Once upon a time, I worked in a used bookstore. It was located near a very popular shopping mall. Starting in October, traffic would steadily increase and by Thanksgiving it would routinely take me 20 minutes to putter a mile up the street to my on ramp. It was maddening. After spending the whole day reminding people that books don't need boxes to be neatly gift wrapped or breaking it to them that their precious Harlequin romance paperbacks are virtually worthless for resale, it was physically painful to sit in traffic surrounded by these same people who had been driving me crazy all afternoon. I would spend the month before Christmas crossing my fingers that my request for vacation would be honored, so that I could go home for the holidays. I would navigate the tense waters of workplace gift giving, while observing the gluttonous shopping habits of my co-workers and customers. It took a lot of emotional fortitude to maintain my positive Christmas spirit.
Traffic not-withstanding, what offended me the most in my retail experience was the drama and complaining and general vitriol I had to listen to about all things Christmas. It was decidedly un-jolly behavior. If you do not enjoy Christmas, why do you participate? And if you don't participate in the custom of giving gifts during the month of December, why are you shopping the weekend before Christmas? Go home and save yourself the aggravation. Oh, and I reject ALL the seasonal religious arguments because I LOVE the Christmas time of year and it has nothing, NOTHING to do with Jesus or super, long-lasting miracle oil or the winter solstice. I like Christmas because we all stop being assholes for a day and we give each other presents and eat cookies and ham together. Period.
When Violet was busy gestating and making me vomit, I celebrated my last Christmas at my family home. We knew that once she was born we would want her to enjoy the delicious custom of leaping out of her own bed and running down the hall in the pre-dawn light to wake her parents with a swift, unintended kick to the balls and an elbow to the face. It is how Christmas should be. I don't whine about the early hour or the black eye. My notoriously late sleeping mother drug her ass out of bed for the sake of me and my sister on Christmas morning and if she could do it anyone can. I don't get all wound up with worry about Christmas, because I simply choose not to. Of course, I no longer work outside of the home and that makes my conviction much easier to keep. When people complain about the this or that of modern Christmas I put my fingers in my ears and start humming Santa Baby. I replay in my head this perfect, composite Christmas morning scene that I have nurtured since childhood and breathe deeply.
The tree lights my way and I settle in front of it and just look. The lights twinkle. The tinsel shines.
The presents are stacked high.
I don't peek or shake boxes or