So much to do, so few Saturdays

November 29, 1997|By Rob Kasper

THE OTHER DAY, I was summoned to an emergency family meeting to decide what day we were going to fell the Christmas tree. We've got plenty of time to decide, I protested. No we don't, I was told. This year there is a shortage of Saturdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Sure enough, when I looked at the calendar I saw that, not counting today, there are only three Saturdays between now and Christmas. I don't count today because, let's face it, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is a day usually devoted to recovering from all that food and all that family.

This year's Saturday shortage is caused by the way holidays landed on the calendar. Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday of November, fell late in the month. And Christmas, which can be any day of the week, will land on a Thursday.

I remember that last year -- when Christmas caught me unprepared -- there was a similar pattern and a similar deficiency of mid-holiday Saturdays. I longed for the good old years of 1995 and 1994, when times were flush and there were five Saturdays sandwiched between the two holidays.

Being short a Saturday is a big deal, because Saturday is my fall-back day. It is the day I do the chores I have dodged all week. When I realized this season I would be one Saturday short, my stomach began to churn. I got the same feeling of anxiety that I have when I dream I am back in school, am about to be given a test and have not studied. That is a disturbing dream, but at least I stop worrying when I wake up.

The other morning when I woke up, I realized that when it came to getting ready for the holidays, my troubles had just begun. Christmas and its affiliated obligations were headed my way and I wasn't going to have enough Saturdays to get ready for them.

I need five Saturdays to get prepared for Christmas.

First comes Sated Saturday, two days after Thanksgiving. This is a day devoted to recovering from the experience of spending several days in a hot house, eating with your kinfolk.

Next comes Brooding Saturday. This is usually the second Saturday after Thanksgiving. It is a day when I try to convince myself that I won't perform all the feats of domestic engineering -- the stringing of lights, the assembling of the electric trains, the transporting of shoppers -- that are traditionally undertaken in our house in December. I spend a good portion of this day sitting in a soft chair, sipping beverages and muttering.

Next comes This-Won't-Be-So-Bad Saturday. This is when I start doing all the things that the week before I said I wouldn't do. Usually I put myself in the mood to run errands, fell trees and visit malls by telling myself that the world is a kind and gentle place. I have told myself that drivers won't be stupid, that clerks will be helpful and that I can get all my holiday duties taken care of in one well-organized, day-long outing.

This is followed by Get-Out-Of-My-Way Saturday, the day when the previous week's goodwill-toward-men approach goes out the window. It is the day when parking lots fill and venom flows.

This is the day you end up driving to three distant malls, each more congested than the last, searching for that "simple little present" that a relative has requested.

This is the day your mission in life becomes finding a white light bulb for the ornament on the top of the Christmas tree.

This is the day when stores start to run out of items you seek.

This is the day I have driven halfway to Philadelphia to buy skateboarding shoes.

This is the day I have parked behind a trash bin, because it was the only available spot in Towson.

This is the day I have never let anyone anywhere cut in front of me in line.

Finally there is Tell-Me-It-Is-Over Saturday. This is the last Saturday before Christmas. It is the day when the tree is up, the lights are working and there is the general feeling the battle has been won. There is a false sense of triumph. There are still window decorations that need illuminating, a holiday pageant or two to be endured, and a wreath that must be placed low enough on the front of the house to be considered decorative, yet high enough to discourage thieves from stealing it. On the Saturdays leading up to Christmas, the choring is never done.

So the other day after the family meeting I figured out that since we are short of Saturdays this year, I am going to have to shuffle the Saturday lineup.

This year I am going to have to start brooding on Sated Saturday. So today I will deny that Christmas is coming. And next Saturday I will prepare to go into the cold and fell a Christmas tree.

Pub Date: 11/29/97

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