Making “The List”

Every November brings change:  the season, the suppressive darkness at 3pm, the urge to eat any and all turkey you can fork, but it also brings the promise of another holiday season, full of possibilities and endless wonders.  Or maybe that’s procrastinations and endless worries.  Your age has a lot to do with which side of the holiday lattice you’re on, especially when it comes to “The List.”

When you’re a child, “The List” is easy, because the thought process is simplistic and driven.  There is usually one fantastical un-obtainable item that keeps you awake at night, the mere thought of which brings about fits of happiness and anticipation.  “I’ll ask Santa for ________.  He’ll bring it.  He’d better bring it.”

Seeing as children are direct and without general tact or subtlety, it’s pretty easy to tell what the ________ is.  It’s circled in the catalogue.  It’s drawn in giant crayon letters on a ratty piece of paper addressed to “Snata.”  It’s ripped out of the pages and hung up on the fridge or mailed away.  Keep it simple stupid:  ________ or bust.  When you’re younger, the power of this list is never in doubt:  Santa will receive the message and take care of our demands.  It’s science.

As we get older, we start to realize the list may not have the magical powers it once alluded to.  Specific requests seem to be replaced with socks and pj’s, or a shirt that pleases no one but your mother.  Our rosy red cheeks start to take on a shade of jade…which it can either bury itself beneath the overwhelming cheer, or start to fester and expand in a growing holiday cloud of humbug.

Fast forward to today.  We are now grown adults.  We can’t bother to wait for a magic man with a sack full of toys to take care of our needs and wants.  That’s what plastic is for.  If we need something, we buy it.  No waiting, just filling the gaps as we go along.  So when November arrives, we may find it exponentially more difficult to make “The List.”  “Anything I needed/wanted I’ve gotten already.” And for this reason, we establish the ineffective and stress-inducing “Buying Moratorium.”

The BM goes into effect sometime after November the 1st, depending on when you get your first round of “So what do you want this year?” from a friend or co-worker or family member who wants nothing more than to help Santa with his workload. (And probably get it done sooner to avoid the last-minuters and the choas around them.)  They’re just trying to help, maybe more themselves, but honestly, the easier it is for all of us the better, so you can hardly blame them.  They just want to know what you want.  And your brain shuts down.  Again, as an adult, you’ve been going along buying what you’ve needed.  Here is where the BM kicks in so you can give them options. Of course, it usually comes up when you’re standing in front whatever you’re thinking of buying…out of nowhere, a sad, negative feeling of doom:

Oh, I should NOT buy this and just put it on my list.  I will wait.”  And you put it back.

A sense of doom isn’t how everyone takes it, but there is still a hint of pensiveness stronger than holiday Egg Nog: I have to not buy this thing I want, wait almost TWO months, just to SEE if someone helps Santa get it for me.  With that, the years of list un-fulfillment come pouring back.  How many times did you ask for your ________ and have it go unchecked Christmas morning?  If it happened then, it might happen now.  The difference is when you’re a child you rely on your blind faith of the season and Santa’s awesomeness to come through.  It’s not like you can just buy it yourself, right?

As an adult, you can.  But to pacify those that care around you, you will wait, counting the days until Christmas, or more correctly, the days until Boxing Day. The morning of 5am chaos that is over-eager bargain shoppers blocking the path between you and your ________ that you could’ve bought in November.  As much as you love and cherish your close connections around you, and appreciate the thought and time that goes into any gift that is recieved, THAT is the day you must plan for, on the off chance that Santa and your friends and family miss the ________ on your list.  And until then, you’re shrunk back to your childhood, with no real control, just anticipation.  Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst.

Put THAT on a Christmas card.

Happy ending:  Me getting a He-Man Roton toy in 1983, just like I’d asked for!



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