don't worry. I haven't done my Christmas shopping either. (Well...except for the books.)