A Close Call

Gillian and I ran some errands this weekend, and had a perilously close brush with holiday stress, the kind of stress I have vowed to avoid while at the same time participating in enough activity so that I can enjoy the season. Its a delicate balance, easy to topple, we found.

We needed supplies for truffle-making, so we went out and about in the world, braving the holiday shopping chaos. It was really quite fun. There is an aspect of holiday shopping that I actually enjoy, if you can ignore the consumer greed. There is a palpable excitement in the air, coming from the energy of people bustling about getting very important things done. This past weekend was so cold in the Bay Area that it really felt like winter “back east,” as we like to say in California. The cold made me feel cozy and Christmasey. We werre bundled up, getting done our list of important things, bustling around, running into old friends, and enjoying the scene.

After much debate, we decided to get a tree. Already feeling we had put in a full day of bustling, we persisted in getting our tree on Saturday. Young men with chainsaws were taking orders from a much older man who looked like he had seen some hard times. We showed the man which tree we wanted, and he said that he would have it ready to go after we paid for it. We went in the store and paid for the tree, got hot dogs on the way out, fetched the car, and drove up to the curb to claim our tree.

The young man helping us was none too happy about it. It was clear that he wanted to be doing anything but help us strap a Christmas tree to the top of our car. The poor kid was clearly not happy in his work. What should have taken 10 minutes took 45. Gillian and I didn’t know what to do to prod this kid along. We’re not professional Christmas tree fasteners. We didn’t want to tell this guy who so obviously hates his job that he was doing it too slowly. And we were pretty certain that he didn’t care that we had to get home to decorate the tree and make chocolate truffles for our friends. But we really wanted to get home! We were risking getting cranky and tired.

We finally got the tree home, and it took a lot longer to set it up than we thought. Putting a six-foot tree in a tiny apartment is not easy (although I do believe that no matter what, there is always room for a Christmas tree). We had to re-arrange some large furtniture and our entire entertainment system, but we were determined and we got that thing to fit! Then the decorating: We had to string the lights twice because we realized that it works better to string from the bottom up with the lights plugged in too late. I think I have to re-learn that every year. then the process of hanging the decorations, going through the Christmas box, gushing over the angel cow ornament and the baby ice skates that I used to wear as a kid (my mom turned them into holiday deorations after I grew out of them. They are pretty cute.).

We had planned on making truffles that day, but by the time we got home and got the tree decorated, it was about 8:00. We were tired and couldn’t possibly get started that late. We’d be up all night! We agreed to skip church (gasp!) and stay home and get started in the morning. We also had to go to a co-worker’s Hanukah party the next day (which I really wanted to attend), which would no longer be convenient since we’d be in the process of making truffles. Undaunted, we were determined to do it all.

Mind you, this is how I get into trouble around the holidays. I get overly ambitious. Really, its the story of my life. I guess when I grow up I’ll have the goal of not having eyes bigger than my stomach. Right. Like that’s gonna happen.

Gillian and I started to disagree about process. To start, our disagreements were friendly debates, and for quite a while, we were able to work things out amicably. Gillian finished the ganaches (I assisted and washed dishes), and by noon they were all setting. We went to the party, had a nice time socializing with friends from the office, played with cute babies, ate yummy potato latkas with home-made apple sauce, caught up with a few old friends, and finally made our excuses, which people were willing to accept because they knew they would benefit from our planned afternoon activities.

We came back home and immediately started making truffles. Without the truffle-making, we had already had a full day, I think most would agree. But we were determined, and we perservered.

The process took far too long, and half way through, we realized that we didn’t have enough paper cups for all of the truffles. Gillian was going to have to drive accross town to get more. I really didn’t want her to go. I wanted to have a stress-free day of holiday activity and not have either of us go anywhere. I immediately became cranky, and we argued. Was it better to just make due with the paper cups that we had, or should one of us just bite the bullet and go get what we needed? I felt we should stay home, but Gillian is more of a perfectionist, especially when it comes to food. She wasn’t going to be relaxed unless we had everything we needed. I gave in and let her go, but I wasn’t happy about it.

We were both tired, and we both new that we were going to be up too late. I had to go to work at 6:30 the next morning, and I wanted to go to bed. It was 10:30 and we still needed to box the truffles after the were shaped and rolled in cocoa. We were in the middle of a long process, and we didn’t have enough time to relax, and for a moment it didn’t feel like we were having fun. It felt too close for comfort to holiday stress.

We bickered and whined at each other. My feet hurt, and I wanted nothing more than to be horizontal by 11:00. We had a hard moment discussing whether or not I should go to bed or stay up and see the process through. We never settled the argument, but I stayed up and helped assemble the boxes, and the process went by pretty quickly. Once we got past the crankiness, we were punchy and silly, laughing at ourselves because we were so tired that we couldn’t accurately count truffles any more.

In spite of ourselves, we had a fun time, managing to fill our weekend with holiday activities, creating an unrealistic agenda, accomplishing most everything and then some, and avoiding a close call with holiday stress.

Merry Christmas, indeed.

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