I have come to the conclusion that Christmas time used to be a lot of fun. I still enjoy Christmas, but now it is simply because I get a few days to sleep for 14-hour stretches and not feel guilty about it.
I have been running it over in my head and, every time I do, the historical steady decline in fun always comes out in phases.
I attach the following for your information and amusement.
1)What the Hell is going on?
Through the use of archive photographs and the recollections of relatives who used to be drunks but are now just mildly senile, I was able to construct what Christmas may have been like when I was 2- or 3 years old.
Who is this fat SOB with the white beard? How dare you pick me up and jostle me around like I was a $2 whore. I have just peed on your leg, and I think I just soiled myself, to boot.
Dragged from the comfort and security of my bed and favourite blanket, at 5:30am, I am dragged downstairs by my brothers in what could only be described as a picture perfect Italian Army Retreat: Asses and Elbows.
To my amazement, someone has left boxes and pretty paper around a tree. I thoroughly enjoyed making a fort out of boxes and eating the colourful paper.
The remainder of the day is spent fighting over toys and, being poked and prodded by old people. and I still don’t know who the fat man in the red suit is.
2)I think the Fat Man is OK!
Between the ages of 4 and 6 years old, I remember Christmas. Not vividly, but enough to know that this Fat Man was is alright in my book. I was still a little leaery of him, as you one could tell if you they saw the picture of me and the Fat Man. The look of ‘I really like you, but keep your distance’ danced from my eyes, with tinges of fear and loathing jumbled in for effect.
This age seems to coincide with raised voices and getting into trouble for launching Nerf products at grandma while she worked on her 6th rum and coke of the morning. Back in the early Seventies, little was understood about the a correlation between sugar intake and hyper activity. We weren’t over stimulated, we were ‘acting crazy’ and the candy canes and chocolate and sweets were not the culprits.
3)What Do You Mean?
My bubble was burst when I was 6 years old. My older brothers knew, but tried to shield me from the truth. However there is always that one kid in the neighbourhood who has to share the pain with everybody once he discovers that the Jolly Old Saint Nick likely isn’t real.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to pretend that you believe in Santa Clause when you are 6 years old. You have been lied to by the very people who tell you not to lie, and the one guy, the most known person on the planet turns out to be a myth. The one thing we could all stand together to and believe in is taken away. That ‘kid’ I mentioned earlier almost always has red hair and bad teeth. This is the reason I dislike bad -toothed red -headed people to this day.
4)Thanks for the Socks!
Christmas turns into a day to receive socks you’ll never wear, books you won’t read, and visits to relatives you’ve never liked. All I ever wanted to do during Christmas during the time span of 12-19 years old was be with my friends.
Being with my friends was what made Christmas fun. Shooting out Christmas lights with a pellet gun was what Christmas meant to me. It was the time of the bastard!
5)First Girlfriend Gift
Around the that same time, most of us gave a really bad gift to the girl we were dating at the time. I don’t remember the piece of crap gift I gave, but at the time, it was the ‘most coolest’ gift ever. Mine was likely some perfume that could be used to anesthetise farm animals. For all I know it could have been hockey cards. To this day, I still give crappy gifts. I gave my wife a softball and kitchen tongs last years. Luckily, I had my shoes on at the time, and was able to make a hasty retreat. because I could hear her as I fled that I would need the tongs to remove the softball from a certain bodily orifice, and something about me being really stupid.
6)The Party Years
Nineteen years old, and up until marriage we had some damn good parties. Friends and a lot of booze were what Christmas meant to me. These were also the years that my parents would wake me up at 6am on Christmas morning -after letting me sleep for about half an hour - to revel in the Christmas spirit with family and friends. Even a hot shower and after -shave overdose couldn’t mask the odour of beer, rye and cigarettes oozing from every pore on my body. Good times.
7) Sharing Christmas
Once I got married, Christmas time changesd again. My wife’s family lives a good distance away so it is not reasonable for us to travel from my family to her family on Christmas day, so we have Christmas with my family one year and Christmas with her family on other years.
There is some culture shock going from your own style of family Christmas to another style or the traditions of another family’s Christmas.
The lights on the tree are different, the food is different, and the conversation is different.
One thing is consistent through most families I have spent time with at Christmas though – we all have one relative, be it a brother or sister, mother or father or so on that is absolutely insane and believes Christmas is ‘their’ day. They try to control the entire debacle of events that makes Christmas real, and manage to annoy almost everyone. Most families use alcohol to block this person out. I find earplugs work really well, too.
Oh, the sheer joy of driving nine hours through sleet and snow, deer and bears, and things I can only call ‘strange’ at this time.
Don’t get me wrong. Spending quality time with my wife and her family isn’t that painful, but sometimes I’ll catch myself daydreaming about the possibility getting lost on some Godforsaken road in the U.P. and being dragged from my truck by Sasquatch or a Yeti or possibly some hybrid of the two, and used for a Christmas Eve snack. Even if it is only to help the scientific community prove that Sasquatch exists when, the following spring when they find one of my unmistakeably tacky Acapulco shirts in an unidentifiable mound of what will later be called Sasquatch leavings (‘Yeti Poop’ to the lay person). This is the dream that keeps me going during this time of year.
We arrive at my wife’s parents’ house (or as I like to call them: my ‘anti-parents’),. where I am subjected to questions I can’t answer and conversations about people I don’t know. I never knew how much I enjoyed standing outside and smoking in the skin freezing cold until a few years ago. Quiet, oh blessed quiet, with the trees creaking and swaying under the extra weight of pure white snow. The light foot steps of deer close by and unknown growls coming from the darkened tree line about 150 feet from where I stand. When I return to the house, I attempt to sneak into the bedroom for what I consider the greatest gift ever: sleep. I am halted in my tracks by a four-year-old speaking a language that sounds like PortuSpanglish. He’s holding a plastic golf club and wearing some manner of space helmet. I still do not know to this day what ‘thwing ad dolf balfs’ means. Sweat runs from my forehead until I throw out use this old chestnut ‘ Hey Buddy, your mom just called you – go see what she wants.’ His plastic golf club turns into a jet pack as he zooms away to find his mom. I slowly make my way to the bedroom where I don’t bother to take my shoes off and just slide into bed. Oh blessed angels on high, I have found my Graceland. I get to nap for about eight minutes, until I am awoken by the door creaking open, giggles, and the sound of an goddam imaginary jet pack. I peel back the covers to see three runny noses, two toothy grins, and something that resembles gums with a can opener wedged inside of it. ‘Wwad due wue duing unca bwookth?’ Up and at ‘em.
A certain aspect of Christmas that always makes me smile is the look on kids’ faces when they open gifts on Christmas Day. This is quickly undone when the kids start to talk, whine or cry. Hiding in the basement with the dog generally remedies this.
Christmas morning comes, and we are shocked into consciousness by ear splitting shrieks of small children. By the time I have put pants on and walked out to the living room the shrieking has been replaced by crying. [Note to all adults: – Children to do not see ‘value’. Children see the number of presents they got and the number of presents their brother or sister got. It’s a numbers game to them, and if they don’t get at least the same number it becomes a pouting game. Have no fear – kids are dumb. To even up the numbers, give them cheap Chinese -made gifts that contain lead paint. IF you are one of those people who think lead paint is ‘bad’ because it could ‘kill’ your child, give them socks or goofy looking mittens. I like to give my nephews sweaters that will guarantee a playground ass whooping!]
Play by Play
The kids are out of the gate. Five-year-old Billy is down the stairs and tearing his stocking off the wall. It’s like the rug rat parade here in the living room as the kids have descended upon the tree like locusts – tearing and pushing and grabbing anything with wrapping paper. The boys have elected to try the ‘soft gifts get hidden behind/under or under the couch’ play, but Grandma is not having any of it. The fathers and uncles have begun drinking, and why not- it is 6:30 in the morning. Ooohhh a Transformer box to the head gets a flag on the play, while mom checks little Cindy for gaping head wounds. Cindy is ok and running toward her brother with her ‘My Little Pony’ carrying case … and he is down and crying. His ancestors felt that hit. Good news – Billy has lost his first tooth. It is stuck in the wood flooring. Fathers and brothers and Grampa are now rooting thru the medicine cabinet in a desperate attempt to find anything that will take the edge off. John opts for the Estrogen pills- his boobs will be sore in the morning because of that bonehead play. In a vicious display of Kiddy Christmas antics, all of the children have opened up the adults’ gifts – what a ballsey play by the children – we are awaiting a ruling from the judges- “Fair Play” and the kids go wild.
Then, just as quickly as it started, suddenly all the gifts are gone. The dust and wrapping paper slowly settle to the living room floor. We seem to be missing a one -year -old and the dog. Kick, trip, fall, swear, cry, and Grampa is down holding his hip. Little Addison has been found and we think that the dog has been eaten in what can only be described as a Christmas Version of 'Lord of the Flies'.
Keep yourself tuned to this channel in two years for ‘Kiddy Christmas Carnage.’
As chaotic as it sounds, and all things being equal – my wife’s family is only slightly more Christmas Psychotic than my own.
I don’t know why Christmas is special, but it is, and I am glad for that. It’s a time to look back and realize all the things I should have done and all the things I shouldn’t have done and realize that next year, maybe, I could be less of a jackass. Maybe then, my family would let me sleep in.