If you read the comments, you may have noticed Sighkey’s polite incredulity over the whole scale of Christmas here in the U.S. People who study this kind of thing assure us that the average American mom takes on the equivalent of an additional full-time job for the period from Thanksgiving to the New Year. Add the cost of the festivities, the stepped-up socializing, the break in our healthy eating and exercise routines, and it is no wonder that holiday stress is a common problem.

Thanks to the HGP and a certain amount of moderation, I haven’t been dealing with much holiday stress. But yesterday morning, I got the following pieces of information:

My husband is on “shut-down” (that is, laid off) for a couple of weeks.
The bank put my husband’s deposit from Friday into the wrong account, so I had to go to the bank yesterday to straighten it out instead of going to the gym.
#1 son is not doing well in chemistry, so I have to meet the teacher of his chemistry class and his counselor instead of going to the gym today.
While I have been collecting things for my parents’ Christmas baskets, I did not actually acquire any baskets to put them in.
My car, when I went to head to the bank, was on empty.

So I went to the bank, and then, nervously, to the gas station, where I filled my gas tank. I have been stubbornly refusing to do this, insisting instead on putting my budgeted $10 per week into the gas tank. If I run out of gas during the week, I just walk, that’s all. I decided that it would be sensible to go ahead and fill the tank for the holiday week, and was shocked by the $29 total.

Then I figured, since I was over in the business part of town anyway, I would swing by the Dollar Store. I have been giving gift baskets to my parents for so many years that they must now have an enormous collection of nice baskets, I figured (I usually buy them in the fall, when the good ones go on sale all over town. I don’t know why I didn’t do that this year). They wouldn’t mind if I used a Dollar Store basket this year, and the Dollar Store was open at that hour.

I walked in cheerfully enough, and found that the worker in the store was shouting into the telephone.

“I just want what’s mine! I’m going to get what’s mine!” And then, after a pause, “You said you didn’t want the house!”

He continued his furious divorce negotiations as I wandered helplessly around the store. I am not a regular Dollar Store shopper, and I couldn’t figure out where a basket might be. Just before I gave up, the worker appeared, fresh from his fight, and I asked him. He led me around the store, pointing out trash cans and mop buckets. I said no, I really wanted a basket, and prepared to leave.

“Let’s go back here,” he said, leading me back into the stock room.

Why did I follow an angry man into a deserted stockroom? I don’t know. But we did come upon a large stack of boxes with a picture of a pretty woven basket with a handle.

“That’s exactly what I want,” I said with relief.

He pulled out his box cutter and slit the box, then pulled out an item from inside — a flat plastic woven thing that looked as though it might contain the rolls on the table at a casual restaurant. No handle. Not really a basket. Way too small.

I took it anyway. I flung my $1.09 at the fellow and hightailed it out of there, finished up the morning’s tasks, and got to work on time.

Blessings’ children had set her kitchen rug on fire and she had to go to court today to testify in her husband’s custody case, so I guess I am still not dealing with that much stress.

“Do you feel bad that you aren’t baking this year?” she asked me sadly. “I do.”

“Oh, I’m baking,” I said. And in fact I made snickerdoodles last night, after #2 son’s gymnastics class. But I also called the baker and ordered the Buche de Noel. Somehow I don’t think I need to add that to my list, even if #2 son was planning to do most of the work.

By lunchtime I was calm again, though I do have a soldered charm bearing the motto “Exhaustion should not be confused with calm.” I had the pleasure of hearing Kathleen Battle and Frederica Von Stade sing “Gesu Bambino.” This is a lovely 20th century piece by Pietro Yon that incorporates “Adeste Fideles” or “Come Let Us Adore Him.” It is rarely sung in casual settings, perhaps because it takes a couple of good female singers and a children’s choir to get the full effect. And I don’t think I have ever heard it recorded except by classical musicians, but the link I have given you will get you the sheet music for your viola and cello, as well as a midi so you can learn it real quick.

Perhaps if you are meeting up with a girlfriend to finish your baking, you can get all your kids to do the choir part and you and she can sing the solos.

Me, I have a date at the high school to discuss my son’s lack of skill and/or diligence in chemistry, and then back to the salt mines, with a stop off at the grocery (wasn’t I supposed to be through with that?) for dish soap and more baking supplies. After work is choir practice (with cookie boxes for the director and organist), and then more baking.

I am getting a fair amount of reveling in, too, though, and the boys are helping with the baking, at least by offering criticism and stealing the cookies before they make it into containers. I say “Those are for Christmas!” and they assure me that we always have too many cookies, that I am trying to starve them, that they have to try them all out…