Christmas is a difficult time.
What have we got? Irony! What do we need? Christmas sweaters, the ones drab Fred Armisen and Carrie Browstein want in the deadpan Old Navy commercial.
It’s a jolly holiday if you go to a potluck with friends; less so if you spend it with your dysfunctional family.
Some years I have brightly done my duty, and traveled hither and thither to visit family members. We eat festive dinners of turkey, mashed potatoes, and homemade pie. I have little to say; my scant social skills dry up. My smile is plastered on. One cousin is dying of cancer, plugged into oxygen, and my father thinks it is AIDS. The old people reminisce about their Mother’s Way with Chickens. When the football game starts, we women are doomed to dishes and gossip. A cousin doles out leftovers to everyone except the hostess, who is almost in tears. I’m usually a woman of action, but I say nothing. What is wrong with us on the holidays?
This year I am grieving the death of an aunt and a friend. I was also saddened by a visit to the hospital, shocked by the frailty of a relative I hadn’t seen since my mother’s funeral. Looking at this paper-thin man, I remember him as a strong freckled man who drove home from the farm for lunch, shedding his dirty overalls at the back door, and on one icy day insisted on driving us to the movies. I have to push aside this sentimentality: he is on antibiotics and is feeling better, and that is what matters. Age doesn’t mean much to him and my pity means nothing: he still has intrigues, still goes to various clubs, and supports Hillary. He does karaoke. He has a more active social life than I do. When he told me the last of my aunts died in November, I was devastated. Why he didn’t call at the time? Did he forget? That is probable, I realize now. I am sure he is depressed. One of the aunts once said, “How will you feel if he dies and you don’t see him again?” And now I am really feeling that. We can’t talk. It’s just the way we are.
Thank God Christmas distracts us from the sadness. It rained all day, then the rain turned into slanting wet snow, but we closed the drapes, were warm under blankets, and were drinking tea and reading. I was like Sigourney Weaver in Alien, thinking she’s escaped the alien and is alone, when it’s actually in the spaceship.
My husband dragged our artificial tree, the alien in my life out of the basement!
Oh, lord. This is one of those holiday traumas. The plastic tree from a box store was okay for a year. It was very well-loved by the cats, who bent it up a little. Now half the branches turn up, then there is a gap, and the rest of the branches point down. I may joke about Roseanne’s “White Trash Christmas,” but I can’t have it in my living room.
So I promise I will find a tree for Christmas if he just takes this one back down downstairs.
I don’t feel like riding the bus in the rain, then walking to a box store, then dragging a tree back to the bus, but I have an idea. I go to work on the internet. Are those cute small spruce trees with L.E.D. lights available for one-day delivery? They are not!
And so I order a big evergreen centerpiece and a Christmas bouquet from a florist. And my God! It’s the nicest Christmas decoration we’ve ever had.
So all these years we could have had great decorations if I hadn’t done it myself?
Yes! We’re finally in the Christmas spirit!