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The Holiday Hustle

It’s the most bittersweet time of the year

November-December 2023

by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Columnist

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It can also be the most exhausting.

Yes, it is time for the annual holiday hustle. At this point — early November — there seems to be plenty of time. Time to shop for and plan the Thanksgiving meal, or simply to make reservations. Time to make out your Christmas gift list. Time to shop early — although early really would have been October or even September.

Maybe you’re like my mother. She often had her gifts for us wrapped and tucked in a closet by the end of August. In 2005, the year our dear mother passed away, my sister and I were quite surprised to find a pile of Christmas gifts stowed in the back of a closet. It was a wonderful — but sort of bittersweet — Christmas.

There would be no more special holiday meals as only Mom could make them. There would be no more photos of her sweet, happy smile, sitting near a pile of gifts with a red bow stuck on her forehead. (This became sort of a tradition, and we all always laughed.)

My sister and I do the best we can, but still, it pales in comparison.

There’s the “empty chair syndrome,” and it hurts. But we keep smiling. Daddy has been gone since 1990, so we have had plenty of time to adjust to his empty chair. There’s no more model train chugging around the tree. That train was a “gift” for my sister and me when we were kids. But we weren’t really allowed to get close to it. In reality, it was actually Daddy’s gift to Daddy.

There are also no more rubber dart competitions or oddball games with marbles.

But, even if you’re facing the holidays without beloved members of your family, there’s still lots to do for the holiday hustle. There are friends who need the perfect gift. There are neighbors who need “little somethings,” usually something homemade — to thank them for the help they have doled out during the year. There are uplifting carols and hymns at church, where we will probably shed a tear or two.

And the cards! My sister is great at sending out Christmas cards. She buys them early, gets out her address book, and shoots off a personal card to everyone listed in it. I am very sorry I can’t say the same. I always mean well, but somehow, I don’t manage to get around to it — until it’s too late.

I’ll get cards from far-off and long-unseen relatives, and I think, “Gee; I need to send them a card.” But, I am ashamed to say, that doesn’t always happen.

This year, I’ve made a promise to — by golly — buy and write and send those cards. The trouble is, they can’t simply be signed, “Love, Margo.” There needs to be a synopsis of my current life. The synopsis of my life right now is, “retired but still working,” “walking every day in the woods,” and “reading every thriller I get my hands on.” Sounds exciting, eh? Not really, but I love those things. So, that’s what I’ll have to tell them.

Come to think of it, there’s not much “hustle” in my holiday hustle anymore. Still, I plan to embrace the holiday spirit and make the best of it.

I hope your holidays are happy. Embrace them, and your loved ones!

To order a copy of Margo’s “A Party of One,” call 540-468-2147 Mon.-Wed., 9 a.m.-5 p.m., or email [email protected].