In my youth, I used to do the it’s-5:30 a.m.-and-I’m-so-excited-I-have-to-pee waddle down the stairs in my little footie pajamas (God I miss those!) and plop down in front of the ornament-laden Christmas fir to await my parents awakening. Inevitably, in the overwhelming anticipation of impending materialistic excess, I’d ramp up the adrenals to the point where I’d crash and my folks would find me asleep with my arms wrapped around some unwrapped gift. I remember the ol’ Operation game that offered a sadistic electrical shock when you accidentally nicked the funny bone, and the Rock’em Sock’em robots with the unsightly beheadings, the board game Mousetrap with its Rube Goldberg architecture, and that exasperating Rubik’s Cube which caused me endless hours of adolescent angst before I figured out that you could just take the stickers on and off and appear smart enough to get-after that Ivy League education.
I can recall a house filled with instrumental Christmas songs that provided me an entire month of creative realignment – “On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me, FIVE onion rings” “With a corncob pipe and a butt and nose” “You’ll tell Carole’s been hung by a wire” – because youth and logic have no common ancestry. Those fabricated lyrics eventually led me into literature and inspired wordplay, the upshot of which caused my parents to walk around with the same expression and head tilt one sees on a dog when you speak Chinese to it. (Note to self: A billion people think that last reference was nonsensical.) What I’m driving at, though, is one of my fondest childhood memories. My mother got me a roll of toilet paper with a crossword puzzle on each sheet. Tenacity is one of my finer traits, and spending an hour on the toilet seat to complete enough puzzles to “wipe the slate clean” as it were, was my childhood’s Great Wall. I nailed every one of those puzzles and now spend my adult life suffering numb legs and displaying outer thigh scars to prove it. By the time Christmas rolled around the following year, I was on to cryptograms and creators at Charmin were marketing more toward the Wheel of Fortune crowd so…but I digress….
“The stockings were hung by the Chimney with care.” Does anyone actually one think this author Henry Livingston wasn’t getting a little action on Christmas? A quick look back reveals that Henry and his wife tossed back one too many eggnogs and got a little frisky in front of the fireplace. While Henry was thinking about roasting his chestnuts, the ol’ broad aimed her skivvies onto the hearth, and now a hundred years later we’re saddled with this silly stocking tradition.
Twenty bucks to anyone who can tell me what “threw open the sash” is without hitting a Google Search.
“Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh?” You ever try this in the middle of a Northeast winter. Fun? It’s friggin’ freezing. Your ears go numb, the snot on your nose crystallizes into something you might find on a necklace at Zales, your cheeks have a knife-stabbed thing about them, not to mention the sore ass from the helicopter-like chop of those damn equine feet.
And now we have this whole Christmas tree fiasco. Folks buy aluminum, tin or other low elements on the periodic table, and then spray them with aerosol snow and decorate them with plastic ornaments and layer them with kilowatt sucking lights – not to mention the whole lead-painted toys and plastic-wrapped electronics and fire-retardant wrapping paper – and then spout some pretentious cliche about being environmentally sensitive. I guess I’m just thinking it might be nice to cut a real tree, to enjoy the scent of evergreen or fir – or for those from the sixties generation, something more indulgent – and then if you feel some deep-seeded desire to replenish things, go plant something.
Anyway, during this wintery season, I just wish people would stop getting up in my grill about how I celebrate the holidaze (yes, I spelled it that way because that’s what it feels like).