Friday, December 2, 2016

Christmas Withdrawals

Yes, run for the hills right now if you so choose. I’m listening to Jingle Bell Rock as I write this… oh, it’s switching. Hold on. Dean Martin’s version of Winter Wonderland, now (I love Pandora. Have I mentioned that before? Because I do. I really, really do.)

Okay, this is sort of an odd post for me. We’ll categorize it as one of the posts where I get perhaps a bit too personal. Sound good? (Bing Crosby, Silver Bells, now.)

I’ve always liked Christmas. Ever since I was a kid. I mean, okay, most kids like Christmas so that’s not terribly unique, but I think I had a bit of a different experience with it. Not anything massively divergent, but different. We had three every year when I was younger, all the way up until I was in high school. We’d start with the immediate family, which was a pretty average Christmas. Some gifts, some family and food, some ornaments. A little of everything.

Then we’d go to my grandma’s house for Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. This was all about the food and the family and my aunt getting drunk on boxed wine and calling herself the queen of the party (I have photo evidence, but I’m not sharing it to protect the innocent… also to protect myself from her vengeance.).

Then we’d be rushing over to somewhere else either that night or the next morning to be with my dad’s side of the family. That was, to put it bluntly, the Christmas about presents. Not just for the kids, either. It’s not a big side of the family, per se, but my two aunts were pretty well off, so was another aunt, and the rest of the family wasn’t hurting for money, exactly. Honestly, we were the ones who really didn’t have that much money on that side (Frank Sinatra, I’ll be Home for Christmas.). That’s not to say that it was just material. It was a chance to see all the aunts and cousins you never got to run into outside of special occasions. We’d get to travel, there’d be a huge tree. It was about family, too. But I feel like I got to see three different sides of Christmas, and I feel like that let me examine things.

When I was a kid, I was selfish and materialistic. I mean, that’s pretty usual, I think. So I liked my dad’s side’s Christmas best. But as I’ve gotten older, that one means the least to me. That side had a falling out, and we kind of just stopped getting together on my mom’s side after grandma died, so I’m back to the middle of the road Christmas.

And that’s really the one that means the most to me now. The one with the best memories and the sort of “warm fuzzies” is the one from my mom’s side, where the most we got as gifts were calculators and homemade jam. That one still holds a very special place in my heart, and it informed my love of decorations and traditions (Ooh! Baby it’s Cold Outside with Idina Menzel and Michael Buble!). That’s honestly a big part of what I pine for this time of year. Santa Claus mugs and shiny baubles and tinsel all around the room with a big wood stove crackling.

But it is the one with the immediate family I want the most nowadays. My sister and brother-in-law and all their kids are back up here from Texas, which really helps. The house is packed, and we have all the bright shiny packages spilling out from under the tree every year to make sure the kids have plenty of things to open. And I personally take it upon myself to make sure everyone else has at least one gift to open. My mother instilled in me the importance of that. Everyone should have something to tear into on Christmas. Even if it’s just socks and T-shirts.

And I like giving gifts. That’s another thing. Around Christmas, I get to buy all these presents and really think about the people I love and figure out what it is they might want. Then I get to wrap them, which I also enjoy (Yeah, I’m weird.).

All this is preface for the actual point of this post, I guess. This took a turn I really didn’t expect, but we’re finally here: I’m ready. I’m ready for Christmas to be here (Holy crap, Pandora. You’re playing the original Mr. Grinch? Go you, and go Thurl Ravenscroft.). I’m always a fan of this time of year. I look forward to it. But this year it’s a stronger desire than I think I’ve ever had. I want it. I even want the parts I normally hate. I want to watch stupid shitty Hallmark movies that push Golden Girls out of their regular slot. I want the annual running of the Harry Potter movies. I’ve been pumping out Christmas music like crazy since about… well, a week before Thanksgiving.

I had to wonder why this was. Why did I want Christmas to be here quite this much? No, not even want. I need Christmas. I bought a candle that smelled Christmasy specifically so  could be immersed. I was desperate. I was having withdrawals for freaking Christmas, and they honestly haven’t improved much (Frank Sinatra, O Come All Ye Faithful.).

I think it’s 2016 that’s to blame. We can all acknowledge that it’s been a rough year. Bowie and Rickman, the election, global politics, and just a general shittiness that seems to be here this time around. I’ve never known a year where so many people close to me and my friends have died. It’s been an exhausting fucking year, but Christmas is something different. Because of us silly humans, this day is powerful. Powerful beyond measure. It can stop vicious wars in their tracks. It can bring out the inherent kindness of strangers. It can make even the glummest scrooge smile (I’m living proof of that.). I have a lot of bad things to say about people as a general rule. I don’t like most of them. But damn it all if we haven’t done something right with Christmas.

Past all the consumerism and materialism and profit profit profit, we’ve set aside basically an entire month of the year to devote to being kind and giving. I wish it was more than that, but we managed a month, and that’s something we should be immersing ourselves in.

Now, maybe you don’t celebrate. No judgment at all from here. I didn’t write this post to say that people who celebrate are in any way better. Christmas itself doesn’t matter as much as the feeling. Whatever and whenever you get that feeling is freaking amazing, but this is my experience with it.

So I’ll just be here with my advent calendar, egg nog, and candy canes, listening to Perry Como and wrapping my dogs in pretty ribbons. Because I’m really, really ready for Christmas to be here. And if it wanted to go all Groundhog Day for a week or so, that would be okay with me.


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