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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday Sparkle

Christmas has never been my favorite holiday.  In fact, I pretend like it’s just another day. Other Bill and I have skipped the present giving tradition for years and instead run down to the local cinema, watch an early matinee, and, if we play our cards right, sneak into a second movie. We consider it our gift from the theater. Then we go to a Chinese restaurant and call it a day. It’s a nice traditional Jewish Christmas celebration without the gefelte fish and the kvetching.

When I was six and was starting to be the age where a kid really enjoys and remembers Christmas, my dad died, and Christmas from then on out became an ugly chore full of stress and tension.

For one thing, every Christmas either my sister or I came down with a cold, which would make my mother crazier. One year she decided that we must be allergic to Christmas trees. Therefore, in a pre-emptive strike, she moved the tree outside to the front porch. One day we came home and found the tree blown over and the majority of the ornaments smashed to smithereens.

For years my widowed mother always tried to economize at Christmas. She had a long list of people on her gift list. Most of them she only saw at Christmas when she packed the car full of home-made somethings and delivered the gifts to these non-friends in the style that could only be described as paperboyish. She always claimed that a heartfelt homemade gift was superior to something store bought, and to this day I concede she was wrong, because everything we made was either a disaster, or the preparation of it was met with hellish consequences. For example, one year in summer she decided she would create what was called “crocked fruit”, which was an enormous ceramic butter churn filled with rotting fruit and grain alcohol. And it was unrefrigerated. Every few weeks she would add more fruit and stir it. To an alcoholic like my mother, it tasted, layered on ice cream, like nectar from the gods. To an ordinary person, it tasted like super unleaded.

When that wasn’t a hit, she switched to the stove. Beginning in October, she would bake loaf after loaf of bread. My sister and I were delegated to the task of turning liquid sugar into fondant and rolling truffles into chocolate sprinkles.  Everything was frozen until delivery day, when they were retrieved from the rented cryogenic deep freeze, stale and freezer-burned.  After numerous complaints from recipients to the Better Christmas Bureau, she turned the reins over to me, and I made candles. This holiday tradition abruptly ended when I set a pot of paraffin on fire, melted the kitchen curtains, and turned our kitchen ceiling a permanent shade of black.

And there was the time she took back my sister’s cash present because she stuck her tongue out at her, effectively putting the kibosh on holiday cheer for all of us.

So let’s just say I steer clear of any kind of holiday celebration. My favorite holiday memory, which makes me love Other Bill all the more, was when after dark one night we heard voices and rustling in our bushes outside.

“What’s that?” he asked, with terror in his eyes.

The hair stood up on the back of my neck, “I don’t know,” I whispered.

Other Bill grabbed a knife and turned out the lights and crept to the front door. He peeked out the window into the darkness and saw movement and heard many voices. He was outnumbered, but he bravely opened the door and flicked on the porch light to reveal a handful of people carrying songbooks.

“Hark the Herald A—” sang they.

“JESUS CHRIST, YOU SCARED THE HELL OUT OF ME!” Shouted he, as the well-intentioned fundamentalist Christian carolers gasped, turned their backs and strolled unappreciated to the next house on the block.

One year I spent the holiday in Egypt, where everything was open, no one was out buying presents, and there wasn’t a Santa or a tree in sight. I went out to the pyramids near Giza, where some guy talked me into letting him take me down into a smelly dark hole in the ground where he shined the light on hieroglyphics. Very educational. Thank you, godless Egyptians!

So call me the champion of bah-humbug; I won’t dispute it, but for the record I would like to bring up a sour note of a disturbing trend I am finding associated with this holiday: glitter cards.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love getting Christmas cards. I am still a big supporter of envelope-and-stamp letter writing and actually enjoy the single-spaced typewritten bullet chart of annual accomplishments people send along with the cards.

But I would rather have the card without sparkles. Once you pull the card out of the envelope, you subject yourself to indefinite years of living with glitter. Glitter has a half-life roughly equivalent to plutonium-239. You can’t get rid of it with a vacuum, a sticky roller, a gas powered leaf blower or a pressure washer. Once you open that envelope, you commit yourself to a life with glitter, and I’m damned tired of it. I am lobbying Congress to pass a law that requires glitter card envelopes come with warning label, similar to what they have on packs of cigarettes: “WARNING: THE ENCLOSED GLITTER CARD WILL PROVOKE FRIENDS TO MAKE FUN OF YOU BECAUSE YOU WILL HAVE SPARKLES OVER YOUR EYEBROW FOR ETERNITY.”

I started taking Christmas cards outside to open them, but the glitter still blows off and gets on your clothes, and you track it inside. Now I open cards with a scalpel and wear rubber gloves and a disposable Tyvek hazmat suit. On the plus side, this has apparently spared me from contracting Ebola.

I haven’t figured out who is behind this trend, but I suspect these cards are of Chinese origin. China of course, is well versed in hiding their toxic waste in products they sell cheaply to Americans (e.g., children’s toys, drywall, and aren’t you even curious as to why the underpants you bought at glow in the dark?)

It’s time we put an end to this, so let’s cheese it with the glitter cards, folks. Otherwise I’m sending you a loaf of stale homemade bread and melted truffles with sprinkles.


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