Confessions of a Store-Bought Christmas

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by Maryellen Hooper

Every year I make a list. The “Old-Fashioned, Handmade, Everything-Recycled-and-Educational Kind of Christmas” Things To-Do list.

The list itself is recycled because it’s been the same list for seven years and nothing’s ever been checked off it.

What happened seven years ago? My first-born came into the world and I became close with my homesteading hippie friend, Willow. We both had brand new babies and visions of the kind of moms we wanted to be. I thought I was a holistic/natural mom because I was a vegetarian and feeding my baby soy formula. Then Willow told tales of giving birth at home, sewing teddy bears from placenta and building a cradle from old orange crates. I knew I was waaay out of my league.

Even so, I never gave up the dream of a perfect holiday. I guess I just wanted the Norman Rockwell, everyone smiling sitting down to a home-cooked meal holiday picture — minus the slaughtered turkey. I wanted to change the pressure-filled, tree thrown out on the lawn because it wouldnʼt stand up straight, forgot to turn on the oven so we have to eat TV dinners kind of Christmases I had as a child. But as the saying goes: “The road to bad Christmases is paved with home-made intentions.”

That first year, when Willow handmade her baby a special gift by whittling an exact replica of the Grand Canyon into a potato, loaded it with dye she made from berries grown in her garden, then stamped it onto a recycled onesie, the gauntlet was thrown. Not to be outdone, I ironed a “Keep on Truckin” patch onto my babyʼs bell-bottomed jeans. Seemed like a sweet nostalgic gesture at 3am Christmas Eve.

Yikes. This homemade storybook Christmas stuff was harder than I thought.

“Set the bar waaay lower” I chanted “and success will be mine!” I decided to go back to comparing my efforts to my childhood. That HAD to be easier to beat, right? When I was eight, I had to wrap my own gifts because my Mom was working late. I practiced my “surprised” face while I wrapped. Then there was the year I asked for a Chrissie Doll that had a growing ponytail. “That doll is way too expensive!” my dad informed me. “Donʼt worry, Santaʼs gonna bring it to me!” I assured my parents. “We have to PAY him you know! Thatʼs why poor kids donʼt get anything,” was the only explanation my mom could come up with. Sheʼs never been good under pressure.

So here I sit, a mom armed with nothing but good intentions and my ideal “List”:

  1. Use all my sonsʼ outgrown, favorite Star Wars shirts and lovingly sew them into a memory quilt.
  2. Collect all my husbandʼs favorite photos of the boys and photos of him when he was a boy and scrapbook them together into a small album he can carry with him to share with his friends.
  3. Hike into the woods as a family and choose a tree. My husband will teach the boys about saws and nature while I pour the hot chocolate into mugs we have just taken out of the kiln.
  4. Gather sticks, leaves and rocks while in the woods to make ornaments for the tree by hand.
  5. Have the boys draw festive holiday scenes and make holiday cards out of them.
  6. Sew bags from beautiful holiday fabric to use and reuse as gift wrap instead of wasteful wrapping paper.
  7. Make holiday cookies and treats from scratch to wrap and give as gifts to friends and family.
  8. Cook an amazing holiday feast of Tofurky and homegrown vegetables.

But with December 25th looming before me, I’ve run into a few obstacles: both boys got Strep throat, my mom sold her house and had to be moved into a condo and the dog threw up on the rug…27 times.

So, here’s the actual list this year:

  1. Bought my sons new Star Wars shirts and a snuggie.
  2. Bought my husband a photo album and left in the pictures of the model family.
  3. Bought a tree at Home Depot when I was there getting spackle to fix the hole my son put in my Momʼs new condo wall.
  4. Put the tree up ornament-less and declared it to be “Naked, just as nature intended.”
  5. Screen-captured the boysʼ high score while playing Angry Birds and sent it to everyone via an e-card site.
  6. Kept all gifts in the store-bought bags they came from and “saved hundreds of cotton plants.”
  7. Lots of gift cards.
  8. Defrost my “Defrost in case of emergency” meal my mom left in my freezer during hurricane season ’06. That’s still good, right?

Sigh. Well, thereʼs always next year.

A veteran in the world of stand-up, Maryellen Hooper’s comedy has taken her from clubs and colleges to theaters and television. She’s appeared on “The Dennis Miller Show”, “The Martin Short Show”, “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno and has had her own ½ hour special on Comedy Central called “Lounge Lizards”. In 1998, the comedy industry awarded Maryellen “Female Comedian of the Year” at the American Comedy Awards. Her website is She chronicles motherhood and home life at her blog, Stinky Flowers.

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Posted in: Parental Wisdom, Humor, Holidays