Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mind-boggling numbers and surviving Christmas

I woke up to this story on the radio the other morning. And in my early morning groginess, I succumbed to a bit of outrage over it. I usually take a more detached, worldly "yes, the system is fucked up" attitude to the existence of such obscenity, but on that morning, my much more raw 18-year-old-ish-"that is just so fucking wrong" self took over.

What can one do with 67.9 million dollars?

And the tidbit in yesterday morning's Freep: Our country spends about $250 million a day on the war in Iraq, putting the grand total on spending somewhere in the $500 billion range. Again, intellectually, I knew this, but something about another pre-coffee confrontation with such outrageous numbers has left me feeling raw.

Some of it may be that it is happening in this moment -- the moment right before and right after the consumer-fest of Christmas. I'm not going to go looking for estimates of how much we spend on tinsel or such silliness, but I did have to take a moment and check in with myself and how I negotiate this "holiday" which is not holy to me.

The boy child wanted, I mean really wanted, the purple Ninja Turtle (Donatello, I think) and I almost got him one -- just to please him, just to see the momentary joy on his little face. Gack. Pull back. Regroup. If even I, a pretty stingey pre-revelation Grinch can fall prey to the hype... eww...

Anyway, I feel decent about where I eventually landed in terms of the holiday craziness. I let two who shall remain nameless (but you know who you are) hold forth on the Anti-Christmas rants and I chose to walk a middle path. This means I did get a tree -- but only after I had a heart-to-heart with E and she told me she was willing to contribute $10, 2 hours, and 98% of her attention to the acquiring, decorating, deconstructing process (I didn't make her pay, but I was impressed with her offer). I also got the kids a few well-chosen presents. These items were a pleasure to buy (because they were bought with a beer in hand at the Shadow Art Fair) and the kids LOVED them -- a bookmark-making kit and plaid tafetta bubble skirt for E, kid-friendly comic books for O. Then I also rounded up a slew of fresh art and literacy supplies (paper, paints, markers, brushes, notebooks) and we spent Christmas morning happily eating pastachios and painting pictures.

The holiday stuff fest really grew once we got to my folks, but I think even they have finally gotten the message and they were fairly restrained in their purchases for the kids. Other family members and family members of family members piled a few more items on the gift pile, but I am as excited as the kids about the new remote control car and the Sorry game!

As in previous years, however, we picked only little things (some handmade, others acquired from local artisans) for those closest to us and then gave an equivalent amount to an organization that would spread it to others. This year we kept the funds closer to home than in the past and chose Forgotten Harvest for our donation. I'm not sure the kids totally "get it" but at least the tradition will be there as the grow older and see more of the world.

Of course, if I'd had $67.9 million to work with....

Beyond all the stuff, I took the opportunity of Christmas being a "special day" (though why it is special is a bit up in the air -- the kids know it is not because it is the birthday of the saviour, but they would be hard pressed to come up with an acceptable explanation) to step back as a parent. I issued few dictums, I made no comment on their choice to eat treats from their stockings for breakfast, and I did not once mention that their rooms are so incredibly cluttered that the new toys will immediately be swallowed by the old. Today it is back to business -- there are chores to be done (tho why do they still look at me like I am insane when I mention this?) and nutritional food to be eaten. But it was FUN...

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