I am not a fan of Christmas. The excessive materialism of the occasion really sinks my battleship, and that’s without mentioning that the holidays are the absolutely worst time of year for the perpetually single. Without a date, there’s no way to deflect any of the traditional “slightly too merry” drunken co-workers, and every single family member feels like asking you about your prospects is an acceptable conversation starter (but get angry when you start talking about imaginary numbers). If I hear the line, “You should try match.com. My friend whatshernuts met her husband on there. The internet isn’t teeming with dangerous weirdos anymore.” (Subtext: you’re so hard up that you should pay dates with possibly not dangerous weirdos). (Implication: singleness is the reprehensibility equivalent of leprosy.) Also, even though I’m the eldest child in my generation, I’m the one who eternally gets stuck at the kids table. Not that I mind too terribly – the kids have trucks to play with, and almost never talk about politics or ask you where your boyfriend is.
Thanksgiving turkey is generally the magic elixir that turns me into a mad Madame Scrooge. I try not to bah too heavily because other people seem to really enjoy this time of year, but upon seeing yard art inflatable Yodas dressed as Santa Claus, I must admit the occasional, barely audible, humbug escapes. The Great Provider (my Dad) feels the same way I do – even though he never has to sit at the kids table, but the Rev (my pastor Mother) predictably has a different take. Sometimes, the G.P. and I can oppress her enough that we can nearly get out of celebrating – although historically we’ve had to literally skip the country fugitive-style to escape the seasonal bacchanalia. However, this year, my brother and his entire brood are descending from Hawaii, and my Aunt and her son and grandson are traveling from California. They won’t be arriving until New Year’s. Due to this seemingly salient fact, I really thought for a second that the G.P. and I would get our once-a-decade-no-Christmas-Christmas (without having to wear dark sunglasses and false mustaches on some Mexican beach).
“So Mom,” I said to the Rev who had just explained the situation, “does that mean that we don’t have to have Christmas?” The G.P.’s eyes lit up in glee. He perceived immediately that the Rev was caught in a huge technicality. She couldn’t possibly expect us to do Christmas TWICE, could she? There was a pause so pregnant it seemed to be bearing quintuplets. “Of course we have to do Christmas,” the Rev exclaimed, “we’ll just have to do it twice because of the kids.” The G.P. deflated like a toad on hot asphalt. She got us.
The Rev has a right to revenge, I suppose. One year, I gradually stole all the characters out of her manger scene and replaced them with toys from my niece’s room. The three Wise Men made way for Transformers, the camels and donkeys were replaced with small, pink hamster things, all the shepherds were replaced by a Mr. Potato Head, Mary and Joseph were GI Joe and Barbie, and Baby Jesus (who I saved for last) was the littlest doll in the matroyshka (Russian nesting doll) placed lovingly in the dollhouse bathtub. I really thought the Rev was going to notice – the Mr. Potato Head was pretty glaring, and it didn’t help that the G.P. snickered every time he walked past – but she never did. Then my brother, his wife and their two year old son, Jovanni arrived. Kenia zeroed in on the manger scene with drone strike accuracy. “Oh look, Jojo,” she exclaimed, “Grandma has a nativity scene.” The Rev was happily buzzing around the house getting everyone settled in the family hive, and cooed something like, “Look at the cow, Jojo! The cow says ‘mooooo’.” Only it wasn’t a cow anymore. It was a weird hamster thing. A very befuddled Kenia (unsure if this was deliberate on the part of her mother-in-law and not wanting to offend) carefully offered, “Kris, there aren’t really any cows, or shepherds, or anything…really.” The Rev, confusedly, bulldozed over to the manger scene to check. Clearly, Kenia was in error. Nope. My Mother doesn’t cuss often or blaspheme ever. On this occasion, however, she belted out in terms so stentorian they would have made a legionnaire snap to, “Abigail Jane Bair where in the *?!x@ is my Baby Jesus?!?” I don’t know why she assumed it was me. It could just have easily been the G.P. Baby Jesus was in the spoon drawer. That year, the Rev. made me sleep in the camper…in Kansas.
In any case, I’ve been preparing Christmas presents for the familial invasion for months. Finally, yesterday, I decided to wrap them. For 26 years, I have held the title of “World’s Worst Gift Wrapper,” and it appears that my reign will remain unchallenged in 2016. I went through four rolls of wrapping paper, two rolls of scotch tape and one roll of duct tape yesterday before finally completing the project. If I were to write a tag line to describe the mess it would be: “If you don’t think dog hair encrusted tape and really crappy origami are “Christmas-y,” then you’re really not going to like what’s happening at my place right now.” At one point, I taped myself to the rug, and then I pulled the tape off of my leg and the rug and used it to seal up my nephew Avery’s present. It was a pretty hirsute piece of tape, and not just because of the rug. I finally got the job done, however, and had a huge pile of shiny, crumply, occasionally square packages with the errant piece of duct tape for contrast. I hated every second of the process, except the part where the dog managed to track muddy footprints on the wrapping paper for my brother’s present. That was pretty funny.
I stopped last night, briefly, at the Rev’s, and made the mistake of commenting that I accidentally messed with the kids by putting their very small presents in big boxes because that’s all there was in the garage (it’s bad – I put a 10oz Yeti cup in the furnace filter box). “I have small boxes,” said the Rev, “just bring them over here and re-wrap them.” It’s like she doesn’t even know me.
May you have a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday, if that’s your bag, If not, you are not alone. This, too, shall pass.