So how was your Christmas? Did Santa bring you everything you wanted? Santa brought me everything I ruined in the past year. I spend an entire year destroying just about everything I come in contact with, and Christmas is when it all gets replaced. That is, if I don't get to it first and try to fix it. If I try to fix it, it goes on next year's list.
But I do enjoy the whole seasonal schpiel leading up to the big day. I like rating everyone's Christmas decorations outside their house. I have a strict code, and I would love to have the power to fine people who violate my rules: 1.) Nothing on your lawn should be full of air. Whenever I travel in December I usually bring an extra cat with me just in case I see one of those inflatable snowmen. 2.) If you have only two strings of lights, don't try to put them on a 30-foot spruce. Put them on your mailbox or something. 3.) Don't use those crappy lights that look like a net that just captured a shrub. 4.) Our neighbor Dennis had these nifty neon-looking moving lights, but they looked vaguely like anti-aircraft tracer fire, and I think the Navy made him take them down because I don't see them anymore.
I like the singing, except for that horrible Carol of the Bells. I have a funny feeling that the reason it's in every commercial is not because it's so wonderful, but because it is now in open copyright. It goes on forever, the same four tones, and two of them are the same note. I can usually operate the mute button on my remote in just two notes.
Christmas songs are great for my little game of "Maim that Tune." I like the one that goes, "Do you see what I see?," because I always sing in response, "Not without my glasses!" Try it- you'll be hooked. I also empathize with the song, Angels We Have Heard While High. Whenever carolers carol Silent Night I think of that Holy Infant, so tender and mild (like a steak), and I wish that just once, in this lifetime or possibly the next, I could sit next to one of those on a plane.
I like the Christmas cards. Everyone sends a picture of their kids, which is nice, but I would rather see the whole family- Usually the kids look pretty much alike until they are old enough to know that their parents don't know how to help with math homework anymore.
I don't even mind the weather. It's not the cold, it's the lack of humidity that gets you. For Christmas day, you want a coating of pristine white snow when you wake up, say about three inches. Then by 10AM or so, you want the temperature to shoot up to about 70 to melt the snow, then back down to like 40 by noon, when the company comes so you can have a fire. I can create a warm and cozy masterpiece, but apparently only in the toaster oven.
We will have opened our stockings by then, which were hung by the chimney with care. The less care you use, the more likely you are to have to explain to the insurance company the role hosiery played in the five-alarm fire you caused.
The cats and dog get their own stocking. The fish don't get a stocking because: DUH! Fish don't have legs. This year the cats got some high-tech gifts: a battery-operated toy bird that chirps, and a little laser shaped like a mouse. We had to take them both away; one cat obsessed on the talking bird and now both the cat and the bird are in therapy, and the other cat kept pointing the laser mouse at flying aircraft.
We spent Christmas Eve with Paul and Barbara next-door and their family, as we always do. I was informed that I was to be recruited next year to play the part of Santa, since the kids are old enough to recognize all the family members now through the disguise (some of them are in their 20s). I embrace the idea, since I don't picture Santa letting exercise and diet get in the way of his work. Also, as Paul will realize, just about the only natural talent I possess is the ability to use children to insult their parents with pinpoint accuracy. I have to work on the belly laugh though, since I always confuse him with the Jolly Green Giant. I don't think it's unethical for Santa to accept tips, I'm just throwing that out there in advance.
I ate most of the dessert table as they were exchanging gifts utilizing the "Yankee Swap." I tried to picture how Jorge Posada would get along with Nick Swisher's wife (good), but it has nothing to do with that. This one is like a more sophisticated "grab bag," where you can trade the loser gifts for something better. In an evil allegorical twist, one poor sap opened a box filled with canned anchovies, artichokes and Spam. There was more Spam in that box than coming home after two weeks of vacation. He pawned it off to the fellow next to him, a veteran Spam-lover from way back. As we all chuckled, the originator of the gift chimed in, "There's an envelope at the bottom...." A fifty-dollar gift card! Which just goes to show: don't look a gift-horse in the mouth. Why? Because it would be virtually impossible to hide a fifty-dollar gift card there!
Incidentally, the Carol of the Bells was originally titled Shchedryk, named during a time when vowels were in severe shortage and saved only for emergencies. It was composed by Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych, although “composed” may be overstating it. I could have composed the damn thing by lobbing pebbles at the half-full glasses left on the table after dinner, and that’s putting it optimistically.