It’s hotter than the world has seen in decades, maybe even since we began measuring such things. Nonetheless if it’s July I’m already beginning to think about Christmas. I have so much to do between now and December 25, that I like to start my planning early. I suppose this came about because of my work as a teacher. Once the school year started in August I was knee deep in projects that kept me busy from six in the morning until ten or eleven at night. Even weekends were often jammed with paper grading and lesson planning. If I did not start preparing for Christmas early I would be caught short when the holiday vacation finally came in late December. So I always used my month off in July to get ahead of the game.
During 2020 when Covid was at its peak I made all of my purchases online. This year I’m looking forward to actually visiting stores in person. It will be a treat that I have missed in the couple of seasons and one of my first stops will be at a Hallmark store to check out their annual ornament array. I have quite a collection that has amused me and my grandchildren for years. The first ones always appear in July with more coming over the next few months. The one that started my accumulation was Steamboat Willie, a Mickey Mouse character that whistled a little song while steering a boat. Sadly he no longer makes music because he has to be attached to a light bulb socket that nobody makes anymore. He’s still very cute and brings back lots of fond memories for me. I purchased him in Chicago shortly after my twin grandchildren Ian and Abby were born so he always reminds me of how happy I was when they came into my life.
I still send out old fashioned Christmas cards. Fewer and fewer people do that these days but I am a diehard. I start looking for good ones in the summer and even begin filling them out a few here and a few there. I don’t attach stamps until the last minute because sadly someone has died before December came along almost ever year of late.
I suppose that I am like Mitt Romney with his notebooks I might seem a bit behind the times with the paper calendars that I purchase each year, but I am a visual person and I need something that allows me to quickly glance at the date. I have two traditions now with calendars, one always displays photos of London and the other is a cutesy calendar with birds or flowers or schoolhouses. I pick up my calendars when I find them and store them away until the new year. They often begin to show up in stores and online in July.
I also begin purchasing gifts for family and friends. I’m on the lookout wherever I go. My closets become crammed with things that I have stored away, so around November I begin wrapping items to clear a pathway. July is always the launch of my gift burying season starting with the birthday of my eldest daughter which coincides with the launch of my Christmas planning.
My youngest daughter was born on December 20, as was my youngest grandson. When my she was a young girl she hated her birth date because she felt that she got lost in the rush of the season. Everyone was too busy to even remember her special day. Getting birthday and Christmas gifts all within five days made the rest of the year seem long and without much cheer. She envied her sister who got to have a party in July, so one year she asked if we would experiment a bit and have a celebration for her in June instead.
We thought that was a grand idea and we went all out for her with a party and gifts and even a special trip since school was out. Sadly it just did not feel right to any of us and she reluctantly agreed that it was best to go back to her December date. Now she is content with quietly enjoying a night at the movies and a special dinner with her son.
It may seem strange to think about Christmas in July but around the middle of the month I begin plotting and planning every single year. It cheers me up to think of the fun times that lay ahead and I laugh at feeling a bit like one of Santa’s elves. I’m a creature of habit and I get through the long hot July days by thinking of the cool weather and the lights and good cheer of Christmas.
I suppose that I am my mother’s daughter in so many ways. When she died we found a closet full of gifts both at my house and in the home where she had not lived for almost three years. All were labeled with the names of recipients, thoughtfully purchased wherever she went. Somehow those items became so special to each of us who received them posthumously. They demonstrated so poignantly that she was always thinking of us even as she grew more ill.
Christmas will be here before we know it. It’s fun to have hopes and dreams even when the world seems to be on fire. Somehow together we always seem to find our way to celebrations of life with family and friends. I like getting ready for that in small ways so that when December comes I am able to sit back and totally enjoy the season with love and joy.