Although the poet says "April is the cruelest month," in my experience, December bears that distinction. Every year it becomes harder for me to bear the expectations, the obligations, the commercialization, the frenzy that surrounds the holidays occurring in this last month of the year. In my childhood, I adored Christmas - especially the tree. I was enthralled by the concept of bringing a real tree into the house! My dad and grandfather struggling to straighten it in the red metal stand, my mother and grandmother shouting directions - "over this way!" "No, it's leaning forward!" "to the right a little more!" - until finally it was secured, and we could hang the ornaments. Each one of my favorites would could out of a little nest in it's plastic container, and I could carefully hook the skinny metal wire over the tree branch. Once the ornaments were hung, the multi-colored lights casting a rosy glow over the room, I would get my favorite book and blanket, curl up under the tree, and read until bedtime. Of course, the food was wonderful at Christmas time. My grandmother, a true Southern cook, always filled the house with smells of pies and cakes, baked ham, roasted turkey with her incomparable homemade cornbread stuffing...it's no wonder I had to buy my clothes in the the "Chubby" department. My childhood Christmas' were idyllic - at least in retrospect. I wonder if the adults in my family felt as harried and cynical about the season then as I feel about it now. I hope not - I like to believe in the image of a simpler time, when life was less driven by consumerism and greed. I blame my husband for the way my feelings about December have changed - or at least, my husband's family. My in-laws were two of the most difficult people I have ever met. They were argumentative, pessimistic, and generally joyless. Yet they had this "thing" about holidays - the family was supposed to be together, even if "the family" was fractured, dysfunctional, and miserable. I rarely enjoyed Christmas - or any holiday for that matter - after I met Jim. Even though they are no longer in the picture - my father in law long dead, and my mother in law lost in her own demented world where holidays no longer exist - the holiday season is fraught with too many unvoiced obligations and expectations. They weigh on my mind and heart, collecting steam like an avalanche, as the days of the month roll by. In recent years, I've been distancing myself from December, backing up to the periphery of the month and peering in at all the hype and hoopla. I procrastinate all the December duties as long as I can, somehow hoping that the spirit will strike me before the stores have sold all the good gifts, and I've let all the postal deadlines pass. I would like to be able to throw myself into the preparations for this season, to have high hopes and glorious expectations. I want more than anything to have one shining moment during these December days when I feel at peace. But, I can't bring myself to step closer, to bridge that distance between me and December. So here I am, on the outside looking in, a wallflower at the December dance. Biding my time 'til it's over.