Thursday, December 25, 2008

So, This Is Christmas ...

Last evening, Christmas Eve, NBC (or the local affiliate here) replayed the Christmas classic, 'It's A Wonderful Life'.

Interesting viewing this time around, following an article by Wendell Jamieson, in the NYT last week (Wonderful? Sorry, George, It’s a Pitiful, Dreadful Life).

Was this what adulthood promised?

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home renovation.
Forget about adulthood.

My dreams, were relinquished as a small child.

This is, probably, my least fun time of year.


Ever since I was a young child, after one particular Christmas, I bemoaned the calendar, as it turned from November, to December.

The avalanche of ads that flooded out, gleaming toys beaming out of the television set, made all more annoying, with the weather, getting colder and colder each day, and all those conned into thinking, that, "OMG! ...Will we have a white Christmas this year?", like that actually adds to the merriment of the day.

Yes, I secretly thought.

Let it snow, so much, so heavy, that Christmas would be muted out.

The snow, would be so dense, so deep, that even that fat jolly guy would be grounded, unable to make his way, dropping down chimneys, leaving behind those not-so-gleaming toys (they never looked as good, in your hands, in your house, as they do in those television ads).

And what kind of person drops down a chimney to deliver something, I thought, as I got a bit older.

Why wasn't he using the door, or a window, even?

And, why was it none of the toys, or gifts left, ever carrying a millimeter of soot on them?

Did he stop and clean them?

Then, there is the weight issue.

First of all, he was fat, really fat, so there was a problem.

None of the stories mentioned anything about grease or Vaseline being used, so he could just slide right down, all those chimneys.

Being that fat, and with all those deliveries to make, you have to wonder about stamina, and what kind of shape such a fat person would be in.

All the stories have him being jolly, going "Ho, Ho, Ho", never anything like he was bent over, gasping for air, like a rescued coal miner.

With a few more years under my belt, I begin to look for news articles, that a fat guy in a funny red suit was found, stuck in a chimney, dead, the victim of a heart attack, a odd-looking, sleigh-like vehicle parked nearby, stuffed with toys.

No such articles did I ever find.

Only more PR for Christmas, the same stories, with slight tweaks, appearing year-after-year, carrying the main, and only, theme, of commercialism.

Buy, Buy, Buy!

If you don't go out, traipse all over downtown, arms stuffed with "presents", that you were just a horrible person.

And, school ...

Oh the burden, all my fellow classmates, chirping like little Christmas birds "What are you getting for Christmas?", or "What did you ask Santa to bring to you?"

Their incessant Christmas promoting stopped as abruptly as a crash-test dummy hitting the dashboard, when I would answer, "A blizzard".

The cookies, and other confections ... The dinners ...

All done, and conducted, imbued with that "Christmas Spirit".

After that incident, Christmas morning for me was like a parole hearing, and I never had enough merits to get sprung from it.

All the relatives, seen only this once per year, coming in-and-out, pinching your cheeks, like you were some good-luck totem standing by the door.

After they all piled in, I would look out the door, longingly, cheeks still stinging for the numerous death grips, for a hint, that first lonely flake of the impending snow tsunami I fervently wished for.

And the cameras, the Super 8's ...

The dreary jobs my relatives held down all year long, gave way to their new careers of being the next Cecille B. DeMille on Christmas, documenting your every move, punctured by their frequent shouts of direction, to, basically, due something stupid for their camera, so all the adults could guffaw until their jaws ached, next time we visited the home of that particular film hot shot.

Why no seasonal mirth, oozing out of every pore?

It goes back to that particular Christmas, when I was around four, or five-years-old.

Oh, I was a junior Mr. Christmas back then.

We couldn't get the decorations up soon enough, fast enough, or early enough.

As Thanksgiving dishes were being washed, I would be rummaging through the closets, pulling out all the Christmas booty.

If the tinsel wasn't in stock at the local stores, I had no patience to wait for the next shipment.

I would, with my little hands, using an older sibling's Exacto knife, spend hours-and-hours, cutting the Reynolds Wrap into tinsel-like strands.

Tangled Christmas Tree Lights?

Heck, I could solve a Rubik's Cube with one hand, while my little fingers unraveled them effortlessly.

Christmas was on the line ... The sooner they could be strung on the always tall, plump, blinding-green pine I would lobby, actually badger, that we get (and, as a slightly older child, I wondered, if it is that we cut down trees on Christmas, why don't we cut down crucifixes on Arbor Day?).

No, it was the annual photo trek, downtown, to see Santa Claus.

You know, where you go to the enormo-department store, stand in line for about an hour, with a zillion other kids, quietly dissing them, confident that Santa, not caring about the others, is going to be at rigid attention with your own Christmas order.
Finally, it was my turn and a single bound landed me on his lap.

After dispensing with my laundry list of gifts I expected, I remembered, suddenly, something I heard my older siblings talking about, so I asked the question.

"Are you really Santa Claus?"

He looked at me, a bit taken back, then leaned forward and whispered in my ear.

"Of course I am ... But let me tell you a secret ..."

OMG! ... Santa was going to tell me a secret, I thought .. How cool was this!

He glanced around for a moment, and then laid it on me.

I was shocked, horrified!

I jumped off his lap, running as fast as I could, tears streaming down my cheeks.
I never told anyone.

I carried it around, like an ocean liner's anchor for years.

Christmas after Christmas came, and went, and I barely noticed.

No, it wasn't the same anymore.

I never had a good Christmas, the day after a Department Store Santa Claus told me that my parents were fake, that they weren't really my parents.

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