I am what we call a last-minute shopper. I leave my shopping for the last 10 days before Christmas and I enter the stores in an “almost panic” mode.
This does not mean I am near hysteria. On the contrary, I am totally focused. My mind tells me that the job needs to get done. There can be no hemming or hawing. Once I hit the target price tag, I am off and running.
I have a list. It is long.
I get to Rustan’s in Alabang as it opens. Essences is my favorite spot. This year, I will have the tidiest, cleanest and best-smelling grandchildren in the world.
As Christmas Eve draws nearer, the gift-wrapping counter starts to look like a war zone. Because I am miserable at it, I leave most of my packages for their professionals to wrap, tape and beribbon. When they are done (it is now taking at least two whole days), I get a text telling me they are ready for pick up. Wonderful. But I am far from done.
I get home and label each present and check off each name on my list, feeling smug and self-satisfied. The next morning, I do it all over again.
While others are running around like proverbial headless chickens, there is method in my madness. I know I can’t do it all in one go. I take a short lunch break. If I feel a bit tired, I pop on home and take a power nap. Then the expedition resumes. I hit my stride again. The mall starts getting uncomfortable nearing four o’clock. I’m done. Tomorrow is another day.
It was not always like this. Christmas was for me the magical time of year when neither Scrooge nor the Grinch could steal my joy.
Has Christmas really changed that much? Or have I?
What happened to that meticulous planner of festivities? I had a list way before Thanksgiving, and I knew exactly what to get and where to get it. And that was for the gifts and the menus.
Where did the sentimental collector of memories go? I used to keep our old ornaments in a special box and tenderly dust them off every year. There was always a new addition from home to hang beside them. When the family left California, we had a collection of capiz angels, stars, and musical instruments all wrapped in white tissue, neatly tied and labeled.
Where are they now? Whatever happened to the raggedy doll made out of brown yarn? And where is the gingerbread boy that hung from a red silk ribbon?
I was sad when we had to replace our old tree-topper, which looked a lot like a sparkling silver Islamic minaret. After all the years in its place of honor, one windy night it dropped and cracked, and no amount of tape could put it together again. It was not expensive. I had found it gathering dust in a garage sale. But it was a precious memento of the hungry years.
It was an emotional experience even to pick out Christmas cards. Does anyone send them anymore? For me a trip to the Hallmark store was carefully planned. I needed time to read each greeting. It had to be in tune with what I felt in my heart. I brought tissue, ready for the tears that were sure to come in the middle of a Hallmark aisle.
A piece of home
They say that Christmas is the time when you get homesick, even when you are home. It is a piece of home that one carries in the heart. How true.
Has this ever happened to you? The other day, in the middle of the frenzy in the stores, I was stopped by a wave of nostalgia that swept over me without any warning. The tears came unbidden, unannounced.
For a brief moment, I was flustered. Then I thought, let them flow. Never mind that people may see. There is nothing unusual about a child crying in the middle of a store, is there? Well, there is a child in each of us, isn’t there? At least there was one in me that day. And she wanted to cry.
Whatever may have prompted that deluge, I would like to think that it was the spirit of Christmas that brought it on. There’s a certain something in the air that softens everything it touches, making warm the coldest of hearts, even causing tears to flow unashamed.
And speaking of crying, I watched many grownups wipe away a tear watching children do their Christmas presentation at Insular Life theater last week. In their own innocent way the kids opened our eyes to the real meaning of Christmas.
With all their hearts they sang: “Like the wise men you’re searching for a king. Like the wise men, you’re looking for the real thing. Like the wise men, we have seen the light!”
In the audience that day were moms and dads and grandparents wishing they were more like their children.
Like no other holiday, Christmas is about family. Christmas is home. What is Christmas then to a homeless child? Is there magic in the air for those without family?
Christmas is a time when everybody does something extra for someone else. But why only then? What about the rest of the year?
Have we kept ourselves so busy and stressed that we have missed the real spirit of the season? Do we perhaps not want to face the realities that stare us in the face?
Remember that Christmas should not be about feasting and opening of gifts. It should be about sharing and opening of hearts.
All roads lead home at Christmas. It is a special time of the year. It is a time for remembering, for forgiving, for the joining of hands and hearts once again with those whom life and chance have either brought close or taken away.
Whatever. It is a time to remember everything and everyone we have ever loved.
From an old and musty treasure chest, I have taken out my shawl of memories to wear on Christmas Eve. I shall glory in it and enjoy every single moment. When I’m done, I shall put it away until next Christmas. But for now, let me relish every minute of what I love to call “me time.”