December 23, 2009
Mall Santas Don't Try Anymore
When experienced as an adult, Christmas has a tendency to lose a little something in translation.
Remember the magic of waking in the morning with the taste of anticipation and suspense warring on your tongue? Perhaps you still believed that a hefty fella could fit down your chimney (provided you had one) or that a thick gloved man could jimmy open the back door without setting off security alarms (assuming you had those) or at the very least that a red-attired dude could squeeze through the bathroom window to the obliviousness of your neighbors (despite them being ex-Russian spies like ours).
How fast did you fly out of your covers, creating enough static in your Superman or My Little Pony feety pajamas to fuel the mid-Atlantic region, and zoom (and I do mean Zoom) to the living room where tree and presents and grinning parents await? Even the realization that Santa did not bring the goodies did not deter your enjoyment of, shall we say, GETTING STUFF.
Because that's the name of the commercialization game, right? STUFF.
But not in our household. Being on the lesser end of the economic pool as we were, the gifts did not reach the ceiling. Our tree was not real, rather a three-and-a-half foot contraption weighed down with fake snow. And there was, let's face it, not many ways that a giant red-clad jolly guy was sneaking into a single-wide trailer without waking the entire neighborhood (since they were, like, six inches away).
But here's the thing...
We always got what we wanted. The spirograph, hoppy hop and sit & spin were among my still-favorite surprises. The tree was always beautiful, with the red garland dad insisted on, hovering over the more perfect platform you've ever seen (and I'm talking lit buildings, tee pees and a jet black train). Dad would spend eternity and back on the pine fencing, gluing one piece at a time until the old fashioned trim wound around the full length of felt-covered plywood. They don't do THAT at the stores!
One year, my mom-mom bought my sister and I porcelain dolls. Even in the throes of Alzheimer's, she knew that I should have the brunette one while my sister got the blond one. Even today, when I look at that doll I get goosebumps.
As an adult, it becomes mandatory to hand the magic off to the next generation. Now we are the engineers, helping Santa down the chimney, through the door or past the window. We wrap until our fingers spit curses for the paper cuts. We get manhandled by the crowds when, like this year, shopping had to be put off for a 12-20 inch snow storm. And we're the ones who grin as our offerings are torn open while simultaneously praying that the present doesn't end up at the bottom of the toy box by next week. There's a bit of competition amongst family members now; who'll have the preferred gift?
I don't have children (other than the furry sort) so I play Christmas with the nieces and nephews. I suppose it's not the same, but it's what I've got and being the Cool Aunt doth so totally rock. Still, when I scoot from my bed tomorrow morning, I'll be missing the feety pajamas, the tree and the surprise. My house will look no different, the price of having tree-climbing cats, destructive dogs and no kiddies for whom to deck the joint out.
Oh look... the melancholy fairy!
I'm not complaining. Because I have memories of close knit Christmas mornings where five people who really only had each other in this world would Oh and Ah over the number of presents that somehow my financially struggling parents managed to buy. We were never disappointed. And we had each other, something we lack a bit right now. I think that's the womb from which my melancholy has sprung. But my parents still have that same snow-covered tree and while there's no platform this year, there's always the chance next time. My parents' tree-topping angel, the same one they had thirty nine Christmases ago, has never needed a bulb replacement. And I'm still greeted with warm hugs when I arrive for Christmas dinner, although such squishy embraces are a year round thing.
The point? Hang on, let me search under the white tree for it...
Oh yes! The point is that Christmas is no longer surprising, but that shouldn't mean the magic is lost. Santa still drives by on the back of a fire engine, waving to the shivering masses at the curbside and if you close your adult eyes, you just might feel a little something mingling in with the sirens and exhaust fumes. Today my roomie and I entered the Super Walmart (I know... tragic) and a departing woman offered us her cart. Roomie took that as a trick to avoid putting her cart away and that may be so, but I've got just enough holiday spirit to think perhaps she was just being kind.
Because kindness is a big chunk of what the season is supposed to mean (along with love and peace and all that rot). In the end, it's a choice... will you see the worst in human throngs mobbing every aisle in a world where Santa never really came down your chimney (or door or window) or will you accept that, in the midst of commercialized madness, there's still something to be gained by childlike faith and enough optimism to fill a stocking?
I choose to cultivate Holiday Happiness!