…a carton of cigarettes and the time to smoke them all sitting on the front porch, with a blanket around me, not knittin’, not cookin’, not doin’ anything but smokin’, til the carton runs out. That’s 200 cigarettes for those who don’t smoke or know how many are in a pack. That might reduce my stress level. Well, that and a couple of bottles of wine. Red wine, you know, the healthy kind. This is what the holidays to do me. And it’s not even the middle of the month yet.
I hate the holidays. Yes, I do, don’t try to tell me I don’t. I hate them. They make people do stupid things. Stupid things like go into debt trying to buy the right gift for every person that they know. Trying to live up to some unrealistic expectation of the joy they are going to feel when they have the whole family around them – the family that has nothing in common with one another but bein’ blood kin. The family that can’t stand to be in the same room with one another.
Yes, we celebrate Christmas. Unitarians celabrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, you name it, we claim them all. You don’t have to be Christian to celebrate Christmas, after all, most of the symbols of Christmas were Pagan to begin with. Every family has it’s unique ways of handling Christmas, and I suppose ours is no different. But I still rebel. I spent so many holidays feeling pressure and guilt at not having the money to do what I wanted at Christmas and realizing that it didn’t matter what I gave people, they wouldn’t remember it by the next Christmas. The marketing that goes into selling Christmas is positively predatory. We already have too much crap! We’re going to have to rent storage if we get any more!
This year, like so many before, I have no real money for presents. We’ll manage something for Abby, but since her birthday falls on the 15th, it’s still a double whammy for us. This year I decided to knit all my gifts. And I decided that on Thanksgiving. Yeah, when I was pregnant with Abby, I had all my gifts bought and wrapped before Thanksgiving. So, besides knitting gifts, I couldn’t really buy any significant amounts of yarn – so I dumped out the stash and pulled out my copies of Last Minute Knitted Gifts, One Skein, and Mason-Dison Knitting and started knitting.
I felted 2 bags over the weekend and while I was stuffing the bottoms with plastic bags to hold the shape, someone (MIL) came in a asked "oh, been shopping?", (the empty plastic bags being the trigger), imagine me scowling in response. As she passes by and looks, she comments, "oh, are these the bags you were working on? They’re beautiful, who are they for?". Imagine me scowling again and recovering and answering, "I don’t know yet". At least now I know who isn’t getting one. There will be no more questions about what I’m knitting and who they are for. I don’t even know if I am going to make it by Christmas if I have to sleep between now and then. I still have to finish the Opal feather and fan scarf that’s going to Seoul, Korea, and the Cabled Gaiter that’s going to Vermont. I thought I needed to finish these first since they have the farthest to travel.
The tree is still in the box. The Christmas tree I found in the top of the bathroom closet when we moved in to the house. The 4 foot tall artificial, anemic Christmas tree that I will drag in the house some time this week and re-assemble. There was a time I would never have considered a fake tree, it just wasn’t an option. I’m a naturalist – I like things real, the smell, the sticky resin on my fingers after handling it, the mess it leaves behind on the floor. It’s pathetic what I’ve been reduced to. I haven’t bought a new ornament in years. I have one box of Christmas decorations and it fits on the top shelf of the hall closet. I used to make gingerbread houses. I am doing good to make sugar cookies now – and they aren’t decorated – they’re plain. They are very tasty – right out of an old Betty Crocker book, but not what you would call "festive".
Do not feel sorry for me. Much of my attitude and angst about Christmas is wrapped up in my childhood. Some of it has been shaped by my life as an adult and living in the reality based world. Some of it is inflicted on me by others in my life. It’s probably the same with everyone. But I won’t pretend like it’s some idyllic time of year when everyone is kind and generous and people aren’t shitheads to one another. There are still people in the world who experience serious need and deprivation and I can’t help them all. The holidays, for some, magnify the sense of loss and loneliness and the more people make a big deal about it being such an abundant season, the more stark and painful is the fact that it’s really just an illusion.
Okay, here is what my idea of the holidays would be if I was in charge of everything:
Christmas – The Extreme Makeover
- The holidays would be non-denominational – all faiths would be encouraged to join in a truly global season of hope and humanity.
- The emphasis would be on the hand-made gift over the store-bought one. The products from the gifted knitters hands would be the most prized and hoped for.
- In order to be eligible for any new gifts, children would be required to give their old ones to toy drives or other charities.
- Rather than forcing together incompatible family members for holiday gathering, the tradition should be to bring in as many strangers as possible, especially the homeless.
- Instead of driving around in gas-guzzling SUV’s to gawk at the light spectacles in the yards of the conspicuously consumptive, there should be a parade to nursing homes and hospitals to share Karyoke Carols and spiked wassel.
- Instead of spending the equivalent of a years contribution to one’s retirement fund on holiday gifts and decor, the money should be put into a retirement fund, so that you don’t have to live with your kids when you get old. Now, there’s a gift that just keep’s giving!
- The main features of the holidays should still include copious amounts of food, music and not having to report for work.
Okay, no, I’m not going to start smoking again – but sometimes I really want to. But my cough has gone away and I haven’t gained any significant weight yet, so, as Susan mentioned to me she does, I think I’ll knit a couple of packs a day for a while. And try and figure out how to survive this holiday wihout hurting anyone’s feelings and deciding who to give the ugly warshrags.