After the ease of summer living, fall seems to always start up slowly. The mood of the weather changes, the autumn air causes the slow color change in the leaves and cooler nights finally take over and the days get chilly too. Soup seeps into the rotating dinner menu, and the dog creeps under the new mound of blankets on the couch. Everything seems set for a coming hibernation.
Then Halloween comes, and after that, time just seems to…disappear.
Holiday preparation comes on unrelentingly and in strange ways. There’s nothing stranger than the pine wreaths and wrapping paper set up next to the remaining bats and badly-sculpted skull decorations when you walk into a store looking for Thanksgiving napkins that’ll one-up the ones your sister had last year (they were turkey tails on corgis, so no, nothing came close). The discount bin of plastic pumpkins might squeak in for Thanksgiving décor, but the onslaught mismatch of everything else makes for a great Tim Burton movie but a really grumpy shopping trip. Suddenly, you’re grumbling under your breath about how early it is…however, that is a good price for a cinnamon broom, and you’re already in deep.
There are a million exciting things to do as November moves on. Movie releases, wine tasting events. Cooking the largest turkey you can find and feeding it to as many people as you can stuff into your house. Then it’s one holiday into the next. There are local craft shows, local craft beer events, crafts you’re trying to tackle because you want to make a handmade gift for someone who always manages to out-gift you at this time of the year but let’s face it, macramé just isn’t in your arsenal of skills. The pressure to shop is everywhere; the discount percentages don’t mean anything anymore, because you can’t get a solid fix on what the original price actually was. You’ve ended up with three gifts for your brother and none for your father. You planned to keep up with NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month for those of you not-writers out there), and while you were really pleased with those first three thousand words, you haven’t even opened the document since November 15, where you got six words written before falling asleep in the blanket mound on the couch with the dog.
December starts and you’ve made promises to yourself. This year, you’ll have a real tree that you choose with the family AND you will actually water it when you’re supposed to. This year, you will bake cookies that actually follow the directions on the recipe card from your great-grandmother, meaning you will soften the butter without the help of the microwave and you will not flinch away from mincemeat. You will handmake holiday cards. You will crochet something that has yet to be determined. You will go sledding rather than cursing the snow forever after the first time you have to shovel the driveway. Time speeds up as the days go, and you are more and more confused about what to do with what you have. You still have two single origin coffee sets but you could swear you only bought one and already mailed it to your college roommate who now lives in Madrid. The holiday cards you ordered by mail have pictures of someone else’s kids. Or are those your kids?
It’s true, it goes quickly. There’s no call to miss out on the things you want to do. But pace yourself and be honest with yourself. Bargain with yourself, if you have to. Will you surrender the hand-stamped giftwrap for a bath with a holiday-scented bath bomb? If you go with the fake tree waiting up in the attic again this year, does this mean you have time to set up the antique train set? Be kind to yourself while you’re preparing to be kind to everyone else. Maybe the wine tasting will wait until January and volunteering at a local shelter can come now. Maybe you don’t actually need to go to every single holiday party with an invite that crosses your desk.
But don’t give up the homemade cookies. They’re worth the time it takes to soften the butter the right way.