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Twelfth Night may be the best I can do

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor

Are you ready for Christmas? I am not even sure why people ask that. What does it mean exactly?
Is the house decorated? The presents bought and wrapped? The cookies baked? The cards mailed?
If that’s what folks want to know, then my resounding answer is no. I am not ready for Christmas.
It’s been an unusual six weeks at Ten Broeck Manor. In addition to the daily grind, there’s also been scattered doctors’ appointments, family obligations and several monkey wrenches thrown into the mix.
So here it is, a little over a week until Christmas, and I am so totally unprepared that I wish I could burrow under a pillow and not resurface for two weeks.
Sadly, this is eating me alive. I have always been two steps ahead of the game with all the preparation that goes into making memorable holidays, and this year, I haven’t had either time or inclination to begin.
With our families scattered into the four winds, our personal celebration is very quiet, but that has never stopped me from decking the entire house out, shopping for perfect gifts and baking way into the night.
Until this year.
We did manage to get a tree up last weekend. Tom sensed my ever-building depression and climbed into the attic to retrieve all the decor. But when all was said and done, the tree was all we could muster, so all the decor went back into the garage.
I am heading to Georgia this weekend to attend best friend Denise’s son’s wedding Friday night, so shopping and baking have again taken a back seat to priorities.
For the last 15 years, I have made Denise six dozen of specialty cookies. She anticipates them, and because she’s had a horrific year (breast cancer and two children leaving the nest) I am determined to continue this tradition. The cookies will still be warm from the oven as I embark on the journey.
I am squeezing in a quick visit with my youngest son, Spencer,  prior to the wedding, complete with lunch and a trip to the mall where I will buy his Christmas gift in front of him and present it to him in the shopping bag the store gives me. It’s something he asked for and something I told him I would buy, but under normal circumstances I would have been terribly creative and enhanced the package.
Perfect gifts? What are they? I buy gifts all year long for the people who matter, so I am not going to waste what precious time I do have for something that most likely does not exist.
I told Spencer it looked like gift cards all around this year.
”I like gift cards,” he said.
“I hate them,” I answered. “They’re so impersonal, like cash.”
“I like cash,” he answered.
And that’s when I had my epiphany. Literally.
December is such a blur with everyone. We curse the commercialism that has enveloped our sacred holy day, and yet, we all fall victim to it despite our best intentions.
When I was a child, even a teenager, I don’t remember my folks getting stressed over Christmas.
They reveled in the holiday. We cut our own cedar tree from the mountain. We got one “big” present and our stocking–an old tube sock usually–was filled with nuts, fruit and Hershey Kisses. That’s it. And it was enough.
Our memories today come not from the gifts or the food but the fun we had being together and the stories we told.
We remember the people who made our Christmas special–the aunts, uncles and cousins who timed their vacations to be together and swap a lie or two; the friends who dropped in for a cup of coffee and slice of fruitcake; the unity of people gathered to laugh, love and share over a board game.
After Spencer declared he liked cash, I knew I had found the answer to, “Are you ready for Christmas?”
Indeed.
As I bask in the warmth of my family and friends this Christmas season, I will also take comfort knowing that their gift cards will purchase something they need or want and didn’t get amid all the Christmas flurry.
They will be able to get super discounts at all the after-Christmas sales and my gift will stretch farther than either I, or my wallet, could.
If I manage to get them those gift cards by Jan. 6, or Twelfth Night–the traditional end of  Christmas festivities, I will still have made deadline.
And I am not eaten up by lack of time. I still have three weeks to get ready for Christmas.
How about you?
Are you ready for Christmas?