I’ve tried to love Christmas. I really have. To look forward to it; to wallow in its expectations. From my earliest childhood memories, Christmas has been the biggest deal of the year, even bigger than my birthday which nobody but me took seriously. And as long as I can remember, Christmas has proven to be a disappointment. Being the middle of three children didn’t help. Children, selfish little monsters, count their losses at Christmas, or at least their perceived slights. The others always had more and better than I. The oldest got the bicycle which had to be handed down—no money for more than one bicycle in the family.
But there was always Santa Claus. Where I was born and brought up, Providence, Rhode Island, it was general knowledge that the real Santa was at the Outlet, a large downtown department store. The others were obvious fakes. Once that enigma was solved for me, things should have gone smoothly Santa-wise. But my young life seemed plagued by nay-sayers. Even children younger than I would scoff at my continued and persistent belief. Eventually the apples gave it away. The Macintosh apples in our vegetable bin were the very same ones as those in our stockings. That did it. I was once again sick with disappointment and saw no more reason for Christmas. I had all but given up on the whole rotten lying situation.
The arrival of my baby sister rejuvenated it for me—sort of. At least I could enjoy Santa Claus by proxy. Being a tender-hearted little soul, she pretended to believe it long after she wised up, for my sake I’m sure. The same happened with my daughter. For me, she pretended. That and the fact that she thought it she fessed up, the gifts would no longer be showered upon her cynical little head.
So now that I was a married lady and in charge of Christmas, I was bent, bound and determined that Christmas would be Saturday Evening Post perfect. If my husband would have worn tweed jackets with suede-patch elbows and smoked a pipe, sitting by the fire in his rocking chair, my ideal would have been on its way to satisfaction.
Except he didn’t smoke a pipe, he smoked Salems and utterly refused tweed jackets as too unhip. Besides we didn’t have a fireplace, either. Nevertheless, I shopped and shopped and shopped—there never seemed to be enough bulk-wise under the tree. With only one child, the indulgence can get pretty obscene. But there had to be a plethora of gaily wrapped gifts. And the stockings—real ones. Not those phony store-bought red ones with fake white fur on the top. We had to use our own socks, knee socks preferred. Panty hose were useless, of course. Needless to say, my small family was bored to tears by the whole fiasco. Watching me go nuts was very wearing on them. They didn’t cooperate. I had to tell my husband what to buy to put into my stocking and my daughter said later she was embarrassed by the bounty of gifts, just for her.
However, I didn’t give up easily. In spite of an amicable divorce and an adult child, I was still going to have and enjoy my kind of Christmas. But since I was now a family of one, it was quite forced to say the least. Then I tried an ethnic Christmas—not Kwanzaa, not Hanukkah—Christmas with ethnic decorations on my non-ethnic tree. My ethnic holiday mask still hangs on the inside of my front door.
Then I tried ignoring the whole thing—impossible. Even though almost all of my friends are cynics, we always end up buying silly, unwanted, expensive gifts for each other and, if we can manage it, eating and drinking way too much, Santa or no. Merry Christmas and Bah Humbug!