Time was starting to spiral out of control last December.
I remember picking up Irene from morning kindergarten and plying her with hot chocolate and muffins at a local cafe while I frantically tried to meet deadlines. Ed was working long hours and juggling multiple jobs. There was barely time in a week to keep everybody fed and clothed and shuffled off to where we needed to be. The holidays? I couldn’t even begin to think about them.
Luckily I’d hit up an end-of-summer clearance sale and stocked up on some toys for Christmas already. They were all bundled up in a big bag that I’d stashed…somewhere. I didn’t quite remember what I bought, but I was sure it was a good start. If I could just make it to the 23rd, then Ed would be home and I’d be able to sneak off to the mall to shop for the rest of the gifts. Yep. That was a fine plan. It had to be.
Except he wasn’t home on the 23rd after all. He’d been offered last-minute fill-in work on a talk radio show and we couldn’t afford to turn it down. So, okay fine. I’d get someone else to watch the kids while I did half of my Christmas shopping. Plus groceries. Two days before Christmas. It’d be okay, right?
Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a babysitter at the very last minute on December 23rd? I gotta say, it’s pretty hard.
Ed’s sister (god bless her) brought her own baby over and let me dash out for a couple hours in the evening. I did my best chicken-with-its-head-cut-off impression at the mall and came home with a bunch of stuff. What exactly? I didn’t know. I hadn’t even bothered digging out the toys I’d purchased in September to see what I already had. But I was sure it would work out. It always did.
BOOM. ICE STORM. HALF OF TORONTO POWERLESS AT CHRISTMAS.
We were lucky. We never lost power in our home and we were able to accommodate Ed’s parents on Christmas Eve so we could all share a warm and toasty holiday together.
The last minute scrambling, however, did mean that it wasn’t until the kids went to bed on Christmas Eve that I actually got around to laying out all the toys and seeing who had what.
Irene’s pile kept growing bigger and bigger, Mary’s was a reasonable size for a two-year-old, and poor Colum only had a scant couple gifts. (It turns out that five-year-old girls are extremely easy to shop for, by the way. Seven-year-old boys a little trickier.) Thankfully, my mother-in-law had a spare Angry Bird’s game in her car that we were able to use and we laid out some of the stocking stuffers to make his Santa haul look more substantial.
And you could not imagine a sweeter, more generous boy. Year after year, he’s more excited to see what Santa brings for his sisters—his own gifts almost an after thought. So he was happy enough even though Santa didn’t bring him the one single thing that he asked for. (Sorry, kid, the $200 R2-D2 robot was not going to happen. Might I suggest diversifying that wish list?)
But I still feel badly about the whole thing. So THIS YEAR I have multiple stashes of toys and gifts and at least a foggy idea of what’s in them. Still, it might be a good idea to lay them all out a couple days before Christmas, just to be sure.
I want to hear about the worst Christmas gift screw up you’ve ever made? C’mon, make me feel better.