From Making Christmas
“About my project,” she begins. “I’ve always loved the holiday season. Everything from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve then Christmas and New Year’s Eve—it’s a magical time. Plus, I was born on Christmas, so the holidays are extra special. But the past few years I’ve been so busy with work and . . . stuff . . . that I kind of lost track of them. It was always more important to focus on getting the next big ad campaign out than stopping to smell the sugar plums.”
“Ad campaigns? You’re in advertising?”
“No—not anymore.” She taps her fingers on the edge of the counter. “I left my old agency earlier this year to start an Internet-based company with my friend. We moved to Lincoln in October because it’s a welcoming place for startups. Anyways, the past few years the holidays have gone by in a hazy, chaotic blur. I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again this year. I’m going to stop and smell those sugar plums.”
I almost ask what sugar plums smell like but go with a question that makes more sense. “So you’re celebrating the holidays with a Christmas coffee?”
“Today,” she agrees. “Then tomorrow I’ll have another festive activity waiting for me.”
She digs into her purse and removes a piece of red card stock. It’s covered with tiny green paper pockets, each neatly printed with a number counting up to twenty-four. Twenty-four.
“It looks like an advent calendar.” Just like the ones my grandma gave my sister and me every Christmas until we graduated college.
Her eyes light up. “That’s exactly what it is. This is my grown-up advent calendar. I saw one on Pinterest—though, they had twenty-four bottles of wine lined up in a rack to drink every day of December leading up to Christmas. I like wine, but I’m not a big fan of all the varieties, which would defeat the purpose of drinking twenty-four different wines. It also didn’t seem like the best way to celebrate the season. Do you connect binge-drinking wine with Christmas?”
“No. But maybe some people do?”
“I suppose, which is kind of sad. But I probably shouldn’t judge what works for other people.” She shakes her head. “Anyway, over Thanksgiving I started thinking about what I wanted to do this holiday season. Books I wanted to read. Movies I wanted to watch. Experiences I wanted to have. So I made a list. Using the list, I created a calendar with each of the items reserved for a different day. I wrote everything down on different pieces of paper. I folded them up and randomly scheduled them throughout the month. That way, I’ll be surprised every day.”
“You made a random schedule? How will you know if you have time or the materials you need to do it?”
“I’ll make the time.” She turns to the counter when the barista arrives with three cups. Over her shoulder, she asks, “Do you want to try gingerbread or eggnog?”
I don’t know. “Eggnog.” I guess.
She hands me one of the cups and takes the other two. “Actually, I do know what I’ll be doing one day because I had to buy tickets. I want to see The Nutcracker—I haven’t been since I was a little girl. But everything else will be a surprise.”
I’m listening to her explanation so closely I don’t even realize we’ve stepped out of the coffee shop until the cold bites my face. She has certainly shaken up my morning routine. “Do you really think a Christmas to-do list will suddenly make the holidays better?”
“I do.” She grins when I shake my head. “Do you doubt it will?”
“I don’t know.” I lift a shoulder. “It seems like a stressful way to spend the month. And for what? An overly commercialized holiday that only racks up charges on our credit cards while people are starving and struggling in the world. All the while, people miss their deadlines and pile more work on your desk because you’re the single guy in the office and they have to get to their kids’ Christmas programs or go bake cookies at their mother-in-law’s house. Christmas was fun when we were kids, but as adults, it kind of sucks.” I shake my head again. “No offense to you and your plan, but most years I want to get through the month of December with as little fanfare as possible.”
“Interesting.” She says nothing else but studies my face again for a couple of seconds. I nearly squirm under the intensity of her gaze. “Well, I hope you enjoy the coffee. Merry Christmas.”