Little Bummer Boy

It is the third week of December, and the ground is covered by dirty, trampled snow, the chorus of hacking, infectious coughs reverberates through the office, and new credit cards are opened and then used without care in hopes that St. Nicholas’ cash donations soon will be there. While most people busy themselves happily decorating the home with artificial fichus branches, singing Christmas standards by Dean Martin and Larry the Cable Guy, and purchasing hot sauce/cologne gift sets at The Walmart, I do those same exact things with an overarching sense of malaise.


“Why do you have to be such a scrooge?” my wife inquired of me after I opined about the real necessity of buying something for my 1-year-old to give to my 3-year-old and vice-versa. The real difference between me and Scrooge, however, is that Scrooge eventually reformed while my disillusionment with Christmas grows year after year. That and I do not yet have any employees that I can withhold a Christmas bonus from. Not yet. But, because I love my wife and want to make her happy, I go through the motions of turning our house into Santa’s crap factory every year.


One of my first tasks was to climb up on our roof before Thanksgiving to hang up our Christmas lights. The only time that I found to actually do this Everestian feat was after 6:00...at night...in the pitch black of night...in the cold chill of late November. I dragged a few strands of light with me on to the roof, along with a spotlight so that I could sort of see what I was getting myself into. I teetered on the edge of my roof, one rain-gutter fastener away from becoming a stain on my own front porch. I plugged in the first strand of lights to discover that the built-in mechanism to disable the light strand after one year of use was working quite well. Nothing lit up and I threw the strand into the dark and ever-swirling grass below. I then tried the second strand of lights which miraculously did light up just until the point where I finished clicking in the end of the strand. At that point, half of the lights extinguished themselves. After testing and attempting to replace several lightbulbs and fuses, work which should either be done with either the aide of a microscope or nanobot technology, I still was unable to get the strand to light up. I left it half-lit and went on to lighting another section of my roof only to achieve the same disheartening results. When the gimpy half of the strand went out, I lay my head on the shingles and muttered an unspeakable word to myself. Thanks to the acoustics of being high up on the roof, it was most likely not heard by only myself.


My second attempt to hang the lights came a week later when snow and ice had covered our house, making any attempt to mount the roof impossible. So, I had to use a rickety aluminium ladder. I always thought that I lived in a modestly sized house, but at 25 feet, swaying at the top of a frozen metal ladder whose feet are planted on shakingly frozen ground, it was as if I was mounting a bedazzle on top of a Tibetan obelisk. I could hear the siren call of death wanting to take me into its pepperminty sweet embrace. I had to consider what my priorities were- staying alive to love and support my young family, or playing chicken with death in order to make our home nominally more festive. Some slips, tumbles, electrocutions, prayers, and curses later, our house is now decorated and our electric bill is now exorbitant.


Next Year's Plan


Just last week, I prepared myself to join once again in a tradition that my wife and her family have. Every Christmas season, the family piles in a van and ventures out to see the lights that other, apparently more qualified men, men who do not fear death or the power company shutting them down, were able to display. In my mind, driving across the valley in treacherous winter conditions to get the same effect that we could all have if we sat staring at a single glowing light bulb in a dark room, seemed illogical. But, as is so often the case around Christmastime, Logic and Reason take a back seat to the impaired driving of Festive Pandemonium, so we went.


The traditional stops used to involve a string of about 6 or 7 houses. Some had animatronic Santas. Some relayed the Christmas story from yard to yard like the Stages of the Cross. Some had timed the lights on their house to flash to the beat of “Don’t Stop Believin’” This was of course when we could all fit into one van. Four grandchildren and several pounds later, we now squeeze ourselves into two separate vans for the excursion. It has now been reduced to one long trek to see the spectacle at a site about an hour away from our homes.


Thanksgiving Point, standing at the bridge between Utah County and Salt Lake County, was conceived and constructed about ten years ago with the sole purpose of stealing money from well-intentioned Mormon families. Its current scheme is a “drive-thru lite sho” where the light display involves literally an entire day’s worth of set-up from some day-laborers picked up down at the Home Depot. And yet, the minivans poured into this lighted shrine as if it were built by Kevin Costner. Once we finally got through and paid an unholy amount for the visit, bypassing the optional 3-D glasses (techincally, the lights are already in the third dimension, making this upsale ludicrous to say the least) our van crawled along the infrequently lit pathway. There were reindeers that flew across our car in three choppy stages. The eerie sound of children singing carols emanated from a cassette player somewhere in the distant field. And, after 20 minutes at what was technically a negative MPH, we thrust our car through the open and waiting lighted crotch of jolly old Saint Nick.


The ride home was made all the more pleasant by the screaming of both of my children who apparently had visions of sugarplums doing unspeakable acts dancing in their heads. We got home, enjoyed scones and cocoa, and then put the screaming children upstairs to nestle all snug, and still screaming, in their beds. As the throbbing in my head subsided along with the family in my home, I began to look forward in excitement to the beautiful day of December 26th. “Why are you such a grinch?” my wife implored on her way to bed, changing up the fictional villain to keep me on my toes.


Sitting in the tanning-bed glow of the Christmas tree, I first remembered the scars, mostly emotional, that putting up the gigantic artificial tree caused and the shed needles from it that we find in the most peculiar of orifices. Then I remembered how much joy it brings to my family seeing that tree as they make their way downstairs every morning of the month. I began to calm down and remember just what Christmas means. Though this would make for a good baby Jesus metaphor, my thoughts weren’t quite about that. They were about my own toddler who had just recently calmed down to a mostly-asleep wimpering. He just got so excited about seeing Christmas lights and Santa’s reindeer and all of the miserable affair, that he really just couldn’t control his emotions anymore. I thought about my even smaller child who could only sense how something special was happening with the new decorations and activities without really knowing what was going to come next. For them, as it was once for me, Christmas is the best time of the year and worth all of the waiting and anticipation throughout the rest of the year. Because of that, I realized that it was really worth it to me to put up with the extra work and worry that the season provides. I love my children so much and Christmas, above all, is a time to celebrate the love that we give and the love we receive.


In the interest of full disclosure, I got that last phrase from a poster hanging from the ceiling at the Walmart, just above the Snuggies.

Three sizes too small is a serious medical condition.

3 comments:

mh said...

I am reading Bag Stranded as I anxiously await Santa's arrival. I can't sleep, so I needed something to read. The best Christmas present so far, was that you finally posted something new! =) Merry Christmas Cameron! I am glad you ended it the way you did.

Kara said...

I enjoyed it like usual! Any good new years resolutions? Like maybe blogging a little more frequently? ;) (I only say it because it is a nice brake from the rest of my monotony-feel free to spell check. )

the b in subtle said...

thrilled to have discovered you, Cameron. i found you via Things I Want to Punch in the Face. your comment about the Sixth Sense was intriguing. i hadn't stayed obviously for the credits on that one. even though i, strangely, figured out he was a ghost in the first 15 minutes of the film, i think. i hate when i figure out the big twist early on. it kinda sucks. but it doesn't suck to have found your blog. happy new year to you, your patient wife and your two children... ;)