Sunday, December 25, 2016

Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas....

Christmas can be a time of happy memories or terrible nightmares.

Most folks enjoy the holiday season.  Some even throw themselves into it, making hot cocoa for the carolers, waiting in line on Black Friday to get a tickle-me-inappropriately-Elmo.   They blow thousands at Michael's buying decorations and crafts and bake cookies for the company Christmas party.  For them, Christmas is a time of happy memories and family gathered 'round the Christmas tree.

And indeed, one reason we have holidays around the winter solstice is that it is just so damn depressing this time of year - with the sun hardly showing its face and weather cold and damp (but not snowing enough to ski).   So we have parties this time of year just to keep our sanity.  And for most folks, this is "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"(tm).

For others, less so.  If your parents died in a plane crash on Christmas eve, you might find the Holiday less cheery but instead of reminder of loss and terror.   Mark's Mother died right before Christmas - right in the house, in front of him and his Dad, who were helpless in a blizzard to do anything.  She had a congenital heart defect.  Pretty horrific and sad Christmas - burying your Mom.

Still for others, it can be a reminder of the ghosts of Christmas Past, which can be pretty haunting.   For me, it was my psychotic mother and watching her brain melt down, over time, as I was trapped in the house with her.  My Dad would be away with his mistress, my brother with college, my elder siblings off with their own lives.

In addition to being insane and an alcoholic, she also felt that Christmas was a test of her worth as a Mother and a Housewife.   Everything had to be done, and done perfectly.  Presents were to be bought, the tree to be decorated, lights to be strung, and the usual nonsense.   However, instead of the joyous family get-togethers of previous years, by the late 1970's, I often found myself alone in decorating the tree with a psychopath.

Why she felt Christmas had to be "perfect" and moreover her responsibility is beyond me.  But it sort of ruined Christmas for me - forever.   Don't get me wrong, I am not a Scrooge or anything, but to me the best Christmas gift of all is not having to deal with Christmas.   As soon as someone says, "You HAVE TO..." send Christmas cards, or gifts, or hang holly or throw a party, or whatever, it becomes too much.    Christmas should be a joyous time of the year, not a set of obligations and onerous tasks which need to be completed perfectly or you are somehow less of a human being.

Old Martha Stewart bought into this nonsense - and scarred a generation of housewives as a result.  She would go on her show and make a Christmas Ornament that took 40 hours of painstaking hand-work to make.   And they she would show us her 40-foot tree with 328 of these ornaments on it.   Like this was something we could all do, much less strive to do.  Perfection is the enemy of the adequate.

To me, the ultimate luxury - the greatest Christmas gift of all - is to simply not have to deal with Christmas.   This is not to say we don't decorate or bake cookies or whatever.   But we do a lot less at home than we used to.  Mark finds his Christmas outlet in the annual Christmas sale at the Arts Association, which provides him with enough Christmas trees to decorate and holly to hang to last him a whole year.   And then there are the parties to put on - two of them - which of course is a lot of work.

In a way, that is a good way to deal with the whole Christmas thing.  Rather than spend time decorating your own home or holding a party there, do some volunteer work and bake cookies for the homeless vets or something.   You get to do all that Christmas stuff, but you don't have to do all of it.

Now of course, some folks are Christmas-Crazy and just love the whole concept of the season - the decorations, the shopping, the caroling, the cooking, and whatnot.   Knock yourself out!  Just bear in mind that the rest of us are not like you and often for good reasons.  Don't diss others for not being Christmas freaks.    It is like sports fans.  I am happy for you that you decorated your basement in your team's colors and painted your car to match.   But don't call me a weirdo for not following suit.

After nearly four decades, the PTSD of the family Christmas is starting to fade away.   I realized I can't let my childhood dictate the rest of my life.   But on the other hand, I realize that I am 57 years old and there won't be a shiny new trike or a Lionel train set under the tree this year.   In fact, at this age, buying "presents" is sort of foolish - we need more "stuff" like we need a hole in our heads.   Christmas is for the kiddies - the sense of wonderment and whatnot.   And let them have it!

But for God's sake, don't scar your kids for life trying to make "The Perfect Christmas" - please!