The other spooky season…

I know everyone leads hard on October as the spooky season, but I’m going to need to give at least partial credit to mid-December as well. Oh, sure, it’s not spooky in the conventional sense, but the middle to end of December is the one time of year my personal email clears out. As of last night, there’s not one single receipt, shipping confirmation, or any information at all about items purchased, in transit, or being returned. If you happened to be familiar with my online buying habits, you’d know just how unusual that is.

It’s the time of year when my online orders dry up. It’s less because of not needing anything than due to the logistics of this time of year. Delayed orders, out of stocks, items lost in transit, abnormally long shipping times, and then the ever-present weirdness of having UPS, FedEx, or Amazon drivers stumbling around the yard in the dark well after I’ve gone to bed on those occasions when a package happens to get through.

Unless it’s something urgent, my proclivity for online buying is momentarily paused. Whatever I need for the time being should be easy enough to lay my hands on locally. Even so, it’s a sure bet that my Amazon cart will be full to the electronic brim by the time I get around to getting back to normal operations sometime around the first of the year. For now, I’m willing to wait out the worst of the Christmas rush. I’m sure it’s just a weird personality quirk, but I’d rather hold off on ordering completely than spend any bit of the next week or two raging about shipping and logistics.

So yeah, whatever else it may be, the back half of December feels like its own unique flavor of spooky season. 

The white tree of memory…

Every Christmas season for my entire childhood, there was a white ceramic Christmas tree given pride of place in my grandparent’s front widow. When I say I remember it, what I mean is if I sit here and close my eyes, I can see it plain as day sitting atop the console record player and flanked, most years, by electric candles (with orange bulbs) and a panoply of Christmas-themed ceramic figurines.

In my mind there’s no more iconic symbol of Christmas in the back half of the 20th century than these plug-in trees. As it turns out, while I’ve always had this memory of the holidays, I’ve now also reached the age where I’m low key obsessed with recapturing those objects from my youth that trigger the most powerfully positive memories.

I’d like to say I scoured the planet to acquire exactly the version of the tree that I remember – the vintage, not tampered with, undamaged, tree of my memory. Actually, I did scour the planet. And I did find the exact tree that I remember. As much of a premium as I place on authenticity, though, I balked at the $400 + shipping securing that particular bit of my childhood would have required. I’ll keep looking, of course, and now that I’m on the hunt, it’ll turn up at an estate sale or flea market somewhere once I start going to those again.

In the meantime, since it’s the day after Thanksgiving (and for the record, that’s the only acceptable day to light up the Christmas decorations), I’ll be making due with a modern, and slightly larger, version of my white tree of memory.

Slowing down…

November and December are officially noted as the “festive” season here in much of the western world. Now, I like the holidays well enough, but I don’t spend weeks or months preparing for them. I don’t try to drag them out to the point where Christmas becomes a holiday that consumes three weeks before the 25th of December and another week after it. Maybe I’m not in the minority there, but it seems that way based on the increasing number of people who are out, about, and meandering slowly through neighborhood shopping venues.

My response of choice in this scenario is to avoid those places as much as possible. It’s got the unintended side effect of having dramatically slowed down my pillaging of thrift shops and used book stores, In fact I’ve brought nothing into the inventory for the last three weeks and will probably go another five weeks before resuming the chase. Since most of the places I frequent share strip mall space with other stores, the volume of people is mostly enough to leave me uninterested… unless I know someone is hiding something uniquely interesting, in which case I’d likely make an exception.

The last months of the year are when I can make a little progress on churning through some of what I’ve already put into the holding pen. That feels good. Having lived with myself for so long, though, I also know the arrival of the holidays is also a bit of a warning sign… because it means ’round about New Years, I’ll be chomping at the bit to get back after it and have a budget line I haven’t touched in two months with which to indulge my favorite minor obsession.

There are worse things to do with your time and money, I suppose. Someday a bookcase may collapse and kill me, but hey, at least it’s not heroin.

Dead space…

I feel about federal holidays like some women seem to feel about shoes; I love them and can never, never get enough. As much as I love President’s Day for being one of the days I can sit back with my feet up and enjoy not doing a damned thing. Nothing in life is free, of course, and that means taking the bad with the good. In this case, the bad is that President’s Day is the last holiday between now and the end of May. Call me crazy but the months just seem to go better when you have a impending long weekend to look forward to every few weeks. Having one 90-odd days off into the future doesn’t have the same motivational effect. No one has ever accused me of being a big fan of delayed gratification.

Sure, be happy you have a job, not everyone even gets federal holidays, blah, blah, blah. All of those things may be true, but the only thing I see stretching out in front of me between here and May 27th is dead space. Well, dead space and as-yet-unscheduled days of annual leave, but mostly dead space. And please, don’t get me started on how it’s possible that it’s the middle of February already. I’m pretty sure time has been set to march past at the double quick. First world problems, to be sure, but since I live in the first world, I just think of them as the regular kind of problems.

Lead me not into temptation…

It’s getting to be that time of year when it becomes way to easy to fall out of the writing habit. It’s easy to skip a day here, and a day there. Then it becomes two days or three. Suddenly you find it’s been a week and despite that you still have nothing to say. After we week it feels damned near impossible to figure out how it was every part of your routine to begin with. The time starts sneaking away from you and you’ll have no idea where it’s gone.

I know it’s true not just because that’s what it feels like, but because I’ve got the numbers to prove it. November and December are consistently my worst months in terms of page visits. I’m more than willing to take part of the blame for that. I’m not as focused on keeping up the one-a-day rate when I’m distracted by food, family, travel, and friends. That’s just a fact of life. The other part of the equation is out of my hands though – it’s that there are just plain fewer people hanging around reading blogs between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know I’m guilty of neglecting many that I read on a regular basis at other times of the year, so mine shouldn’t be immune from the downturn in readers either.

I’m never going to pretent to have much of a clue about what compels anyone to read the trifles I leave here, so I can’t promise anything enlightening, newsworthy, or even particularly entertaining. What I can promise is that I’m going to do my best to keep up a steady drumbeat during the holiday season and not be led by the temptation to “take some time off” just because things happen to be a little slow. The fact is I’m lazy and getting things jumpstarted again after Christmas is just too much of a pain in the ass to want to deal with when the time comes. It’s far better to keep plugging away and let inertia carry me through the new year… or the Mayan apocalypse… whichever comes first.

Home Station…

I’m back in the People’s Republic of Maryland for the next week and a half. For anyone who may be interested, the rough plan is to head back to the old homestead some time next Saturday and putz around up there through Christmas, either heading back to the EC very late Monday night or very early Tuesday morning. I’m hoping to have the movers here on Wednesday to clear out the apartment and drive all day on the 28th so I can be back in Memphis to meet the new furniture and appliance delivery people on the 29th.

Christmas is hereby cancelled due to lack of available daylight. The holiday will be reinstated with all rights, privileges, and family activities in 2007.

Happy friggin’ holidays, people.