Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Without Presents

   Following my divorce, and with the missus out of the picture, (so far out she refused to tell anyone where she lived for the first few years) me, my daughters and the other family members had to make adjustments for the holidays. My family, as well as my brother’s and sister’s usually went to our mothers for dinner on Christmas Day, but that came to an end when my mother turned 80 and although she claimed she loved having the family over, it was clearly time for a changing of the guard.

   When I was young everyone in my family lived within an hour’s ride of each other and we’d all usually meet at my grandparent’s place. Then as they grew older, it switched to my mother’s. It was pretty much expected to switch to mine once my mother threw in the towel.

   But the world had changed.
   For one thing nobody lived within an hour’s ride anymore. Some of us had to work at least part of Thanksgiving or Christmas. And there had been divorces which complicated things with the kids having to spend the holidays with the parent they weren’t living with.

   If progress had made things so much easier, why was there so much more stress?

   One issue was with my oldest daughter, who at the time was in her final year of college, was flying all over the country to meet with potential employers, plus she was holding down a job. 

   We ran into each other in a video store shortly before Christmas and were desperately trying to work out a schedule so we could all be together Christmas Day. I won’t bore you with the details but a lot of things had to be moved around.

   We were at the counter ready to pay for our movies and had just about finalized the rescheduling when the counterman asked: “And would you like to contribute one dollar to benefit the helpless, starving,  babies of  Elbownia?” ( Or some charity, I don’t remember which.)

   Just as I thought my daughter and I had worked everything out, I remembered something else that would cause more juggling. Now even more frustrated and not paying attention to the counterman, I only caught part of what he said, so I spun my head to him and in a clearly irritated voice said, “What!?”

   At that point my daughter had come up with a way around my problem and as she explained, the counterman again asked if I would like… contribute… to help… blah, blah, blah, Elbownia…”

   I quickly spun back to him and said, “F*#k ‘em.”

   Apparently not expecting that answer, he pulled back and said, “F*#k the helpless, starving babies of Elbownia?”

   That comment caught my attention and I again spun and said, “What the hell are you talking about?” And as the words flew from my mouth I saw the big orange button on his vest featuring some hungry waif with hands extended in that Oliver Twist, “Please, sir. May I have some more?’ expression.

   At this point my daughter is howling with laughter as is the counterman. Furious with myself and everything else, I contributed whatever singles I had and left with my daughter. As we walked to our respective cars I apologized for my behavior.

   She , of course, said she understood. “It’s Christmas season, everyone goes a little crazy this time of year. I’m only halfway done with my Christmas shopping and there’s only a few days left. It’s hectic, what can you do?”

   “This isn’t what Christmas is supposed to be about,” I said, really meaning it.

   So when we all gathered on Christmas day, I said that since none of us had any young children, I suggested we stop giving each other presents at Christmas and instead have a catered dinner at my house for the entire family.

   That suggestion received overwhelming support, and a considerable number of sighs of relief.

   So that’s what we’ve been doing the last 8 years. And so tomorrow I’ll be dining with my mother, sister, brother, daughters and their boyfriends along with Bella the bull dog and Stewie the Italian greyhound.

   Plus they’ll be one new addition.

   My daughters asked if my ex (their mother) could come as well.


   Ah, what the hell, it’s Christmas, right?

   So from me and mine, to you and yours, have a wonderful Christmas and may your days be merry and bright.