Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tis the Season

Any moment now the Christmas carols will start, because, as we know, the Holiday shopping season begins sometimes in mid September. Can’t get your wallets out too early, and by all accounts, it’s going to be a tough year so you can expect the malls to redouble their Jingle Bells and Three Kings. What joy!

I’ve always had problems with holidays. I don’t like Christmas cookies, and I can’t remember really having the kind of jolly time we see in old movies and read about in the press. Even when I was small in France and my parents were alive, there was a sense of dread about the Christmas season. I knew something would go wrong, and something almost always did. One year a drunk fell into the Christmas tree and tipped it over, shorting out the entire apartment building. Another year, another drunk. This one poured his glass of Scotch whiskey into my aquarium. Fish don’t get inebriated, they die. Yet another time, I decided to help with the post-party clean-up. It seemed easier to drink the half-filled glasses than empty them in the kitchen sink, so that’s what I did. In no time at all the dreadful mixture of wine and varied alcohols had me puking on my mother’s expensive Oriental rug. I fell asleep on the floor and caught hell the next day.

Coming to America, we were faced with the deadly tri-facta of Turkey Day, Christmas and Amateur Drinkers’ Night—New Year. This was enough to give an aura of desperation to September through January. Who to invite, who to spurn? The snobs came in search of a free meal and a chance to sneer at the wine; they brought insufferable children fresh out of boarding school and resentful for being there in the first place. Meals did not start until after midnight mass—a torture in and of itself—by which time a case or three of cheap champagne would be consumed as lines formed at the door of the house’s sole bathroom.

Like almost everyone I know, I have issues with the rampant commercialism of the holidays. I vow each year that I will not participate in the mass madness, and yet I do, joining the desperate throngs in search of the perfect presents. I spend more than I should and, in the end, purchase gifts I am sure are inadequate. I also buy useless stuff for myself since I figure no one will give me what I really want to get. I will not do it this year.

But as a man in the 12-Step rooms once told me, “The feeling of impending doom that you feel is impending doom.”

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