Tuesday, December 07, 2004

It's beginning to look a lot like OH FOR CHRISSAKE GOD DAMN IT!

Yeah, yeah, I know. That last post just hangs there, piteously comic, doesn't it? And I was gonna write about it; I had some prime material all lined up, me driving home despondent through the neighborhood streets of shattered pumpkins and dead leaves and waterlogged Kerry signs. I spun the needle on the Stages-of-Grief-Ometer more than once, with the denial and the rage and the what the HELL is the MATTER with half of you people? I fretted. I ate far more than my allotment of frozen yogurt. I wondered, what are we gonna do? What are we possibly gonna do for four more years?

Well, if you need a cause, as usual the writers I dream of emulating have done it better. I shall direct you to This Is Not Over.com. Okay then. Get busy. Moving on.

So. Those who know me well understand that I'm something of a Christmas dork. My birthday is December 22; my parents brought me home from the hospital on Christmas Day, and for many years I labored under the delusion that the holiday hoopla had something to do with me: I got ornaments AND t.v. specials AND cake AND presents AND carols AND pretty lights for, like, a solid month. A rented Santa from the Heart Association once came to my birthday party. You can maybe forgive my childhood assumptions.

I outgrew most of the megalomania (she blathered, on the Internet), and I eventually discerned some of the crap parts of having a birthday that close to Christmas, too, such as a) the "combo" present, and b) it's something like gloves. These days, I am typically too damn busy to celebrate the anniversary of my own earthly arrival. That said, I've still never quite gotten over the giddy glee of it all. I love to haul out the decorations. I love the memories triggered by each ornament. Here is the polar bear seated on an outsize candy cane, one of his eyes now drawn on with a pen, from when my parents were still married; here is the glitter-smudged styrofoam ball Sis crafted in Brownies; here is the brass partridge-in-a-pear-tree my friend Gwyn left on my document stand in first-period Typing I in the 10th grade; here is the tiny snowman from Holly's first year in Germany. Everything gets a spot on the tree--the heirlooms and the ugly ones. Hell, I've been known to purchase an ugly ornament on purpose, just because I think it's funny.

I love to feed people. I like to bust out the Johnny Mathis album, and whip up gingersnaps and peppermint bark and my grandma's ass-kicking rum balls. Okay, actually I don't like making the rum balls, with the Karo syrup and the stickiness and the rolling and rolling and rolling up those little bastards in a fog of rum-stink everywhere. By the time I'm done, I can't stand it. I can't eat 'em, myself. But I like to watch the faces of the people who do.

I love the tree. How it makes the house smell, when you open the door after a long day, darkness to darkness, at the office. How the cats are all "the HELL?" every year when you haul an enormous piece of Outside into the living room. How each tree is more beautiful than the last, when you finally get it trimmed to your liking.

Which is best done when you have managed to get the motherfucking tree crammed into the cheap-ass, worthless, catastrophically useless plastic stand from the goddamn Fred Meyer, and get it fixed in a reasonably upright position without tying it to the WALL, because the four flimsy bolts ROCK back and FORTH in the crummy plastic slots and the tree favors a jaunty 75-degree ANGLE, pointing accusatorily at the COUCH, and your hands are raw from cranking those screws with fucking PLIERS while your NEIGHBOR held the trunk, to no avail.

We used to tease my mother, for approaching Hulk-like rages while putting up the tree when we were kids. I remember her threatening to throw tree, stand, and lights off the balcony of our apartment; I remember her dragging us to that same Fred Meyer, incredibly enough, to purchase a completely new set of lights at about 9:30 p.m. one year. Good old Mommy--she came to the rescue last night, with a monstrous eight-pronged tree stand suitable for Rockefeller Center. That baby isn't going ANYWHERE from now to January 1. I think I could climb it.

"How did you do this as a single parent?" I asked her. "I mean, I know you used to get frustrated, sure...but how did you ever manage to put up a tree without help?"Our Broken Home trees were smaller, granted, but still .

"I don't know," she admitted. "But when we were still married, your father used to do it. And he would about lose his mind, and I wondered why."

So. Christmas made my parents get a divorce! Well...perhaps not entirely. But it was a contributing factor. I haven't even gotten to the story about their 3 a.m. toy assembly crisis, yet...or the one about the Nat King Cole Suicide Christmas album. Heh. I love the holidays, but they sure weren't kind to my folks' marriage, now that I think about it.

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