Slackluster holidays

December 15, 2010

Andrew Hicks

The Christmas season is upon us. Only ten days left before I do all my holiday shopping at Walgreens really late at night on Christmas Eve.

Batman's inconspicuous skyflier.Christmas was never a big deal in my house. The peak of our family Christmas celebrations came when I was 11. Logs crackling in the fireplace, mounds of presents and full stockings of goodies. I remember my younger brother got the Batwing from the first Tim Burton Batman movie and the elusive April O’Neil action figure, the rarest in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line of 1989 play products. I got turtles Leonardo and Rafael, if I remember right, and a shrink-wrapped cassette copy of Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out. Which, 21 years later, is still a great album. I’m not quite as enthusiastic about Batman and TMNT these days, incidentally.

My family put up the same fake Christmas tree every year, and it was always a fun night of hanging branches and lights and digging through what was a pretty decent collection of ornaments. The unpacking of the ornament box always included a quick memorial for whatever old ornaments had ended up shattering just before or after the 11-month offseason the ornaments spent in the basement.

Sometime during my teen years, we kind of disbanded the formal Christmas celebration. Around Thanksgiving, my mom would ask me what I wanted, and I’d usually cash in for one big-ticket item that was bought and put into circulation way ahead of December 25th. No surprises, no waiting, no wrapping even.

Our holiday dinners were always spent with our maternal grandparents at Old Country Buffet, the college dining hall of the elderly. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I could count on waiting in line with the non-cooking masses and pigging out on mashed potatoes, gravy and dried-out chocolate cake with vanilla soft-serve on top.

After my grandparents passed, we went back to small-scale holiday family dinners at home, but I don’t think that Christmas tree ever went back up. I don’t think it survived the move when my mom traded up from my childhood house to a nicer home in a nicer neighborhood. The most I would observe Christmas, aside from the family dinner, would be to send out a round of holiday cards with smart-aleck writing inside.

There was one Christmas I had a girlfriend and came to her with the bright idea to not exchange presents and instead do something nice on New Year’s. After, unbenownst to me, she’d already bought me a nice watch*. She had to take that back, then on Christmas, I actually surprised her with a small present. She was not surprised and in fact had come prepared with a small counterpresent, a hardcover copy of the SNL book Live From New York. Which, 8 years later, is the only enduring thing to come out of that relationship.

Now that I’m married with kids, Christmas can’t help but mean something again. We have a larger built-in family that gathers for all the major holidays. My wife Tiffany, as I stated a couple posts ago, has problems with procrastination and organization just like I do. Our Christmas gift efforts to our parents and in-laws have been less than stellar the first three years, and I can’t be sure we won’t repeat the mistake this year.

But I can make the following pair of predictions for this Christmas – there will be lots of love and absolutely no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures.

*Which I had mentioned I wanted before I finally caved and got my first cell phone. What do I need a watch for when I’m carrying a phone? For the sophisticated look of wearing a watch? If you’ve ever met me, you know fashion sophistication and I don’t coexist unless I have to go rent something to wear in a wedding. The only remotely classy thing I have is a silk handkerchief monogrammed with my initials. My real initials: SBJ. At least I tell people those are my real initials when they ask me why I’m sporting a handkerchief with the initials SBJ.

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