Every year about this time I panic.

I carefully compile my holiday shopping list, a list honed from listening, really listening to what my loved ones want.

Methodically, I then go about my shopping, ticking off my purchases as I go.

Wife, check.

Mom, check.

Boys, check and check.

I’m not a big fan of the physical act of shopping, the endless circling for a free parking space, the navigating of crowded aisles, the wait for a cashier who never moves quite fast enough.

I’ll take a keyboard, mouse and Internet connection any day. While others wade into the maddening crowds, I just sit tapping away between television ball games.

No rush. No fuss. And every day, another brown box waits at my doorstep.

For weeks now, I’ve been spiriting those packages up to my closet, all in preparation for the big day.

The other afternoon, I began my ritualistic wrapping, and that’s when the first pangs of panic begin.

Coming from a big family, I grew up to expect a pile of presents under the tree.

The problem is the haul under my evergreen always seems a bit underwhelming.

This is an illusion, I tell myself. Christmas isn’t about the tinsel or presents.

But then I flash back to one of my own Christmases, when I begged my mother to buy me a wooden model of one of those English ships that carried the pilgrims to America. It was very expensive but I just had to have it. My mother would look at me sadly and just say she could not afford it.

Then Christmas came and, lo and behold, there was my ship, the Elizabeth.

I was floored — until I looked around to see my brothers swimming in presents. Games and Hot Wheels and bikes and balls.

And I held just a wooden Elizabeth, so fragile and precious you dare not play with it. An object to be observed.

This is my hang up. Every Christmas I arrive at this moment, realizing Santa has purchased everything everyone has asked for, and realizing everyone could probably use a little more.

So off I trudge off for one last late foray into the malls, embarrassed I made fun of all those crazy shoppers, and wishing the holiday season was just one week longer, or overnight shipping wasn’t so darn expensive.