Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Counting Down

My mother use to load my sister and I into the family car (decked out like Randy from Christmas Story) then carefully camp out on the curb every year to watch the local daytime Christmas parades. I took up the habit after moving back after college. In years past I’ve been the one to drag people along, but this year it seems I’m the one in tow.

Being bundled up to watch the school bands, dance troops and local color tromp down Mebane’s main street at the only nighttime parade perked up my seasonal cheer a bit. As did the Christmas carols I tuned my car’s radio too. But I’m still wondering why I’m not in the Christmas spirit.

I’ve hung up my Christmas wreath and set out a few decorations. (My cats are the only reason for not having a tree.) Heck, I’ve even tuned in to a multitude of Christmas movies hosted by Hallmark, ABC Family and Lifetime. And while they moved me to tears, it wasn’t from an overwhelming helping of Christmas spirit. In fact, I attribute the water works to their portrayal of the reason for the season or atleast the sentiment. (We all know Hallmark is good at that!)

And no, I’m not a Christmas crammer who waits until the last minute to get gifts. (For that person you have point a finger at my bf.) I’ve already done my shopping and even took advantage of a little time off to wrap/bag everything. (Except for those warming butt pillows…yes, you read right.) I’ve never been one to send Christmas cards and I don’t dare string up Christmas lights outside since my house’s wiring seems a bit wacky.

I also used some of that free time to read a Harlequin Christmas anthology, but that just left me frustrated. The book about Christmas proposals, which was supposed to perk me up for romance, left me feeling like I’d gotten an early delivery of coal before the big day. (But atleast I gave it the benefit of the doubt!)

As much as I might gripe, I know I have it easy this year. Most of the published writers I know are on deadline, which means they’re trying to get into the spirit, accomplish everything I’ve listed and still crank those pages out. A ritual (some seem stuck with year after year) which seems to defy the laws of time like Santa’s one-night trip around the globe.

I really feel for my fellow writers who’ve cut back on what they’re doing for the holidays, sacrificed Christmas activities for their craft, or who’ll simply forge ahead until they conk out from cramming work into every empty nook and cranny. It makes me wonder why editors can’t give them a break. Sure writers should know their method like the layout of their word processor, laptop or PC, but even the best-laid holiday writing schedule can be botched with the slightest of mishaps. (Or an invitation one simply can’t finagle their way out of!)

Yes, publishing is an industry based on trade, but there is a reason for the season. Everyone should be celebrating life, rejoicing with family, and sharing good will. Writers have enough to slave over during the holidays without the added stress of someone cracking a whip. But big business is driven by money, and that’s the bottom line this time of year (besides sales figures). (Why do you think they start stocking for Christmas during Halloween?)

Hmm…maybe that’s the reason behind my Christmas indifference. No one seems to be willing to help anyone else without getting something in return. More and more, it seems people don’t care about others, including the changing way that bosses treat their employees. And everywhere I turn kids and grown-ups merit gifts by their slick packaging and how large the cost is, instead of being thankful for the content.

What is more important—the price tag, the packaging or what’s inside? The guts underneath the fancy bow are what create the magic. The gift doesn’t have to be big or have lots of zeroes on the store’s price tag. As long as the token touched a chord in the recipient, and the giver feels joy in knowing they’ve chosen well, that’s what matters.

So, here’s a reminder. You’ve got 12 days left to find that perfect something! (Unless you’re a Christmas Day shopper who expects miracles.)

For those writers on deadline, you’ve got 12 days until you can take a day off! If your editor phones or e-mails and questions why you’re not pounding away at your keyboard try a “bah humbug” on for size. If you’re not the confrontational sort there’s always phonemail or an out-of-office message. Just make sure to add some sugar on top!

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One of my favorite holiday stories has always been THE GIFT OF THE MAGI by O. Henry. The sweet story about how a poor couple expresses their love through Christmas gifts makes this book a treasure.

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