Showing posts with label i'll be home for christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label i'll be home for christmas. Show all posts

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Most Wonderful Time Of Year?

I'm not saying it was easier in my parents' day. Mom was expected to bake fifty different kinds of cookies ~ I think she even made a fruitcake one year (that no one, of course ate). Money was not plentiful and at various times, there were six offspring to buy presents for. I will say, though, that our decor consisted of...a tree. That's it. Dad had to untangle the same string of lights each year and curse when one bulb didn't work and he had to dig in his junk drawer to find a replacement. We bought a new pack of silvery tinsel each season and vomited it onto the tree.

There weren't little ceramic cherubs and red pillar candles and reindeer throw pillows scattered about the house. Stockings? I had three pairs of knee-highs, but I wore those to school. It wasn't so much a Christmas "season" as it was a "day". Of course I tingled with anticipation for weeks and combed through the Sears Christmas catalog as I lay prostate on the kitchen linoleum and circled my choices with a number two pencil (I never got any of those things ~ they were too expensive ~ but it was still fun to dream.)

What there wasn't was peer pressure. Christmas hadn't yet become a contest. In my neighborhood the timing of outdoor lights is entirely dependent upon who starts first. Then, like dominoes, house after house becomes festively lit. Humans are inherently competitive. Somehow, at some point, however, it simply got out of hand.

When one has little kids, Christmas is different. Enjoyment comes from doing everything to make the time magical. My kids didn't get two presents each ~ they got everything on their lists. What the heck? It was worth it. I not only baked cookies, but I made fudge and divinity, and caramels wrapped in wax paper. I pushed a shopping cart from Target's front door through knee-high snowbanks to my car trunk and dumped piles of cardboard-encased Lego sets and Transformers inside. I slipped a Christmas CD into my changer, filled a glass with wine and spent hours decorating my tree until it was perfect.

I set aside a day to write out cards and tucked school pictures inside. I may have even done photocopied newsletters once, until I received too many laughable missives and realized Christmas newsletters were evil lies that cleansed everyday life of reality.

I bought presents for every sibling and in-law and every nephew and niece, because I could.  I scoured the Hallmark Store shelves for the perfect gifts for treasured co-workers. Every one of my employees got something that I, not the company, paid for. Because I wanted to do it. I stuffed gift bags with red and green tissue paper and diligently wrote out gift tags. I loved having the means to give.

Today? Like many companies, year-end at my workplace is insane. Christmas is an afterthought, once business gets done. Long hours, tons of junk food and caffeine; finally getting home and going to bed, only to toss and turn due to an overdose of adrenaline. Sleep dreamless sleep, stagger out of bed when the buzzer buzzes and start all over again.

My advice for the over-stressed?

  • Simplify. Cross off your buying list those who frankly would be just as happy with a hearty "Merry Christmas!" as they would with a trinket they'll toss aside once they've torn off the wrapping.
  • Don't go into debt to try to please somebody. You won't please them and you'll flagellate yourself every time you get your credit card bill.
  • Buy three rolls of wrapping paper at Walmart or Target and be done with it. Don't spend $5.99 for a gift bag. Nobody cares. 
  • Don't...don't! send out Christmas cards! How many have you gotten this year? Nobody does it except for Great Aunt Hilda. If you want to reciprocate Great Aunt Hilda's thoughtfulness, dig through your closet for that half-used pack of cards from ten years ago and send her one. (I don't even possess stamps.)
  • All those trinkets are fun to take out of their boxes and place on the mantle, but they're hell to put away. Nothing ever tucks away smartly and you'll end up wrapping a piece of torn tissue around them and stuffing them in a cardboard box in the closet. Pick two, tops.
  • If your family expects treats, whip up a batch of no-bake cookies. Online recipes abound. Years later, they'll proclaim their mom (or wife) was the best baker ever.
  • Hang a stocking for your pet(s). They share your life more than real people do. Tuck a Milkbone or a baggie of catnip inside. They'll love you more than they regularly do.
  • Buy a self-contained artificial Christmas tree. Pop, pop; plug in the lights, and voila!
  • Do:  Buy a small token for someone who's touched your life. They won't be expecting it, and they may even shed a tear.
  • For those who matter most, be attuned to them. What do they like? What do they spend their time doing? Can you gift them with something that enhances that? Search Amazon.
  • Write, if you feel comfortable doing it. A handwritten note from the heart will touch someone's life forever; but don't be fakey. People will immediately spot a fraud.
  • Do: Close your bedroom door and fire up the holiday songs you like best. Not only will they lower your blood pressure, but they may remind you of what the holiday is about. My recommendation is "Jingle Bell Rock", but you know you.
  • If, like me, you get one measly day off for Christmas, shop smart for your holiday dinner. Anything that's pre-sliced or can be fired up in the microwave is preferred. Again, nobody will care.
  • Wallow in nostalgia. I lost my best friend in 2002, but I have a recording of her singing, "Old Christmas Card", and I cry every time I hear it. Both my parents passed away in 2001, and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" stabs my heart, but it's important that I hear it once each year. If you've ever lost someone, you'll understand.
  • Breathe deeply. It actually helps.

I don't hate Christmas. I hate the unrealistic expectations that surround it. If I could just be me, I'd dim the lights, light a candle and play some tunes that remind me of the people who mattered.

Let's not forget what it's all about.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Thing About Christmas Songs

If merchants had to depend on me for their Christmas cheer, they'd be crying into their mug of wassail.

I'm not a Christmas fan.

I do have my reasons. Number one, I happen to work in an industry whose busiest time of the year is the last three weeks before Christmas. Therefore, no one is allowed to take time off, not even one lousy day to do their shopping. Add to that the stress of a long, heart-attack inducing day, and the last thing I want to do when I (finally) get off work is go shopping for holiday trinkets. All I want is a cup gallon of hot wassail. Secondly, Christmas is happy and exciting when there are kids in the house. Cats and dogs don't experience that same euphoria of anticipation that actual human kids do. In fact, Josie and Bob only anticipate when their next meal will be forthcoming, as they perch in their assigned spots two hours before suppertime.

When I had young kids, I exalted in the subterfuge -- writing out my shopping list in shorthand so no little eyes would tempt themselves and spoil the surprise.

That one big day with one big shopping cart, trudging my goodies through the snow and slush, the cart's wheels refusing to budge, as I twisted the cart like a pinwheel to deposit all those special toys in my trunk.

The Saturday evening when I would put on a favorite Christmas CD, dim the lights and decorate the tree, placing the school-made ornaments in very prominent spots on the branches; stringing together wreaths made of popcorn.

Writing out Christmas cards and slipping school photographs inside. Getting Christmas cards with school photographs slipped inside.

Pasting red, green, and blue window clings on the big picture window in the living room -- red trees and green boughs, white snowflakes, and blue letters that spelled out MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Hauling the big stand mixer out of the top cupboard and mixing up a batch of sugar cookies to be decorated, and a big pan of fudge, and divinity, and whatever other cookies struck my fancy that particular year.

The kids tearing open their gifts on Christmas Eve, exclaiming it was just what they wanted. Me on the floor assembling Fisher Price farm yards and, in ensuing years, admiring all manner of Transformers and Deluxe Lego cities (Those little yellow plastic bricks hurt like hell when you step on one with your bare feet two days after Christmas!)

When we packed up the car and drove to spend Christmas Day with Grandma and Grandpa, the kids loathe to leave their new treasures behind at home, Grandma pulling open the oven door to baste the giant turkey, Grandpa "helping" by sitting back in his recliner in the living room. Me salivating over the fresh-baked pecan pie. My brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews gathered around the long table Dad had set up in the living room to accommodate everybody; munching on green olives and carrot sticks from the relish tray to quell our hunger, Mom's candle evergreen centerpiece gracing the center.

That was Christmas to me.

I really should just chalk it up as a life phase that's come and gone. My kids are grown and they have new traditions of their own. Mom and Dad left in 2001. Really, the only thing I have remaining from Christmas Past is music, if I take the time to listen to it.

But here's the thing about Christmas songs....

Thank God they only come around once a year.

Our local oldies station begins playing Christmas music twenty-four/seven, right after (or maybe even before) Thanksgiving. Those DJ's must be hitting up the liquor store every couple of days, because if one has to find enough holiday music to fill all that airtime, one knows (the DJ's know more than anyone) that the great majority of it sucks. I listened for a few brief moments on my car radio today as I was motoring off to perform a semblance of actual gift-shopping (I got two -- yes, two gifts). I learned, from my radio, that Christmas music falls into a few categories:

  • Sucky
  • Maudlin
  • Instrumental (which, to be frank, could be anything - could be Arbor Day music for all anyone knows)
  • Too jazzy
  • Annoying
  • Cheesy
  • Not bad

I thought I would highlight a few of these types.

Best drunk performance by someone trying to appear sober:

(Yes, I know this is a montage. Sorry, it's all I could find.)

Best sober performance by someone trying to act drunk:

Best cry in your beer, drown your heartache Christmas song:

Christmas song that makes you want to drink yourself to death:

(I'm sure Andy Williams was a fine man. But this song falls into the "sucky", "too jazzy" category. Sorry.)

Other songs I would pay top dollar to never hear again:

  • Do You Hear What I Hear (no, and stop asking me!)
  • Little Drummer Boy (especially the Johnny Cash version...rum pa pah PUM)
  • Christmas Time Is Here (that stupid Peanuts maudlin song with the screechy kids singing. Really gets one in the spirit!)

Now, I like my eighties pop, as you know. Some people, particularly my husband, would say my favorites are sucky. I'm okay with that. Because I like what I like.

Hence, I like this:

It's not so much that I like this song, but I love the performance:

Let's not forget the sixties:

But honestly, Christmas is not Christmas for me until I hear these two songs (I heard one of them today as I was shopping, which inspired this post.)

In conclusion, there are two songs that are my special treasures, for different reasons. The first reminds me what we're doing this all for (and this is the version that lives in my heart):

And this one just makes me cry, because there is no more home:

If I don't have time, and I know I won't, Merry Christmas to you.