Lismore. Tuesday, 4.35pm
I’ve made a Christmas resolution.
Yes, I know, you’re supposed to make a resolution on New Year’s Eve, but I gave that up years ago. It was always the same. By the time the midnight countdown had hit liftoff and I’m kissing a woman whom I’ve never met and then hugging a hairy man pressing his body a little too hard into my mine, the fast disappearing euphoria of drinking so much red wine always created the same resolution: I’m giving up drinking. This new year, I’d promise myself, I’ll be slimmer, superior, and will wake up in places I recognise.
The next day though, after a cleansing morning of orange juice and Panadol, I’d be offered a cold luncheon ale fresh from the bathtub. Inevitably my year’s resolution would have a lifespan of about eight hours.
So, I gave up New Year resolutions.
But this is Christmas.
Here, in Lismore Shopping Square, with a Christmas gift list in one hand and a hemp shopping bag in the other, I’m stalled in an eddy of shoppers outside the homewares shop. Where do I start? When do I stop?
If I buy a present for my grandchildren, should I buy a present for their parents (my son and his wife)? If I buy for my grandchildren, what about the children of my son’s half-sister?
It’s not that I hate shopping. I find it quite rewarding sometimes. I can spend an hour in a health food store pondering if the organic cheese covered in plantation wood ash would be better than the one marbled with Tasmanian ginkgo. And are gluten-free toasted bagel crisps the right accompaniment for such cheese.
After an hour I can happily walk out with my wallet $150 emptier and my hemp shopping bag almost a third full.
But that’s shopping I choose to do. I’m not being pressured to buy a lot of stuff just because Santa was born in a war zone manger the day after the last shopping day. I get anxious. My heart races and I pop too many Valium. Then I have to lie down.
So, I have just made a resolution: no Christmas presents this year.
Already I feel a sense of relief. I reckon I’ll wander over to the food court for something Japanese – and then get the hell out of here.
But it won’t be easy. Between me and the tempura vegetable nori, there is a jam of shopping trolleys. Some are laden with carefully wrapped presents. One carries a huge cardboard box with a picture of a curved flatscreen TV on it. One carries children with antlers pointing and crying, pushed by a woman who would gladly swap her screaming cargo for the curved flatscreen telly. Men, happier shoppers, push trolleys full of booze.
Ah, but not for me the gross consumerism of a fabricated festivity.
But wait… What about my mum? Sure, she always says not to buy her a present, but that’s a trap. If I don’t, she’ll give me that look.
And the girlfriend. She’s already given me a gift. (She’s so organised.)
Maybe I can give something that helps the planet. But, on Christmas morning, opening her envelope, will the nine-year-old granddaughter appreciate that she has helped save the last orangutan in Borneo?
I’m stuck. What to do? Like a polar bear treading warming water, time is not on my side.
An item catches my eye. Outside the homewares shop, there’s a cooking thingy designed by an ex-boxer.
Sure, my mum can’t cook much anymore and my girlfriend doesn’t want to, but the damn thing is right there.
I can give up Christmas presents next year. (I’ll go overseas.)
Maybe granddaughter would really appreciate fat-free grilling…