26 December 2005

The Pickle That Saved Christmas

When we arrived at my in-laws house, it was announced that there was a pickle ornament hidden somewhere in the house and whoever found it would receive a cash prize.

The next morning, I heard something rattling in the vent in the bathroom and thought it might be the pickle calling out to me, but it wasn't.

On Christmas Eve, we all got into our festive jammies, and Jeremy’s dad read The Night Before Christmas while the rest of us sat in a circle and passed gifts around every time he came to a “the” in the story. When it was over, we opened the package we were holding, each a different board game. Jeremy, who has grown a holiday beard, ended up with Jenga. I got Battleship, which brought back memories of playing the game with my sister when we were young.

It also made me remember the year when I was about six or seven and desperately wanted a Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop for Christmas. My letter to Santa was more pleading than ever that year, as the Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop was the ultimate of toys. First you took little plastic people heads and shoved globs of Play-Doh inside of them. Next you put them onto a plastic barber chair, turned a plastic crank, and made bright Play-Doh hair grow out of their heads. Then you could use little plastic scissors to cut and coif them into a hot pink or blue do. Who wouldn’t love a toy like that? This was sooo much better than the gigantic scary Barbie head with fake makeup that a lot of my friends had for their beauty parlor play time.

Well, Santa came through that year, as he usually did, but in my excitement I think I managed to break the Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop in about ten minutes and it sat in our hall closet for a very long time until I forgot about it.

This Christmas, I forgot about the pickle after a few days too, but in a fortunate turn of events Jeremy guessed that it was hidden inside of a globe in the dining room and won the pickle game. He also made me laugh a lot, watching him with his brothers. And Santa came through yet again, bringing me two brown paper packages tied up with string, just as I had hoped.

19 December 2005

Letter to Santa

I still remember when all I wanted for Christmas was my two front teeth. Now things have become so much more complicated. There’s fighting over parking spaces with possessive stare-downs between cars, lines fifteen people long and only two registers in use (one of the great mysteries of holiday shopping in my opinion.) There’s agonizing over that perfect gift, finally finding it and realizing you either can’t afford it, it’s the wrong size, or the wrong color. Then comes the rationalizing that Aunt Myrtle will actually love a hot pink turtleneck two-sizes too small, so you snatch it up for the marked-up Christmas price of $79.50 and decide you’ll worry about your credit card bill later.

I actually don’t have an Aunt Myrtle (that I know of.) But if I did, I would not buy her a tiny sweater. I would buy her a Chia Pet, mainly because I think Christmas (at least the consumerist side of it---which come on, let’s admit it, there’s a consumerist side much larger than there’s a Jesus side anymore) has lost its sense of humor. And I would love to see the words "Aunt Myrtle: Chia Pet" with a check mark next to it on my Christmas shopping list. That would bring me joy.

Jeremy and I were discussing this idea yesterday while weaving through parking lots in Cool Springs, a shopping area of town that couldn’t be more of a misnomer. There’s nothing relaxing or spa-like about it at all. We were discussing the fact that Christmas has become all about the gifts: the expectation of gifts, the quest for gifts, the purchasing of gifts, the pile of gifts, the unwrapping of gifts, the returning of gifts, and then by December 28th or so, the forgetting that there ever was such a big deal about gifts, until it happens all over again next year. And I was saying that I wonder if Christmas was just as “consumer-focused” when I was little but I was too young and enthralled with Santa and the magical hope of a tricycle to realize it, or if it has become increasingly this way throughout my lifetime. It definitely feels like it’s getting worse.

I do remember a day when there was joy and innocence (okay, maybe just a tinge of selfishness) in making my Christmas list. Afterall, in those days I thought little elves were creating my gifts out of thin North Pole air, and singing happily all the while. I knew nothing of maxed out Mastercards and ladies being mowed down in the middle of Wal-Mart so someone else could grab the last Tickle-Me-Elmo from her clutches.

In an effort to get back to a time when I remember Christmas being full of laughter and wonder and hope, here’s my letter to Santa Claus:

Dear Santa,

I hope you are doing well. Might I recommend a few classes of Pilates each week to trim up that middle section of yours. (I’m sure the thousands of plates of cookies you eat every Christmas Eve can’t be helping, but you really need to watch your consumption of trans-fats.) I realize this letter is a little bit late but if you can manage it in time, this year for Christmas there are a few things I would like:

1. Five more minutes with my dad.
2. A Christmas that truly remembers Christ.
3. Brown paper packages tied up with string.
4. Whirled Peas (or World Peace—whichever is more readily available)
5. And of course, my two front teeth…

…so I can wish you Merry Christmas.

P.S. Tell Rudolph I said hi.