We are currently on that Snakes & Ladders descent from Halloween through Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years to Super Bowl Sunday. That’s a goodly chunk of the year being anxious as to whether one has satisfied all one’s loved ones. Because we watch television so many wasted hours each day, we are very conscious of what all the brick-and-mortar retailers want us to do. They endlessly supply us with suggestions as to what to buy for whom. And if the TV isn’t bad enough, there are also the radio, newspapers, e-mail, and FaceBook to remind us.
Because I am in the accounting profession (for the time being), I see this time of year primarily as the run-up to tax season. It means printing and sending out tax organizers, frequent installation of new versions of the tax software, constant re-indexing of the tax database, printing Form 1096 and 1099 for our clients (as needed), and dozens of other tasks. The worst part is the entry and processing of the actual tax returns, which builds up in a slow crescendo to the frantic last weeks before the April 15 deadline. In accounting, one doesn’t look at the Holidays so much as one looks past them.
As a result, I don’t go in for holiday decorations. I skip Halloween altogether—there’s never any Trick-or-Treaters who come to our door any more. We get together with our friends for Thanksgiving. We go to a couple of Christmas events, usually a concert of holiday music, and then we visit friends and family. On New Year’s, we stay in to avoid the drunk and drugged motorists. And Super Bowl Sunday? A great time to visit an otherwise crowded museum. Instead of joining the throngs at a shopping center on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), I am thinking of suggesting Martine that we go instead to the Getty Villa to enjoy the serenity of ancient Greek and Roman art.
In fact, serenity is the key. If you don’t feel this serenity during the holiday season, I think you are probably doing something wrong. There’s little that we can do in the way of material goods to show our love. The batteries will run down, the gizmos will fail to work—but the love behind them still runs strong. At least, it should!
Yesterday, I saw my best friends and learned a lesson. Last year, I bought their youngest son a subscription to The New York Review of Books, which wound up being enjoyed primarily by the father. When I asked the son what should I get him, he told me not to worry about it. I don’t have any children of my own, so the children of my friends are particularly important to me. I won’t worry about it, but I will find something nice for him.