I'm not ready for Christmas music. I love it. Will listen to it all the time, when the calendar calls for it. But it isn't time yet. The thermometer still hovers intermittently at 90 degrees, and I'm waiting to see a little more evidence of autumn. Such as it is, in San Diego. Two weeks before Halloween I walked into a Big Lots and found the scary spiders and skulls displayed inches away from the shiny red tree ornaments and Rudolphs. I wanted to seek out the manager and ask what sort of retarded marketing ploy prompted this. I didn't. I just shook my head and looked bewildered, like every other customer who came in after me. I would like to say it was an isolated incident, except that all the other stores I patronized did the same thing, to a greater or lesser degree. It's paradoxical on more than one leve...marketing specialists determine the psychology of our buying habits, dictating the sort of mood music that woos us while in the store, the bright colors we are attracted to, in product packaging...so why do they not understand the basic premise that nobody wants to see two or three different holiday products co-mingled together on the shelves? It verges on an outrage. For years now I have seen Easter toys packed in next to Valentine gifts, and it never compels me to stock up on both. It only causes me to feel disgust for corporate greed. And the fact that our society seems to be in such a hurry to get everything done and over with. The hormones in our food, the chemicals in the air, cause our children to grow taller faster and hit puberty before nature intended them to. And even if this wasn't true, kids grow up in the blink of an eye anyway, and the passing of time always makes us tear up once and awhile and realize how quickly life passes us by. So why do we want to speed it up even more? We multi-task and over schedule and attend multiple birthday parties in a single weekend and our calendars are crammed full of events and activities, most of which we do out of some sense of obligation. Ok, fair enough. But let's leave the holidays alone. Let's have them be a little sanctuary of enjoyment that hearkens back to childhood, when the animated holiday scenes in the malls were installed the day after Thanksgiving, and not a second before. When the mannequins in the store windows were not wearing Santa Hats while we were still trying to figure out how to assemble our kids' Halloween costumes. The vast majority of us do not appreciate this. We do not actively buy and horde multiple-season items in anticipation of the holiday six months away. It ruins the mood. It dampens the spirit. It makes us feel as though we are quietly racing on the apocalyptic hurry-the-hell-up and get your life over with time clock. As adults, most of us inwardly groan at the pressure of the holidays, the necessary gift giving and the push me-pull you feel of spending time with various family groupings in a single day. Most of us do not have the luxury of mythical wintry vacation wonderland spent relaxing by a stone fireplace sipping hot chocolate or something stronger, after a day on the slopes. So give us the little things...our sense of anticipation, for one. The gift of living in the moment and enjoying the idea of whatever it is that makes the holidays special for us. Let me have my day trip to Julian with my family, and my apple pie, and the turning leaves, and the glad chill of autumn, before leap-frogging over my thankfulness and the scent of turkey wafting through my home and force-feeding me holiday music I'm not ready to hear yet. It isn't a lot to ask. Our next door neighbors, a Vietnamese family, have decorated their yard with both a light-up reindeer and a light-up bat. My daughter observed this, and my wife said matter-of-factly, "Well, that's what they see in the stores. So maybe that's how they think it's supposed to be." Forgive our American confusion. We really don't like to dogpile holidays on top of each other. It's strictly a retailer thing. And at the end of the day, the retailers aren't the reason for any season.

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