So last year was the year of “Oh Woe is Me, The Economy is Falling” and “Simply Having an Unemployed Christmastime” and “I’m Dreaming of Getting Out of Bed Eventually No Really I Swear” (everyone eventually runs out of clever parodies). I didn’t paint the traditional Christmas card art. I had to drag myself out of bed and force myself out of the house. There were a lot of crying jags. I didn’t decorate the tree (but in all honesty, when was the last time I did?). A real “Blue Christmas” of my own making, lacking Elvis’s zazzy backup singers.
This year the job outlook is the same. Money is awesomely terrifying right now – not ‘awesome’ in the sense of “Look at all that money! It’s cascading in a terrifying avalanche to smother us all in filthy riches!;” ‘awesome’ like “inspiring fear or dread.” But I’m not going to let that bring me down this time. I’m going to do what I occasionally do best, which is take whatever minor inconvenience is occurring in my life and attempt to spin it into a story worth telling for the amusement of others. This year I’m going to blog Christmas, or as much of it as I can before I get bored or fed up or quote “lack of inspiration” as an excuse to drink an entire pot of Irish coffee and watch three hours of Metalocalypse instead of writing.
I’ve gotten up twice since opening this document to make more tea. I’m well on my way.
Driving to my mother’s house yesterday I saw a white mini van with a red ball stuck to the front grill and fuzzy antlers protruding from the roof and thought, “Good grief, why?” But I can’t begrudge tacky vehicle adornments – I bet that driver resisted the whole of November, eagerly ticking off the days until Thanksgiving, until it was time to deck the Caravan. The driver is happy, and I get a laugh out of it. And at the end of the month, after the shopping is done and the dishes finally put back in the cabinets and the calendar cleared of all social obligations, isn’t there something inherently funny about the frenzy and madness into which we allow ourselves to be whipped this time of year? You’re probably thinking about murdering me: What’s funny about traffic and bills and the glut of entertaining and the panic of procuring presents?
I was there. I’ll be there again. I’m allowing myself to be a little smug this year; I did some Christmas shopping in Alaska and then ran out of money so presents aren’t bothering me one bit – everyone’s getting cupcakes. My family is small and divided amicably enough that I don’t have to worry too much about dividing my time. I’m conserving gas and staying off the roads, so traffic is less an issue for me than others.
But here’s my take on traffic, and on the season as a whole, this year: We’re all in this together. Every person trapped in their automobile in a stop-and-go pack of a blocked interstate is in exactly the same frustrating, time-consuming, unavoidable situation. So why not relax, sit back, turn up the radio and turn down the blood pressure? I don’t even have two working speakers in my car, so there’s something you have over me. Doesn’t that feel a little better?
Here’s to breaking last year’s despair; to shaking one’s head at the first reindeer-car sighting, ruining the first batch of every new holiday recipe, and careening off the road covered in scalding seasonal peppermint hot chocolate while mashing buttons to exorcise Sir Paul’s “Simply Having” from the car speakers. And here’s to the over-the-top delight that one guy in the neighborhood always distills into thousands of choreographed blinking lights and inflatable festive abominations on the front lawn; to tracking down that coveted holiday snack whether boughten or baked; and to the special satisfaction that comes from embedding a really, really terrible Christmas tune into the brain of an undeserving friend or neighbor.
I’ll leave you with my favorite image from last year.