I tried but one year the dog ate my homework. It was beyond busy to hectic and there was no time for frivolous stuff like shopping for Christmas.
I had already ignored my family by the constant meetings and travel and unexpected requirements of a new job assignment. Planning was a luxury for every day there were new requirements and task that overwhelmed my time and effort.
Sure I knew Christmas was coming. It is on the calendar. Same date every year with the same expectations to provide gifts for those you love.
This year was different.
Each day I would try and set aside a moment to find some kind of a gift of meaning for the 25th day of December. Summer turned to fall then turned to December and there was barely time to sleep. The first week went by and then the second and Christmas was fast approaching. It was unavoidable and still I could not find a way to spend countless hours pushing a cart through hundreds of aisles packed with panicking folks in huge coats ransacking shelves of useless plastic toys and cheap clothing. The countdown had begun. 22-23-24. Times up.
On the eve of Christmas I left work late (as usual) and everything was closed. Even the bus ride home was mostly empty. I had to decide, “Do I go home empty handed” or “Do I find a way to at least show I made the effort”?
I got off the bus before my stop and went to the nearby 7-11.
These convenience stores are fine for the last minute purchasing of a quart of overpriced sugar drink or waiting in line behind the purchase of a dozen-lottery ticket with a slurpee melting in your hand, but they do not offer much of a selection for a meaningful Christmas present. I forgot what I bought but I tried to think of a funny story I could attach to the item that might get me out of the doghouse. Some magazine and candy and some treats for the four-legged members probably were my Santa bag items. As I paid for these memorable gifts I felt sorry for the immigrant working the register for I knew he or another like him would be working tomorrow, just as I would be too.
I made a hasty attempt to secretly wrap these marvelous and meaningful gifts then place them under the tree before a brief nap and an early alarm call to welcome Christmas.
A quick unwrapping over a cup of coffee and I was off to work leaving a household of piles of paper and a confused wife. What was I to do? I didn’t even have time later to make it up over a candlelit dinner or some time on the couch watching a movie.
Luckily the job calmed down and fell back into a manageable routine instead of an emergency. Did she ever understand that my life was out-of-control and forgive me? I’ll never know, but that was the worst Christmas ever.