Tips for the Hopeless Humbug
íTis the season, yet again.
Are you merry? Well, sort of. And sort
Iíll bet the holidays are the same for
most adults. There is oh, so much to be done. Most of it involves
specialized work. And lots of money. This year, donít you think a tank of
gasoline would be a great gift to receive? Why donít we just all give each
other gas cards, and be done with it? If you want to proffer a more lavish
gift, well, how about a full tank of heating oil?
Which would you appreciate more: a)
yet another sweater, b) a
seventh bathrobe, or c) a pair of beef tenderloins and a couple gallons of
The real reason Iíve come to dread the
holidays, though, is not about money, or choosing the right gifts. It is the
empty chairs at the table.
Daddyís seat of honor has been vacant
for 18 years now. It doesnít seem that long. Then again, it seems like
forever. Momís chair has sat sadly empty for just three years. Since then,
I have not had the heart to decorate. That would entail fondling every one
of Momís handmade ceramic ornaments ó darling little stockings and
reindeer and mice (mice?), painted in bright, gay colors; the jolly Santa
she painted for Daddy, when we didnít know it would be his last Christmas.
How she managed to find a Santa with a pipe like Daddyís, I donít know;
I do know that I canít even open the box without weeping.
Lest you become discouraged and stop
reading ó who needs a downer holiday column? ó allow me to reveal the
true secret of acquiring the Christmas Spirit. If thoughts of the holidays
are making you blue, hereís a solution that worked wonders for me: Stop
looking inward and moping around; get out there and
First, I volunteered to work at the
community Thanksgiving feast. I donít know if your hometown has one, but
many do. This is a rewarding hoot, let me tell you. Everyone who has almost
no one ó and even those with someone ó gathers together around a table
groaning with sumptuous homemade goodies, and shares the traditional meal.
Everyone is smiling. There is quite a lot of laughter. No one goes hungry.
Take-home plates are loaded and boxed. Flowers and cakes are wrapped for
delivery to the nursing home or shut-ins.
Then, I heard the nursing home was
seeking new things to put in a holiday shop, so residents who could no
longer brave the malls and masses might have gifts to give when family came
to visit. This was fun! While I was there, I adopted three angels from the
tree. I then had people to shop for, and the shopping was a joy! When
someoneís three greatest wishes are a warm nightgown, some soft socks, and
a book of word puzzles, well, you want to give them that, and lots more!
On a roll now, I volunteered to shop for
the Christmas Mother program. Who knew shopping could be so much fun? Who
knew the staff and managers of discount mega-stores could be so helpful and
patient and accommodating?
Finally drunk with holiday spirit, I got
home and raced to the basement to forage around for a few decorations. I had
one particular thing in mind: the foot-high lighted ceramic Christmas tree
Mom and Daddy made me about 25 years ago. That, I figured, would dress up
the place. If guests dropped by, I did not want them to think me a humbug,
now that I felt like Scrooge on Christmas morning.
I rummaged through every box, yet could
not find it. Finally, I gave up and went to run a few errands. I arrived
back home to find that my friend and housekeeper had actually bought me a
tree, put it up in the living room, and decorated it. Is that not the most
shining example of the true spirit of Christmas?
I feel it was Momís spirit who sent me
to the basement shortly after New Yearís on another search for something,
because there it was, right where it should have been: the ceramic Christmas
tree. I cannot wait to put it up, early, this year. I cannot wait to forage
through those boxes for decorations crafted with love. I know Iíll cry,
but I bet Iíll be laughing, too.
Happy holidays, everyone. May you have
lots more laughter than tears!