Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Welcome to Christmas

“My mother always decorated at least 24 trees in our house,” a woman just ahead of me in line at Wal-Mart said. I glanced at her purchases (don’t you do that?) – a case of Diet Coke, a dozen chocolate chip cookies and a tin of wintergreen Altoids. I was buying cheddar cheese, of course, and red Gatorade.
She told me that she had thrown away her 6-foot artificial Christmas tree and this year would be setting a small, pre-lit, pre-decorated tree on a table and calling it done.  “I just can’t do it,” she said. Frankly, I never could. Twenty-four?! No cats or dogs in that house.
I have so many questions about the holidays. Do we really need Christmas music in November? How many people get a red Lexus for Christmas? (Does the payment book come with it?) Are strands of lights pre-programmed to stop working as soon as you get them untangled? Why do Christmas stockings get bigger every year? Do I need decorations in every room of the house to “feel” Christmas? Why are drivers so aggressive in the parking lots? Why do “nice” people become so vicious at a Black Friday sale? What happens if I can’t find the “perfect” gifts?
Just before Thanksgiving, I went into the mall Hallmark store to buy a birthday card. (My sister has always had poor timing.) The Christmas Storm had hit immediately after Halloween. Every shelf I walked by contained something that responded to my motion. There were talking Santas, Charlie Browns, reindeer and dogs. (Where were the cats?) An entire rack contained nothing but cards that played music or sang when opened. Christmas music – the tacky Chipmunk kind – blared through the speakers.
There seemed to be an infinite number of coffee mugs, most too big or gaudy to be useful, with pictures of the Peanuts gang and cute animals or sayings like “I’ve been a good girl, Santa” and “Talk to me after coffee.” Nothing risqué, of course. (Spencer’s Gifts was a different story and infinitely more interesting.)
When I sat in the food court, the high ceiling twinkled with white lights, hanging from 20 gray tinsel bars and dangling some 15 feet above my head. Huge star-shaped, wreaths – two red and six gold – were hung between the dangling lights. The line to sit on Santa’s lap was long, and several of the toddlers were already breaking down. Am I the only one who doesn’t feel the Christmas spirit in a huge concrete and glass mall?
If you want your house to look like a something out of Better Homes & Gardens, I would love to be invited over to see it. Listen, I think it’s terrific that you send out 200 Christmas cards and include me on your list. But consider this a warning: I will use your Christmas letters as examples in a writing class. No, not as good examples.
Don’t feel sorry for my children; they will have plenty of presents. But for me, this is enough: a fireplace (the fake kind is fine), a small twinkling tree, a cup of hot cocoa or coffee, a few people I love. Playing in the background: “What Child is This?” This, this is Christ the King. Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
That, I CAN do.

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