overstuffed

Things. Objects. Junk. Stuff. I have a lot of it, and sometimes I feel as though it has me.

In the rooms where I write, I am haunted by great writers; the floor-to-almost-ceiling bookshelves packed with books in various stages of use by authors who question my worth behind my fancy Herman Miller desk chair. A three-year-old copy of Ginsberg’s Collected Poems still makes a cracking noise when you open it, while Mila 18’s title on the spine is indiscernible. Hundreds more books live in the bedrooms—and even the bathrooms—upstairs, while thousands breathe life into the attic, many snoring from boxes under the eaves, still packed from our move here 18 years ago.

Atop the bookcases in my dining room are no fewer than seven glamorous cake plates, as if I’ve ever made more than two cakes at one time. From where I sit, I see three acoustic guitars, a DSLR camera, some high-tech speakers, and lots of art. Never mind the tchotchkes.

Last year at Christmas, we decided that we have everything we could possibly need, including a brand new iMac, our family gift. We didn’t even get a tree for probably the second time since we moved here. It’s not that we were all bah-humbuggy. We just thought: enough’s enough. Christmas (and Hanukkah, though it’s a little quieter) seemed absurd.

I thought it would change this year: some cold days would settle in to let us know that winter was arriving, and I’d get the bug to hang some balls on something, maybe a tree, and light a fire in the rarely used fireplace. But the holidays still seem absurd to me.

This season, I’m feeling a little bit of revulsion. I get anxious when I hear the phrase “door busters.” I am queasy over extended shopping hours. Indeed, the thought of some stores opening their doors at, gasp, three a.m. on Black Friday gave me a migraine. I’m angered by the people being trampled on their way to get a deal on a Wii. I am super pissed off at the TV husbands (obviously from a well-off planet) who give their wives a new Lexus. And I am creeped out by Stinky the Garbage Truck.

I tried to stimulate my holiday appetite. I hosted Thanksgiving and made homemade eggnog and eggnog cheesecake and carrot cake. I had my own turkey for the first time in a decade (we’re still eating it a week later as salad and stew and sandwiches). I had friends stop over the next day to help make a dent in the sweets and the troughs of stuffing and mac and cheese my sister left here. But I am missing the spirit that makes me want to shop. And I can’t think of anything I want. The kind of stuff I need—new tires, new windows, new kitchen cabinets—are not gift material.

My kind of Christmas comes as a card in the mail with a personal message to me, like “I love you, Facebook Queen” or “Can’t wait to drink a Dead Guy Ale with you on Good Friday and a Resurrection with you on Easter Sunday” or “I sure hope you get a job in the new year, because your FB status updates kinda freak me out.” I mean, sure, your family/kids/dogs/reptiles/even cats are cute in the photo on your card, and I guess the post office really needs that forty-four cents, but while you’re at it, tell me something good or something funny or something happy about yourself. I already know your name.

My kind of Christmas stars the little kids who still believe in Santa, while I drink a cocktail in Kim’s massage chair next to her beautiful tree and sing along with Chuck Prophet. My kind of Christmas is heading down to the basement with my own family band to play real live Guitar Hero.

Did I just outgrow the holiday? Or am I simply responding to my inability to finance it? How have your feelings toward Christmas changed, if at all?

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If you’re not feeling Scrooge-y, someone you know would probably love a calendar.

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5 Comments

  1. Gwyn Michael December 2, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    Beautifully written Leslie. It is a combination I think. I am right there with you and I believe part of it is lack of finances, but more a change in my priorities. Stuff and glitz and shopping are not any longer so appealing because playing real live guitar here IS. Or my version which would be intense conversation and game playing with my best friend Steve. I find it a bittersweet relief to check out on the holiday madness that consumed my december for so many years.

  2. Jenn December 2, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

    Great question. I'm struggling this year, because I think my little girl doesn't have a list for Santa, and I'm not sure what to do with that. I am looking forward to baking Holiday cookies with her. My dislike of the holiday ads has exploded this year. Lexus doesn't turn my stomach as much as the Audi ad does.

  3. Kim Hosey December 2, 2010 at 7:18 pm #

    Lovely, and pretty much how I feel much of the time. I'm drowning in clutter, and every time I try to tackle it, it seems to just get worse. I've had a tree half erected for a day and half. It looks like that sorry-ass Charlie Brown tree, so I think I should go get a different one.

    I do love the "feel" of the holidays, but I can't quite seem to capture it yet this year. I'm in the mood to be in the mood, but it's not there yet, you know? Also, I absolutely abhor shopping, and while I like to decorate, I suck at it.

    Last year I just took my son and husband hiking and photographing a bunch of times. I think maybe that'll be our new tradition.

  4. Anonymous December 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm #

    Sad, there is no spirit left. Maybe the spirit should be rediscovering the spirit. Teaching our kids, that happiness is not spending, but being kind and helping others; Shoot never thought I would have to work hard to convince my own kids—even myself—about these values.

    Thanks for the remainder Leslie, I know the whole shop or you go to hell culture is the main focus around the Happy Holidays, and that one cannot change the world but what I say: when in Rome screw the Romans, you have control of your own world, and if I can make my kids smile and be happy by giving to others that is all I am asking for, the Romans can park their new Lexus next to their Audi.

    Anonymous Harry

  5. Belinda December 6, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

    I am quite sure I out-clutter you, and I am drowning in it. (nothing to brag about, obviously.) Each winter, when I sink into my SAD blahs from short cold days, I vow to plow through it, and downsize, organize. I never do. This year? I WILL. It's a Scared Vow this time….

    I am also with you about this Season. This year moreso than ever. What/who gets me the most are those who crow ( sorry…) that they have their gifts wrapped and cards addressed in September. What? That's not admirable, it's sick. IMHO. I like late/mid Dec shopping and decorating, because it helps to CREATE the mood. I hope..this year.

    And I don't need any more stuff, and i don't WANT things as presents, and I say that each year….keep it simple.
    Let's hope we can all find some semblance of spirit this holiday. Ignore the commercial madness, and just create our own day.