December 31, 2006

Happy Groundhog's Day?

Whoops, wrong celebration. Appropriate, though, for the amount of attention I feel the change in dates deserves. You have to be young and energetic to like New Year's Eve. For the rest of us, it just means the television listings are screwed up and you can't go out for a decent meal. Everyone I know is staying home, exhausted from Christmas.

Even in my teens and 20s, New Year's always felt like the night everyone was desperate to have a good time, damn it. It was a night for -- still is -- for tourists. Your hard-core party people were out every other night of the year. New Year's is amateur hour.

For the record, I had two Christmas celebrations during my holiday in New England, which began a few days before Christmas proper and ended yesterday.

First up, Christmas in Maine with the cousins -- where no room was left decoration-free, and most of the hall-decking took place in record time on Christmas Eve.

It's not a holiday if every ornament my Presbyterian cousin owns isn't festooned upon a tree and the appropriate candles "lit" in the windows. We all went to church -- usually my blood relation, my first cousin, and I skip all things religious, seeing that we are, in our fashion, Jewish, while his wife and kids go off to services.

This year, one of their children was in one of the numerous choirs held at the service, so off we all went. The children's Christmas service reminded me of a talent show where no child was left behind. Next year, I may skip that part of the proceedings.

Every year, Santa visits with more and more presents, and I am stunned by the expense. My cousin and his wife were up wrapping presents until 6 a.m. One of the children's gifts retailed for close to $400. I can't help thinking toys were much simpler when I was the 12-year-old's age. I think the most expensive gift my parents gave me was a ticket to Europe, back in the days when travel agents gave gift certificates.

Farther south, outside of Boston, I had a second, more low key, holiday with one of my closest friends and her extended family, some of whom I had met last summer in Gloucester. (Their upbringing gives mine competition in the what-were-they-thinking sweepstakes. That's a long story, but my sojourn at her family's country house is one of the few not detailed in this year's blog. I did spend some time in Wonderland this year, but logged considerable mileage and hospitality elsewhere.)

My friend is not exactly a minimalist, but all her kids' presents fit in the trunk of one car. Her attitude is, please, don't bring any more crap into my house. We've got more stuff than we have storage as it is. Their house, built in 1860 or so, has been completely restored -- she and her husband did a gut renovation -- but closets were lacking in the average 1860s home, and did not gain much footing in the renovation. The only presents I brought were edible.

At her family gathering, I got to wish her grandmother a happy 99th birthday -- the only time in my life I've known someone to reach that milestone with all faculties intact. Her other grandmother made it to 98. The longevity of the women in her family is a bit overwhelming, from our 40-something perspectives, as is the longevity of the women in mine.

She and I are financial planners, and we know how much it costs to retire. Given the female longevity profiles in our histories, it does not look like we will be leaving the work place any time soon. Pity, for retirement strikes both of us as a fine idea. We could keep ourselves happily occupied without ever having to work for a client again. Meanwhile, we soldier on, stunned by the numbers we crunch, horrified that we are each at the top percentage of people in the U.S. who have retirement savings.

I suppose this begs the could-be-construed-as-new-year's-pondering: how much is enough? I could get all philosophical and spout the Tao te Ching, or hard-assed practical, and quote numbers, but instead, I will just go to sleep.

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Blogger Brighton said...

We keep the holidays simple with two gifts per kiddo. They appreciate the gifts because they only get things on their birthday and the holidays!

9:41 PM  

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