Deck the halls with boughs of freaking holly.
I used to look forward to Christmas. In those days it was a toy fest. Mom would take me to sit on Santa's lap at Macy's and I'd tell him what I wanted. Then, I would make a list and send it to Santa at the North Pole. And just to be sure I believed in Santa, Mom would let me mail the letter at the post office. Not that I had any doubts, mind you, I mean hell, I was only 19.
Christmas was a win-win back then. I'd get a pile of toys, even if my parents each had to work two jobs to afford them. In return, I would get Mom a box of scented talcum powder from Einhorn's Drug Store for two bucks. I did this because she always had a box in her bathroom, so I deduced she must really like it. In truth, she never used it, but put the box there every Christmas, throwing out the old one.
Similarly, dad would get a box of handkerchiefs or a tie. He never used the hankies and he never wore the tie. In fact, he never took them from the boxes.
Somewhere along the line, though, the tides shift. At some point Christmas becomes an incredibly expensive proposition, and you're on the losing end. I knew my time had come when I bought my daughter Anna about $500 worth of toys and she gave me a tie and a box of handkerchiefs. Ouch.
Remember Cabbage Patch dolls? I do, because Anna had to have one for Christmas one year – that was the year that Cabbage Patch dolls were in such demand parents were fighting for them and stores jacked up the price to $100.
I personally had to stab two other parents at Kmart in Bridgehampton in order to get Anna the doll. After a couple days I noticed she wasn't playing with it. "What happened to the Cabbage Patch doll?" I inquired.
"You got me an ugly one," Anna said.
"They're all ugly," I replied. Goodbye one hundred bucks.
One year she wanted My Little Pony. The selling point on this plastic piece of crap was it supposedly had real hair the kids could brush. I got Anna the My Little Pony, the My Little Stable, My Little Barnyard Animals, and every other My Little piece of crap I could buy or steal including My Little Hairbrush. Within two days it was under her bed, never to be seen again – I found out later she cut the hair off to see if it would grow back.
Nowadays Christmas to me means presents for assorted nieces and nephews, all of whom insist there is a Santa. The net result of their belief is that I spend the money and Santa gets all the credit. Plus, their parents are getting picky. Everyone yelled at me for getting little Adelia a bong last year – I mean, the little brat is eight already – the thing will come in handy someday.
I don't want to deck the halls with holly or the walls with jolly or whatever the hell you do. I don't want my mother kissing Santa under the mistletoe, especially if he looks anything like that pervert at Macy's. I don't want a White Christmas, because I spend half the day on the road driving to and from my in-laws' house.
I do have a tree down in my basement, an artificial one we bought years ago. I also have Christmas lights, tinsel, a box filled with ornaments, and an angel with cotton wings to put on the top of the tree.
I stopped putting the tree up after the first year, though, because not only do I have to put it up, I have to take it down. This prompted a bitter argument in our house, as weeks turned into months and the winter came and went with the tree still in the living room.
"When are you going to take that damn thing down," Karen would ask.
"What? The Easter Tree?
"It's not an Easter tree," Karen said.
"I'll take the angel down and put a crucifix up there. Look, I bought a Pontius Pilate ornament."
Finally, August came. That meant the year was more than half way over. In other words, Christmas was just around the corner. Anyhow, there is nothing like sitting around the tree wearing bathing suits and suntan oil – it really puts you in a Christmasy mood. Iced eggnog, anyone?
We're already getting Christmas cards. They say stuff like, "On this joyous holiday we wish your family peace and happiness" and it's signed "The McDougalds" or whatever. Sometimes there is a picture, the parents with their smiley children. Even the family dog is smiling. Yet in real life you know those kids are brats and the dog is incontinent.
A little part of us wants to believe that guy in the red suit and white beard really does exist, somewhere. Bong or no bong, 'tis the season. We might as well get all up in it.