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Holiday Stress
How to combat it
How to avoid it
How to make it work for you
By Carma Ririe
(From NETWORK, the family newsletter,
volume 2, December 1996)

Since before Thanksgiving, I’ve been observing this stress first hand from the inside of a kiosk set up in our local mall. In “my” kiosk are beautiful porcelain dolls and other gift items brought in just for the holiday shoppers. As the month of December has progressed, I’ve noticed that the speed at which the shoppers are walking is increasing each day. The expressions on their faces are becoming more haggard and their chatter with their shopping companions more animated…their kindly (?) suggestions to their children given in a more unkindly manner. Yes, indeed, I am witnessing the signs of holiday stress.

My first experience with holiday stress was when Mother gave me a dollar and left me at Kunter’s store to do my shopping for Christmas. I was nine years old and if it hadn’t been for Etta Tirrell, I would probably have just stood and bawled until Mother finished getting her groceries in the other side of the store. Etta made welcome suggestions about how to spend that dollar and I went home with a present for my mom and dad and my five brothers. (Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? Buying a present for seven people with one dollar.)

Mother never displayed too much holiday stress unless you would count the effects of walking all over Idaho Falls, Rigby, Shelley and Rexburg looking for a boy doll for Elaine. This was before malls…and I’m sure the outside temps were typically Idaho…in the twenties or teens with a wind chill sending them well below zero. Elaine is the only one that could tell you whether the boy doll was found or not… but Elaine had to be unconventional and order something different than cousin Delaina had ordered from Santa.

I have watched the dear ladies…of all ages…hover around my kiosk looking at the dolls and I tell you. Some might come with their faces showing the burdens of years of pain and heartaches.. but as they look, they will get a sort of dreamy, far-away look in their eyes and a sweet smile will very slowly emerge and curl the corners of their mouths upward…then they just sort of float away murmuring…”that looks just like the doll that…” The memory I have of beautiful dolls is always followed by the memory of the sound of hammer blows from the closet. Upon investigation, I discovered my doll in hundreds of pieces at the feet of two demons; brother Wayne and his sidekick, Kaye Stitt. Kaye had the hammer raised above her head and was just ready to start on the plaster walls of the closet. I can’t imagine where Mother was while this mischief was going on.. but, I never had another doll until Arlo bought me one for Christmas last year. You can bet if Wayne comes to visit me, I’ll hide it.

While I am at work I have to be planning how to avoid the stress and still get to all the rehearsals. I’ve always wished for some holiday genies..one for cooking, one for cleaning, one for shopping and two to decorate my house so it would look like a page from Better Homes and Gardens. With that kind of help I could just go from one rehearsal to another without developing a bit of holiday stress.

The real answer to the stress problem is to lower your standards. One kind of cookies, left-overs for Christmas dinner and get the kids to do the decorating. Mother subscribed to some of that. I can’t remember any special holiday goodies, her usual fare was quite festive enough. Her everyday meals were fit for a king and holidays just meant more of the same. I do remember Aunt Sylvia’s divinity with red and green maraschino cherries on the top of each piece. That was festive and pretty as well as delicious to the taste. Decorating was not Mother’s forte and Wayne and I were anxious to help her out with this when we were home. Wayne went for the truly relaxed and casual look. When it came time for the icicles on the tree he would stand back about two feet and throw them on by the handfuls while I shrieked and wailed, “no, no, no. not that way” I supposed Mother experienced a little stress listening to it all.

We probably all (and this would apply to the shoppers I’ve been observing) create our own stress. We all want to do all that the ad world tells us we must in order to have a truly traditional and wonderful memory-making holiday. In reality we need to relax more and enjoy and remember the reason for the season.

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