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‘Tis That Season

December 2004
‘Tis That Season

By Suburban Memsahib

The holidays are upon us again and almost everyone is in the spirit of giving. My children, however, are especially in the spirit of asking. About the one holiday tradition we seem to have been roped into is the appearance of Santa down our narrow chimney every December. I am not quite sure when or how it happened but I have my suspicions.

When my oldest was in kindergarten five years ago, she came home one November afternoon from school armed with a wish list. There were 20 slots for books she absolutely had to have at her school's book fair. My daughter had asked for an extra sheet and filled in 22 slots. Sheepishly I played along, falling for the line about how my purchases were all for a good cause. I came home with about six books and half a dozen miscellaneous sweet nothings. Since then the annual Santa letters with attached wish lists have become quite the production in our house. We have mailed out letters to the big guy at the North Pole and even taken care to type and proofread them in case he can't quite understand Mom's hieroglyphics. Vrunda has faithfully attached candy as incentives to come visit her first on the big day. Every year, she has been delighted with his efficiency and with the meticulous production factory the elves have been working in all year.

It really is the most wonderful time of the year?especially if you are a kid. If, however, you are a mom armed with a list and, like me, someone who hasn't seen the inside of a mall in nine months, you are in big, big trouble. I try telling my children about my good and possibly only Christian friend in India, Thomas Chacko, who by all indications was the only one who actually celebrated Christmas in our neighborhood. I remembered his mother putting up a really small fake table-top tree and her making the most delicious two-colored custard ever. Thomas never got many presents, I don't think, and if he did he never mentioned it to me. His only prized possession was a cricket set that he used to share with me as long as he got to bat and I bowled. "You know, when I was your age," I start, and I can see the eye-rolls already. I admit to myself that, despite their lists, my children are not as demanding as the others in the neighborhood so I just give up and indulge them--again.

I have promised myself that this year will be different?that I will not do all my shopping in high panic mode on EBay on December 21st. This year I will faithfully trudge to the mall and pick up things well before the crisis officially peaks. So yesterday I drove to the mall armed with a smallish list of three things: My Little Pony, Rock Collection and Bernie, the Gerbil.

Turns out there is an entire aisle in the mega mall devoted to My Little Pony. "Okay, ma'm," the perky sales associate asks me, already getting into my bad books by addressing me as "ma'm." "Would you like Pink Rose Blossom or Purple Petal Dove or Shimmer?" And she is ready to spew off even more names until she sees my dazed, don't-have-the faintest expression. "I don't really know," I say like the un-cool mom that I probably came across as. "The list just says My Little Pony." Evidently there are many ?my little ponies'. That one can now be pushed into the "temporarily unresolved" column. I'll need to somehow bring it up to Vrunda that Santa needs more specifics.

"Okay, do you have Bernie the Gerbil?" I ask Perky again, sheepishly. "No ma'm," she says annoyingly, "we don't carry any Bernies." I am directed to a store that does. Evidently Bernie suffered an early death or he is retired or some such and no store within a fifty-mile radius carries him. If I did find one, I am assured, it would be a miracle.

Seeing as my mission is going nowhere, I saunter over to find the rock collection. There are igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, ones that came from specific volcanic eruptions and ones that have been around since time immemorial and are priced to prove their value. I can't believe I pay twenty dollars for rocks that I can pick up from my gravel garden path but it is late, I am hungry and desperate.

I return home with one item crossed out, one maybe, and one temporarily unresolved. I can feel it already?it is going to be one punishing long holiday season.

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