It is holiday season and I am standing beside our family Christmas tree, strangely sharp green needles pricking my skin, the nauseating smell of Pine, or in this case, Pine-Sol since our tree is artificial (we enjoy the pretense of keeping up appearances) – artificial because my family members are rabidly Pro-Environment and believe debasing forestry is sinful, and problematic because my parents are also Pro-Choice. This means, if I am going to electrocute something with these lights I’m apparently supposed to be hanging around the baby Jesus, in their minds I’d be better off choosing the child than the evergreen. Still, I find joy in placing the delicate ornaments and draping the tinsel – because nothing says Christmas like dangling balls and shredded aluminum scrap.
Christmas brings back a lot of memories – my Uncle Bob sitting outside with a case of beer trying to figure out if standing on your head under the mistletoe would force someone to kiss your ass – snow, which is cold, like the heart of the Santa Claus whose lap I sat on at the mall when I was eight years old, whose breath smelled like scotch and whose hands moved a little too far up my leg, the Santa who told me that it didn’t matter what I wanted for Christmas because I was a little annoying brat like all the other kids standing in line and that I should prepare myself for a giant lump of coal… so I just sat there, in tears, as he gave a jolly smile for my parents who were capturing this holiday photo for their annual greeting card. Merry Christmas – from your grandson and a red-suited pedophile!
Christmas makes me think of shopping. There is nothing better than standing behind an eighty-five year old woman-with-flatulence who’s trying to swipe her Visa card through that little slot. It reminds me of my office Christmas party when I had three quarts too much of the eggnog and headed off to the restroom to shake out the ol’candy cane. Aiming into that urinal and watching my stream bounce off the sides and hit the floor makes Grandma Smelly look like Magellan. In the end, I think her credit card is really the perfect symbol for Christmas. We use plastic cards to buy plastic toys wrapped in plastic, put them under a plastic tree, put on our plastic personalities for relatives. Yea, Christmas is a genuinely good time.
Christmas makes me think of presents gathered under the tree, symbols of love and generosity and how they make one’s character grow. Then again, when your tree is plastic, the presents underneath just kind of sit there, wondering what the hell they are supposed to be nurturing. But, oh that exciting morning, when you run downstairs and stare at all the brightly colored packages and big ribbons, expecting half of Toy’s R Us to be waiting for you in those massive boxes. That wonderful moment when you’re halfway down the long side of the candy cane and your dad says “Go ahead, open ‘em up.” The tearing and shredding and throwing of the wrapping paper as you get down to the final box, which holds the best present of them all…whoa it’s a….wait, what’s this…You have made a donation to the World Wildlife Fund. When I travel these days and see signs like Deer Crossing, or Elk Grazing, I get a little choked up. Roadkill offers an especially moving moment. It’s like my childhood splattered all over the highway, guts ripped out and waiting for the North Pole’s elves to come along and scoop me up with their little toy shovels.
Like most families, we have one special decoration that dangles precariously upon an outer branch, the tiny silver hook bending around the limb and holding up twenty years of tradition and sentiment. It’s as though this one small little ornament can bring one back to childhood, like Citizen Kane’s Rosebud, only ours has batteries, and is comprised of a rather long slender and slightly bulbous shape, which was exciting for a kid who thought it was a microphone, but then when I hit my late teens, left me wondering whether this vibrating outer branch might or might not actually be a hiding place for something else when Santa and Mommy were feeling a little more than the Christmas spirit. Thirty years later I still have this rosy glow upon my cheeks when I blush and I sometimes get the sense there was one Christmas Santa might have left a little more than presents.
Docked upon the mantel, my appropriately colored red and white Ipod now echoes its Christmassy tunes across the house and I laugh, childishly creating overtly-sexual and anti-religious titles, which means while Christmas music is playing, I walk around shopping malls with a hard-on, which is embarrassing, which means I turn bright red, like Rudolph’s nose, which means, potentially, my genitalia could become the subject of a Christmas song…Little Hummer Boy …Let Her Blow Let Her Blow Let Her Blow….Dick and Balls Will Bring You Jollies….and the already lewd and inspiring O Come All Ye Faithful? Somehow, the images of dancing sugarplums combines with nine leaping lords and eight milking maids and I’m overcome by the subtle suggestiveness of the holiday.
S-A-N-T-A may actually be a word scramble for something darker, red, something which comes down the chimney into the fire, buys me off with gifts, takes my mind away from the birth of the savior, something which would enjoy commercializing religion for profit and chuckle at the orgiastic images now permeating my brain. No wonder Christmastime feels like hell.
Beneath the tree, several presents are wrapped in hemp, the irony coming tomorrow morning when the unwrapped gift reveals the four ounces of freshly cut “medical marijuana,” an annual peace offering from my brother to my mother which attempts to dispel the didactic little proverb that you just can’t judge a book by its cover, with the fortuitous side-benefit that comes with the subsequent fireside smoke-out and devouring of all candy canes and left over cookies an hour later.
Hanging the stockings, in this case old Sheer nylons which leave little to the imagination and probably induce Santa into longing for Mrs, Claus, the upshot of which now leaves a chubby, bearded and now horny, red-faced elf breaking into the homes of small children and probably sets Michael Jackson’s hair on fire –unintended subtext merely coincidental – in any case, hanging the stockings from the mantel indicates Santa will be jamming his hands into a place where my mother’s legs and ass have recently resided, an altogether disturbingly Oedipalian thought which leaves me wondering about Santa’s mother, and whether she celebrated Christmas, and who came down her chimney, and if Nick was a naughty kid, and whether, when he was a teenager, she told poor Nicolas to go get a job and the poor child has been flying around the word once a year giving kids presents in his search for redemption – as it were.
I place the requisite Cookies next to the fireplace, wondering if that bowlful of Jelly is a precursor to diabetes and whether I’m now aiding and abetting the death of a popular mythical figure – then the milk, the assumption that Santa is not lactose intolerant important because that thick black belt appears too difficult to remove in case of emergency, and I’m fairly certain that if some kid caught Santa Claus in the bathroom during Christmas Eve, we’d have a whole redefining of Yule Logs.
Through the window I see the neighbor’s yard, aglow with lights and that obscenely priced Wal-mart-purchased plastic Santa sitting upon their lawn, the slightly breeze making him teeter back and forth as though drunk on eggnog, and his belly now sagging with the slight leak that is excessively throwing CO2 into the air and melting the North Pole, making the whole scene a rather cannibalistic and ironic affair.
Taking one last glance at the tree, its glistening lights now reflecting off the frosted colored glass then fading into the dark leaves of its natural plastic beauty, I speculate about the meaning of Christmas. Is it more than families coming together in the spirit of giving, something other than suspension of reality – that moment of fantasy which allows us all to be children again, or is it just another day when we are forced to spend half our salaries in long lines on late nights in the hopes that we can purchase another year of love and affection?
I make my way up the stairs to a soft pillow and warm blankets, the hint of snow now dusting my shutters. I sip my hot chocolate, the warm and frothy feeling bringing me closer to a long winter’s nap…and then I grab my fully-loaded shotgun and get ready to shoot that little red-suited fucker when he enters my house.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.