Monday, January 14, 2013

The Ghost of Christmases Past

Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed your holiday and/or were not too stressed out trying to enjoy it... In between this Thanksgiving, for which I spent four times as much per pound on a Kosher, brined vegetarian-fed and assumingly relaxed-before-his-execution turkey, only to find out that after painstakingly basting it all day it still tasted like, surprise, turkey! and overspending my Christmas budget yet again, we took a family vacation to Cancun, Mexico to meet up with my side of the family for an early holiday reunion.

And it was after this warm, relaxing and sunny trip to an all-inclusive resort that met every possible need and eliminated all of my mundane household chores (except picking my kids' clothes up off the floor; guess you can't have everything!) that I realized that I have to admit, at the risk of shocking all who love the annual winter traditions of fattening feasts and the call to shop at all crazy hours of the night when we used to just be nestled in our beds lest we miss the half-price markdowns, that given a choice, I would now gladly escape the entire holiday season this way each year and let Santa cast off his heavy suit for a red Speedo to find us somewhere on the beach celebrating in a more simple fashion with family and fruity drinks for all. (Actually, I think I saw him there with said Speedo, but that's another story!)

Now if you're anywhere around my age, you'll remember that many, many, many years ago. when stores weren't even open on Sundays at all, let alone Thanksgiving night, and the toy section was maybe two aisles long instead of a quarter of the store or the whole store itself, that the big event was when the Sears holiday catalog came in the mail and we laid around for hours, not in our Juicy, Lululemons and Uggs but in our Garanimals, 7-pocket white painters pants and toe socks, longingly poring over the 3 or 4 pages dedicated to the most beautiful inert toys we could ever imagine.

I fondly remember imagining myself brushing the hair of the life-sized Barbie head that would suction cup itself to my desk so that I could turn the knob to grow her ponytail. Or picturing myself with beautiful Stewardess Barbie in her soft plastic airplane that folded in half, pushing her orange cart and offering her passengers pillows, blanket and magazines without even asking for anyone's credit card!

Today, in my own grown-up Lululemons handed down to me from my niece, I have fallen into the common trap of urban mom/parenthood of overspending on my kids who already have everything they could possibly need and then spending even more the days following Christmas as it seems like each gift carefully picked out on the infinite number of internet shopping pages requires about 5 more tasks and a minimum of 20 more dollars to get everything working right, especially as your kids get older.

Gone are the days when you could just sit there on Christmas morning and happily watch them play with the colorful toys it took half an hour and hedge clippers to get out of their steel-like plastic packaging and that took up half your living space like kitchen appliance and cabinet sets bigger than your own, early educational "centers" that included seating areas, the introduction to Beethoven and a pre-school algebra center and Thomas the Train villages that seemed to grow exponentially from their home base of Sodor, threatening to overtake all the coveted spaces of your small Seattle bungalow.

In fact, having recently moved from the battery-age to the digital age in most of our kids' toy life, Santa, generously got all my kids the Kindle Fire to promote their love of reading without a real book. What Santa or any of his Gamestop elves forgot to tell us was that the Kindle does not come with a charger, which is one of the reasons it is less expensive, so you need to add that to your newly-formed post-Christmas budget and run to the store on the second busiest shopping and return day of the year to get at least one along with the $20 motion adaptors we didn't have for our two Wii remotes in order to operate the Wii Resort Sports game my parents got for my oldest son, whose idea of playing outside in Seattle is, sadly, as an avatar on our basement TV...

Then, having survived the modern-day version of "I don't have any D cell batteries!" horror, we spent most of Christmas morning using up what little charge the Kindles came with trying to remember the password to our router for the wireless internet connection or to any of the applications that they wanted to load on the device, our library card number for free ebooks that (surprise!) still have a waiting period for popular titles, and then our Netflix password long-forgotten because I never need it which then forced me to spend another half hour calling them because the email address I used to set it up years ago is no longer valid. And in order for them to buy any apps, "free" or not, or any books in the future, I had to then supply each Kindle with our our credit card number which is in itself scary as I now more fully understand the genius marketing behind the Amazon business model based on all the blades you have to purchase in order for the razor to work! 

So needless to say it was not until the next day after we had charged everyone and everything up that we realized that there were 20 devices connected to our free Comcast router now so overloaded with technology that it was preventing anyone from staying connected to anything in the house! So, once again we dutifully made our trip to the store to spend a more shocking $150 on the fastest and strongest router model with enough bandwidth to handle all the wireless fun we, and Santa, had promised to deliver! So is it any wonder that we all don't want to flee from this craziness to sunny and disconnected, carefree beaches in lieu of an exhausting season trying to make our children happy?! 

Today, as the flurry of holidays has passed and the new year is spread out before us like a still-unopened present and I'm pretty sure we now own all of the electronic devices we could possibly need, (unless they invent the mommy-robot that does all my cooking and cleaning, of course!), I plan on finding the time to reconnect with myself and my family on a less digital and more personal level in an attempt to resurrect that more simpler spirit of Christmases past. And who knows, once the myth of Santa is finally gone and my daughter recognizes that her stocking stuffers look just like the items in the Target dollar section, maybe I'll even ask the kids if instead of getting gifts, they'd rather go somewhere as a family that was warm, sunny, and router-free for Christmas. After all, I think it would cost the same!