So, the thing is... It's July, so Merry Christmas!

June 2006


It’s June and dang, it is HOT. Yesterday, we were getting in the car to go somewhere and I said, “Gosh, it is so HOT!” Jane, my five-year-old, agreed.  “Even my ANCESTORS are hot!” she said. I don’t know what that means, but I’m guessing her ancestors get hot around 105.


Normally, the closer we get to July, the more seriously I start thinking about moving north somewhere. But THIS year, everything’s okay because I’m very busy so I haven’t even had time to notice that we’re all stuck in this house.


See, I’m working on my Christmas cards.


I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I’m getting a big head start this year, aren’t you? Well, yes, I am, thank you. That’s me—just one big bundle of organized, to-do-list-generating efficiency.




(Ah, me, I kill myself.)


No, I’m not getting a head start. I’d be getting a big head start if I’d actually sent out my Christmas cards LAST year, instead of doing what I normally do and picking out the picture, having them printed and then never making time to actually sit down and write them.


I’m also sending out birthday cards this month. About 200 birthday cards, actually.


Wait a second, before you call the men bringing the cute jacket with the arms that tie in the back, let me explain.


See, I have three siblings. Of the three, two of them have birthdays in June. I managed to miss acknowledging both of them this year, which surprised no one, especially the OTHER brother, whose birthday falls in April.


I missed that one, too.


I’m just LOUSY at this kind of thing. I TRY, I really do, but I seem to just have some weird disorder which prevents me from remembering people’s birthdays on the actual date. I have about 350 birthday cards that I’ve bought for people and never sent. (They’re sitting next to about 6,000 Christmas cards.) Some of them, I’ve actually WRITTEN and ADDRESSED and STILL managed not to mail. I don’t know what is wrong with me!  I mean, I have friends who aren’t speaking to me because they only ask one thing of me: that I acknowledge their birthdays within a 45 day window.


I’m not sure where things go wrong. I buy the card, I make the notation on the calendar.

And I just can’t do it.


But I’m tired of feeling like a total failure at this card thing.  So, everyone I know is getting a Christmas/birthday card this month. If I have enough room, I’m going to add my best wishes on their marriage, baby shower, bat mitzvah, graduation and fiftieth wedding anniversary. I’m going to choose a lovely photo of my girls –maybe even wearing Santa hats and swim goggles –and I’m going to write a little personal note on each of the cards and I’m going to drop those suckers in the mail.


I confess that this isn’t the first time I’ve thought about doing this. But the things is, we’ve just gone through the most hectic time of the year—the end of school. I was so frazzled and disorganized and disgruntled, I started saying, “May is the new December. But without the Holiday Cards.”


I mean, there were all those presents to buy for teachers and staff members. Then there were costumes to make for the end of year programs –you know you’re overwhelmed when you’re gluing feathers to Henny Penney’s costume at 2:00 in the morning. Then there was “Treat Day” and end of year field trips and parties. We had to plan for summer camp and summer care so I could work. We had recitals and Jane graduated from preschool and I had volunteer duties to wrap up and newsletters to write. Play dates to schedule. End of school year conferences. You get the picture.


And it's not just me—every mother I saw had that wild, please-don’t-ask-one-more-thing-of-me look in her eye. We were all CRAZED, I tell you, CRAZED. It was very intense and some things had to give—namely, my exercise routine and that of the dogs, my ability to cook for my family, my marriage (at one point, my husband and I found ourselves alone and able to talk to each other for five minutes and we had no idea what to do with such a luxury.) It was really crazy.


So I started thinking about all this, once things settled down, and I realized that it’s no good just complaining about how much I hate that sort of frantic pace if I’m not doing anything to get OFF of this roller coaster. We’re all under so much pressure to do everything so well –and I mean EVERYTHING. We beat ourselves up if we can’t continue our traditions each year and each year we add something to the list. I started thinking that the things that I dread about the holiday season are the things that have become more like duty or obligation than some joyous expression of counting my blessings and finding myself so very rich.


So, I’m serving notice right now: I’m not sending out Christmas cards in December. This year, I’m sending them out in June. And because June is when I have time to think about how lucky I am to have family and friends and to wish I hadn’t missed everyone’s birthday, you’ll be getting your birthday card then, too. (Or heck, you can come over and pick one out of this huge stack and I’ll sign it right then.)


And if I get a little backed up, it’ll be okay. Because July is still plenty hot and we’ll still be stuck in the house and no one will know that my Christmas cards were really meant to go out in June.


Merry Christmas! Happy Birthday!


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(c) Barbara Cooper 2006



Barb Cooper is the mother of Ana (8) and Jane (5).  She lives in Austin, Texas and she's thinking about having a Holiday Open House in early October.