Not long after my older daughter was born, I remember telling two friends about a visit to the hospital nursery, which really did have a window through which all the new babies could be seen in their bassinets, just like in New Yorker cartoons.

Not long after my older daughter was born, I remember telling two friends about a visit to the hospital nursery, which really did have a window through which all the new babies could be seen in their bassinets, just like in New Yorker cartoons.

The point of my conversation was that of all the babies in the nursery that day -- and I seem to recall a full house -- mine was the cutest.

"Hands down," I said to my friends, who looked back at me steadily, the way you do when you're willing your eyes not to flick a look -- "Get her" -- at the other listener.

"No, really," I said. I remember feeling the need to prove that I wasn't biased and I wasn't exaggerating. It just happened to be true.

"She was," I said, but it was no use. They weren't buying it.

Later, of course, and every time I've thought of it since (that daughter is over 30 now) I blush to remember that conversation.

How embarrassing of me! How callow! How like every other love-struck, first-time mother!

I should have kept my comments to myself. Even if they were accurate.

But my point is, believing that Christmas comes around faster every year is like thinking your own baby is the cutest. Everyone thinks it, and everyone believes that in her own case, anyway, it's true. An entire year has indubitably passed since you last celebrated Christmas -- Earth has made one revolution around the sun; the Arctic icecap has melted a little more; your dog has gotten seven years older -- but for me, time has been severely compressed. It's gotten caught up in a cosmic ironing mangle, only without the ability to press jeans.

Thanks to the squishing effect of this previously unheard-of phenomenon, my year has been unexpectedly shortened.

In my universe, the Earth has gotten itself hung up on a tangle of space junk; the Arctic ice is still pretty much as it was at the end of 2008 -- good news, but unfortunately, it won't last -- and my dog, who was 3 a year ago, isn't a day over 3 right now.

So when I say it can't be Christmas already because we just had Christmas, I'm not kidding.

We did just have Christmas. The tree was still in the living room last weekend. I was shopping for last-minute wrapping paper and tape. I was chipping away at my Christmas card list.

"Christmas came really early for me this year," I say to anyone who will listen, and they look at me steadily.

"No, really," I say. For a second or two, I consider arguing -- look at this kitchen counter! I had Christmas cards on it just a few days ago! Study this carpet -- those pine needles are still fresh! -- but what's the point? No one's going to buy it.

But I know I'm telling the truth. It was only yesterday that I dragged the cartons of Christmas ornaments and lights out of the cupboard. It was only a few days ago that I finished going from room to room, plugging in the window candles, and it's been just hours since I went from room to room putting them all away. I'm still emptying Christmas leftovers -- a spoonful of cranberry sauce, a dab of sweet potato casserole -- out of the refrigerator, and the last load of Christmas dinner dishes is still on "rinse" in the dishwasher.

Seriously. I wouldn't dream of griping about Christmas under ordinary circumstances. It's the season of goodwill and the Rockettes. (Didn't I just see them do their collapsing-soldier routine?) But a person doesn't want to celebrate Christmas constantly any more than she wants to eat fair food constantly. It's the long stretch between Christmases that makes the holiday as longed-for as it is.

But in my house, we've had no barren stretch between last Christmas and this one. This one arrived right away, ringing its bells and playing "Santa Baby." Look, we still have last year's Christmas music in the CD player. You have to believe me.

But you don't. I can tell by the way you aren't looking at me.

Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer. E-mail her at mbartlett@thisweeknews.com.

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