Warning: At the risk of being labeled Mr. Grinch, I'm about to take a leak on the annual guilt-induced, corporate-shakedown madness known, ironically, as "The Holidays." I waited until after Christ's big Birthday Bash, in hopes I might avoid eternal damnation and hellfire.
It started when I had to kill time while standing in a long, slow moving checkout line full of glazed faced shoppers. In keeping with the spirit of the Holidays, I decided to kill time instead of the penny pincher who threw a wrench in everyone's day by quibbling over the sale price of several items."Price check on register three, please; another price check on register three." I took a few deep breaths to slow a rising pulse, then tried to amuse myself by perusing the ridiculous headlines on covers of "Hollywood" type magazines—Woody Allen to divorce daughter in order to mary Granddaughter; Tom Cruise critically injured after torrid love scene with ex-wife.
I stumbled across a holiday survey that asked which of the following best represents my Christmas mood: Afterglow, Hungover, Broke, Depressed, Suicidal. Looking around, I couldn't decide. It was more a feeling of hopelessness, as I was sandwiched between a gum-popping, pink-haired, tattooed teenybopper gal, holding a text-a-thon on her smartphone in loo of giving her whiney toddler the attention he so desperately sought, and an angry looking tattooed stud who didn't acknowledge my cheery holiday smile and nod… I'm guessing because I had stared too long at the frightful red and blue inked rattlesnake coming out of his shirt and wrapping around his massive bull neck. Screw 'em. If you don't want people to stare, then don't make a neon billboard out of your body. It was a reality bite... a cultural head-on crash between modesty and "no limits" conventions.
Perhaps the Cranky Geezer mutation in my disadvantaged gene pool has finally manifested its destiny (thank you Grandpa Carder), for it seems the balder I get (thank you Grandpa Carder) the more challenging "Holiday Seasons" become, particularly now, since they seem to commence the day after Halloween. Over my lifetime, the Holidays have slowly evolved from a "fun run" into a track meet, where only the strongest and wealthiest among us come out unscathed.
It would help if we could break up the monopolistic stranglehold retailers have on the last quarter of the year, put a little breathing room between shopping stresses, culinary messes, and "in-law" invasions. New Years is, by definition, "fixed," so how about further separating Thanksgiving from Christmas… maybe move one or the other to a month in need of an extra day off from work, say March, when Spring Fever and Seasonal Affective Disorders are reaching their peak?
Why endure the three most traumatic travel holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all crammed together like Final Exams, especially during a season when Old Man Winter and "Murphy" reek havoc on "Domino" airline schedules. Holiday travel is akin to Sudden Death rounds in playoff brackets. Winners get fair weather and happy landings; losers get to spend the night in O'Hare Hell, waiting for someone to reset the toppled "dominos." For the unlucky at love and travel, it usually happens on the way home… when Monday morning's are of the essence and we are the most "gassed" from gluttony, alcoholism, and the strain of making small talk with non-blood relatives.
Not so long ago The Holidays were more relaxed... a time when the spirit of Christmas honored financial realities. For most, meals were hunting-dependent—sparse and plain— Christmas gifts few and simple—handmade or hand-me-down. Gifts were not "measured" nor "counted," rather, they were given and received with sincere appreciation, love, and a mutual understanding. Ah, nothing to bond a family like farm chores, fourteen hour work days, and starvation. But "The times they are a-changin'."
Over the past six decades I've noted how Christmas and other holidays have exploded with competition and excess. Imagine the outrage today if there was but one gift under the tree, and that it was something dull and non-electronic, like socks. My dear mom grew up during the depression era of the 1930s and had stories of truly hard times, like when her dad walked to the dairy to fetch their weekly quart of milk, which, during dog days of summer, often turned sour before he got home. Grandma found a use for sour milk by making a "buttermilk" pancake supper.
Other stories mom told were about Christmas's with no gifts under the tree. Once, during a particularly rough time, Mom and her siblings were told to expect nothing for Christmas. But when they awoke they found three gifts wrapped in newsprint under the tree. Mom slowly and carefully unwrapped her gift, drawing out the suspense and pleasure like… well, like anyone would if they had only one gift to open on Christmas morning. At first she thought her gift was a small ball, but as the last peel of paper fell away, she was left holding a shiny orange. Mom described her elation, how she was enraptured by the citrusy smell, the vibrant orange color, and a little sticker that said it had come all the way from Florida.
It may not have been the biggest Christmas Mom ever had, but it was certainly the most memorable and cherished. She never tired of telling that story, about her Christmas orange.
Merry Christmas to all the faithful readers of this humble blog. We appreciate every click and comment.
As 2014 readies itself to fall into the deep abyss of "past," and 2015 prepares takes its place on the walls of our respective "futures," may we remember that our greatest joys and successes in life can only happen in the "present."
Remember, the gift of time is the greatest gift of all. Use it wisely.
Mark and Bobbie