At every Thanksgiving get-together in my adult life, there’s been one constant – a troll who pulls their sorry ass up to the table. It’s either the drunken uncle, the out-of-wedlock pregnant niece who just loves her abusive boyfriend or the bigoted brother in law, but they’ve never failed to arrive. In the past, I have promised my hostess (the woman who has loved me like a mother) that I would not engage in the baiting sure to take place. The troll showed up as usual but this year, I had a pleasant surprise – he arrived sporting a black eye.
I have a poker face and I know when to use it, but I just couldn’t help myself this time. I had to ask, in that moment of silence after the blessing… “Hey, Randy! Nice shiner! Where’d you get it?” I caught the disapproving look from Mom but chose to ignore it. Maybe I asked a little too gleefully, but he smiled and gave me some lame excuse about working on a project in his basement and hitting himself in the eye with a dull wire stripper. As guests arrived late to the feast, I would hear others ask how he got the bruise. I would immediately pipe in, “I’m not sure, but I know there was a stripper involved!” *More disapproving glances from Mom. In the end, he took my ribbing with grace and his shiner was a wonderful distraction from his usual conversation. This year, I didn’t have to hear about the color of our President because it pretty much matched the color of his left eye. Poor Randy was half-black this year too and it took the steam out of his Fox News talking points. I’m pretty sure I’m still in deep shit with Mom, since she had to excuse herself to lie down after dinner with a headache, but I had the best Thanksgiving I can remember in a long time. One down… one to go.
Now for Christmas – the holiday I once looked forward to with childlike eagerness has been whored-out by capitalism and greed. As I write this, it is Black Friday – traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year. Last night, hundreds of people slept on the sidewalk in pop-up tents outside the local Best Buy so they could be first in the queue to purchase the very few hot deals the retailer had advertised. They sell some hot electronic for a ridiculously low price, but they only have 10 of them in stock, permitting them to bait and switch the consumers who stampede the doors when they open at 6 a.m. One can’t help but think of the Occupy protesters across the country who have had their encampments bulldozed because they’re creating some sort of health hazard by sleeping in a tent. I saw no police presence, bulldozers or pepper spray outside the local Best Buy. It would seem that if you’re camping out to
part with your hard-earned dollars to feed a greedy corporation, camping out is perfectly legal. If you’re camping out to protest the greed of big business, then the police, who have sworn to serve and protect the general public are transformed into a private security force for the 1%. I personally think a stampeding herd of people who, in the past few years have killed and maimed other shoppers and store employees in the name Christmas (it’s all about Jesus, right?), are a far greater threat than someone sitting in a park with a tent and a protest sign. But that’s just me.
I’m sick of what Christmas has become. I’m single and have no children or grandchildren. For years, I have felt guilted into buying something for every single member of the family, plus their children, plus their in-laws who have gathered for Christmas. I have spent thousands of dollars making sure I didn’t look like a bad guy taking care of a throng of people. And I don’t think Christmas is about material things, but nothing pisses me off more than doling out all that money to buy ‘things’, only to be told “Money was tight this year, so we didn’t get you anything. But you’re single, so you don’t need anything. We knew you’d understand.” Well, yes, I do understand about money being tight. I don’t understand how being single and childless means I have everything I need. It isn’t about getting ‘things’, but you couldn’t bake something or have your children make me a homemade card that I would have saved forever and treasured? Being single and childless doesn’t mean that I get to be dismissed as a persona non grata for Christmas and this has happened more years in a row than I can remember.
So this year – I’ve started a new tradition in my single, childless home. It’s called getting back to the basics for Christmas. This year, everyone will receive a homemade card expressing my love for them and homemade goodies made by my own chubby little hands. Period. There will be no checks or $100 bills floating out of those cards as in years past. Just the card. Just the cookies. Just the homemade jams. Nothing else. And if any one of them don’t like it, they can piss off. The kids aren’t babies anymore. The youngest is in high school and the rest are in college. Not one of them will take the time or make the effort to even give me a card, because the gathering around the tree will be all about the ‘things’ they’re going to get. I never wanted anything but their love and understanding and I couldn’t even get that at the one time of year when that’s really what we’re supposed to be offering one another. I never read anything in the Bible about the Black Friday deals at Best Buy. Jesus is the reason for the season, my fat ass… anyone who’s done the tiniest amount of reading knows Christmas is based on a pagan holiday and Biblical scholars, while they can’t agree exactly when Jesus was born, all agree it wasn’t in December.
Do yourselves a favor, folks. Put away your credit cards. Take the stress out of Christmas and declare a moratorium on commercialism. If we really want to express the true spirit of the holiday, we will break bread with loved ones, raise our glasses and share expressions of true gratitude for having them in our lives. If you want to go a step further, volunteer at a soup kitchen or take a bag of desperately needed groceries down to the local food pantry where there are more families than ever who will love you for it, regardless of never knowing who made the donation. Go to your local nursing home and read to a resident who never gets any visitors. Take a moment to thank a neighbor for just being a good neighbor. Thank your local veterinarian for helping all of the people whose pets needed his help but couldn’t pay him in full for services rendered in this trying economy. I know mine has been an angel to so many. But I implore you, do not, I repeat, do not go in debt to feed into guilt or the commercialized idea of what Christmas has become. People with kids will challenge me that this just can’t be done – but what better way to lead by example than to take your children with you as you do these noble things? There are far better uses of your money, your time, and the spirit that I just know resides in each of us – the spirit of truly giving of yourselves. I hope you all get through it. For the first time in a long time, I damned sure will.
Carol Baker is a political writer, satirist, and co-host with Vicki Childs of our Here Women Talk weekly internet talk radio show called BROADSIDED. You can hear their show every Thursday at 11 am Eastern/10 Central/8 Pacific.