November 1st is terrifying.

It’s not that I’m particularly attached to the month of October, given to wailing and gnashing of teeth when we have to leave it behind.  It’s November’s shotgun start.  It’s in anticipation of what’s heading our way.

It’s the downhill slide to the end of the year for us.

The fall seems like it will stretch on forever when the kids go back to school.  Despite the fact that past experience proves this is a season that flies by, I always head into September relaxed and ready to enjoy autumn.  If I had any common sense at all I’d start planning for Christmas in the summer and be done with the whole mess, but I haven’t managed that level of organization in my life yet.

So anyway, T-man and Bear head back to school at the end of August, and I catch a reprieve before starting to volunteer in their classes.  Labor Day weekend brings a quick break from the school routine and then we’re rolling through September.  We spend the next two months getting a handle on the new grade’s requirements, fall activities, and at least one field trip.  The next thing I know we’re looking at Halloween, and I’m trying to figure out how two whole months disappeared.

Because once the trick-or-treating is done and the hayride’s cleaned up and the tractor’s returned to the cabin, there’s nothing left to do but wake up the next morning and face November.

November is like a long, steep water slide.  You look at it and think oh, that’ll be fun, but you fail to factor in the effect water has on a body’s velocity.  So you sit down in the chute and push off, expecting a fast slide, but instead you find yourself hurtling toward the ground at a startling rate, heart in your throat and your breath left far behind you. That’s November.  Or it is for our family, anyway.

We have four November birthdays in our immediate families (four!) as well as two anniversaries which, I have to say, I’m not great at remembering.  My only saving grace there is that my own anniversary isn’t one of them.  One does belong to my parents, though, so that pretty much puts it back in the negative karma column.

At any rate, despite my best intentions every year bears a strong resemblance to the one before it.  Our home swirls through a frenzied costume/candy rush right up ’til Halloween followed by the drop kick into November, a month packed with birthday cards, gifts, and planning for two family holiday gatherings.  (Yes, TWO.  There is a great deal of eating at Thanksgiving.)  We’ve barely edged our way past black Friday and the last birthday when I turn around and realize Christmas is nearly upon us.

(I use “realize” in the loosest sense of the word since I can’t really claim to “grasp the situation clearly” over and over.  It was reasonable to be caught off guard the first year BrightSide and I were married.  I could even make an argument for the next two being plausibly surprising, since we only hit this stretch once every eleven months.  But here we are, twenty years into this marriage, and November has walloped me like a Bugs Bunny anvil.  Again.)

After sprinting through the month with Thanksgiving and being most grateful for the fact that I managed yet again to keep all the plates spinning, I look at the calendar to see my stark Christmas reality.

And it isn’t pretty.

The last few years I’ve bumped up my game to get some Christmas shopping done online after Thanksgiving. (Nothing on God’s green earth could move me to ever enter a store on black Friday again, but a good sales price and free shipping from my couch?  Yes, thank you.)  Even so, sometimes the timing is crazy tight.

For example, my family celebrates Christmas on a weekend mid month when everyone can make it to my parents’ house, so there have been years when it’s a two-week turn around between the last November birthday and our first Christmas gathering.  Talk about a high pressure shopping situation.  And yes, we have all the other craziness with BrightSide’s family Christmas and his extended family’s gathering as well as our own Christmas day at home…all probably manageable, if only I didn’t wait until November 30th to start tackling it.

And what kills me – KILLS me, I tell you – is that I already know all of this.  I knew it in the summer before all this crap began.  I knew it last year when I came out the other side of 2014’s holiday tsunami.  And the year before that and the year before that and the year before that.  But have I done anything to fix it?  Nope.

So I guess until I’m ready to seriously consider Christmas shopping in September and October, I’ll have to embrace the furious downhill slide from Halloween to Christmas as just another exciting part of the calendar year.