When I was a child, and when you were a child, summers seemed to last forever. Tell me if I’m wrong. A school year was painfully long, but summer break made up for it all. Each warm month off seemed like a year in itself, or seemed, at least, long enough so that, as we played in the sun, September was not even a thought until only days before it arrived. Also, in those days, holidays were things strung loosely together, separated by nearly endless weeks and countless days. The distance between Memorial Day and Christmas Day was nothing that any of us even tried to measure. Our lives were just beginning, and a year was much longer to us then, than it is now.
I have often wondered if this all may have actually been only because one year was such a large percentage of time, in relation to the total time that we had lived, as children. I’m not sure if that is true, but each passing year seems to confirm it more to me. I think of that idea again now, as we have just survived another Christmas season, and are right at the beginning of a brand new year.
New years are special. Slates are wiped clean, resolutions are made, and we all seem to have that “out with the old, in with the new” mindset. If there is anything I like, (as Grinchy as this sounds) it is a clean slate, along with a newly-undecorated, uncluttered, ‘UN-Christmas-ed’ house at the first of the year.
If you would tolerate my armchair philosophizing one more time, for the last time before the big ball falls in the Big Apple, (Unless you are reading this on January first of after. Then, I guess, it’s the first time.) I will return to my theory of why holidays, especially Christmases, seem to happen right on top of each other these days.
Firstly, I’m beginning to think, as each year passes, that a year simply isn’t a very long period of time. Most days seem to turn to night before I accomplish half of what I had intended to do that day, and a week is only seven of those short, twenty-four hour failures to fully accomplish. Then, if we do those short weeks a little over four times we have blown through a whole month already, and only twelve months brings the earth one full circle around the sun, and brings us right back from one Christmas Day to the next. (There is something slightly sickening, to me, in that last statement.)
I really do think that all of this ‘time travel’ seems to take place for us faster and faster, as each of these short years becomes a smaller and smaller portion of the total time we have survived on this planet. Here’s a ‘travel and time travel’ example of what I mean. For years, our family dreaded our long trips over to Central Maine, to visit relatives, because the car rides were so long. Then one year we drove to Florida and back, and later made another trip to Maine. That Maine trip seemed to fly by, simply because of the longevity of the recent trip south. Everything, including time, (thank you Mr. Einstein) really does seem to be relative, even when you’re going to visit relatives.
Also, at least as far as the Christmas holiday is concerned, we are our own worst enemies in making it seem to be eternally here, or at least right around the corner. I made my living, for many years, operating department stores. Although it is probably different now, in those days Christmas merchandise was ordered in February, and began arriving in the stores the following August. Some companies actually had certain areas of their stores reserved for only two purposes; Christmas trees, and barbecue grills. As soon as Christmas ended the grills went up; by the time the kids entered school in the fall, the trees went up. For us managers, Christmas was nearly a year-round event. That fact, sadly, nearly ruined many perfectly good Christmas Days for me.
It’s better for me now, but the stores we visit are still all set for Christmas by Halloween, complete with advertising and music, and many of us begin buying red and green before the days of orange and black have even passed. So, we have then reduced those twelve short months between Christmases to only nine, and, although lots of things can happen in nine months, I don’t think the celebration of Christmas should be one of them.
As I end this column, I am tempted to suggest that the answer to the problem of rapidly-repeating holidays is careful planning. In reflection, I suspect that it is actually in planning to be not quite so careful. As far as Christmas goes, I think we should spend less time making a list and checking it twice with the results of filling our closets with gifts before the Thanksgiving turkey has even been stuffed, and more time pondering the real reason we celebrate Christmas Day at all. As Ebeneezer Scrooge eventually learned, we should keep Christmas every day, but in our hearts… not so much in our minds and shopping carts.
This new year, if I were to make any resolution, it would be to simplify my life, to help others more, to enjoy each season exactly as it comes, and to refuse to rush the next one. It would be to let tomorrow be the only thing that is right around the corner. Happy New Year!
“George’s World,” a new 740 page collection of George’s columns from The World, is available at xlibris.com, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and your favorite bookstore. “The Smoke And Mirrors Effect,” George’s first novel, can be seen at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Happy Reading!