I have just learned from good authority it is December already. I have no idea how this happened.
It is time to slather the bushes with Christmas lights, and I've still got a pumpkin on the porch.
It is time to send out cards, and I haven't gotten beyond the K's on my list from last year.
It is time to be dashing through the snow, and I've still got bottle rockets I haven't burned off.
Where was I when it was announced December would start in the middle of November?
Our government spends energy to warn us the terror threat level is orange, the ozone level is red and that unattended vehicles will be towed. Can't they come along and announce, "Hey, dummy, we're going to hold December this year while there's still leaves on the trees"?
Capping this wicked year of rampant downsizing is a period of only 28 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I've got a head cold that's lasted longer. In my household, we can probably use the same ham for both holidays. December is the cruelest month. Other months have holidays that don't require you to do anything more than hang the flag, buy mama a card or wear green. December demands retailing, decorating, enchantment.
We're expected to fret about the economic signs a soft "Black Friday" portends. We're manipulated into combat like so many Gollums scheming over so many rings to go and fetch the hottest new thing – PlayStation, Wii and, from the days of yore, those Cabbage Patch creatures who now dwell in dusty attics or populate pages on eBay.
Great inflatable yard penguins, snow globes and Snoopys spread their girth and mirth in Michelin Man splendor. People buy up vines of little sparkly lights because, at the price of about $6 a mile, it's easier than untangling last year's harvest.
We tell ourselves it's about the magic for children, then convene interrogations of the wee ones about which advertised goodies will best satisfy their desires. Then they are marched off to confirm their orders with shopping center Santas, who then charge 10 bucks for a memory picture.
No, I'm not a Grinchly Humbugger. I like Christmas. I like the glow of the tree, St. Nick honking by on a fire truck, cookies for the reindeer.
I like pitching a big bill in the kettle for the Salvation Army, the most underrated charity around, doing so much for so many with so little. I like the annual connection to old friends through cards and parties. I'm a sucker for holding a candle and singing "Silent Night" in a darkened sanctuary.
I just don't like the hassle, the hustle, the hucksterism. Call me old fashioned, even prehistoric, but every passing year the question nags at me ever stronger: How did all this start in a manger and wind up in a mall?
And how did it get here so flippin' fast?