Monthly Archives: December 2012

Why Big Brothers Are the Best Christmas Presents

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Those of you who have big brothers know that there are two varieties: The kind that love their younger siblings, those who dream of being an only child and those who are bad at math.

I have two older brothers, one of each. My oldest brother is the first kind. He’s good at math as well, but that’s another story. This story is about how a teen-aged boy extended the Santa Claus season for his little sister out of pure good will.

I don’t remember how I made the leap from believer to non-believer, where Santa is concerned. There was no heart-breaking epiphany. There was a great deal of swearing while putting up our yearly tree, I remember that. I remember my mother was prone to odd gifts, such as a bottle of dandruff shampoo for my middle brother and a wildly disappointing statue of St. Francis of Assisi in lieu of a doll. I suppose I could have tried wrangling a dress on the white porcelain figurine, but there are very few dollie clothes made for emaciated saints. (Google it if you doubt me.)

We were not a family prone to traditions, but there were a few we held dear like waiting outside the bathroom door as my mother took a leisurely shower on Christmas morning. We were not allowed to travel downstairs to see what Santa had brought until my mother was cleaner than the nail beds of a surgeon with OCD. I understand now that it was a ploy to heighten the excitement, but at the time I had to wonder what my mother did on Christmas Eve that necessitated such a thorough scrubbing.

There was the tradition, which felt more like a rule which made it a criminal offense to open presents while another member of the family was doing so. Imagine my shock the first time I shared Christmas with my Italian in-laws as they laid waste to a display of presents big enough to make Santa go into another line of work.

In the time it took to say, “Merry Chr-” the presents were opened and categorized and the paper tossed into waiting garbage bags. That year, because I was a newcomer I had little to open so I was handed one of my fiance’s gifts which turned out to be underpants which sported the phrase, “Home of the Whopper.” Coming from a family which pretended that no one owned genitals, this was also a stunner. (At this time, I’d like to congratulate myself for most likely being the only writer to use the word genitals in a Christmas themed work unless you count the pay-per-view movie, “Santa’s Ho-Ho-Hos.)

Anyway, back to my brother, who had a paper route as many brother’s did in the sixties. (Whatever happened to paper boys? What do they do for money now? Are they somehow making money with the dozens of single socks missing from dryers across America or is it something more maniacal?)

Early one Christmas morning, I was deeply asleep when my brother came and sat on the edge of my bed and whispered my name. He had a secret to tell and as everyone knows, if you’re big brother shares a secret, you have hit the jackpot of self-esteem.

I could tell he was excited; his eyes were wide and his mouth was slightly agape with just a small smile at the corners. This had to be big. Being of the teenage persuasion, my brother was not easily impressed, even with the idea that an enormous bunny snuck into our house on Easter Eve, took our colored, hard-boiled eggs, along with pounds of chocolate, and scattered them about for us to find and eat on Easter without any of us ending up in the ER with salmonella poisoning.

He leaned in a bit, so as not to be heard by the other members of my family, who were not as special as I was at that moment. My stomach began to curl around like the kind of ribbon you zip scissors over to make it twist into a pretty coil, but you can never do it effectively so you end up with a limp and frayed piece of holiday cheer that you cast aside with a snarl and the kind of words associated with installation of Christmas trees.

It was just becoming light outside, I might have seen some lollygagging stars had I looked out the window. But my eyes were pinned on my big brother’s face who was about to give me some kind of spectacular news.

“I was coming back from my paper route,” he began. I knew that because he smelled like winter air when the season cracked with cold and snow began accumulating in mid November and didn’t completely vanish until Mother’s Day, but I said nothing, most likely because I was holding my breath.

“I was riding back home and when I got here,” he continued. “I saw something in the sky, over our house.”

I skittered up to a sitting position, pulling in my knees and wrapping my arms around them; this was going to be big. Maybe even better than the time he took me to Ben Franklin and, with his paper route money, let me pick out a Barbie outfit.

I know what you’re thinking now, especially if you’ve ever been a little girl. OMG, you’re thinking, your brother was actually born on Christmas morning 2000 years ago. No, he was just a regular brother in that he wasn’t the Savior, but he also gave me the last pop tart once when I had greedily eaten my share the morning before, so he was pretty close.

On this particular morning, however, he was going to return something to me that I was about to willingly toss away, not understanding its value; the certainty that Santa Claus was a flesh and blood person and the twinkling delight that goes along with that knowledge. He polished the tarnish of my impending disbelief and handed it back shiny and true.

“I saw Santa,” he told me in a way that could have one him an Oscar had he done it on film and not under the canopy of his little sister’s bed. “He was just flying away when I got home.”

This had to be true. My brother didn’t lie, not to me anyway. My parents were another story, as I said he was a teenager in the sixties.

What a revelation! I had begun to think that the story of a guy who lived up in the North Pole with a couple dozen elves who made all the toys, even misguided statues of St. Francis, and then flew across the rooftops of every single child who believed in him in a single night, despite the time zone changes was a little fishy. But, it had to be true and I was as sure as a three-year-old that the benevolent Santa had been to my house that Christmas Eve and would return thereafter.

Of course, Santa eventually had to cross me off his list, (apparently Santa stops visiting once a person gets married,) but I never stopped believing. When I see him at the mall, I still get that curly stomach feeling I got when I was a little girl and Santa came to my house. He often winks at me and waves, because he can see I still believe, Santa knows these things and so do big brothers.

Merry Christmas, Kim and to all.

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Why People Standing in Line to See Santa Will Hate Me

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Why People Standing in Line to See Santa Will Hate Me

I’m about to say something so subversive, so controversial, that many of you will become incensed and never read anything written by me again; not only these attempts at humor, but hard news such as: Asteroid Headed Toward Particular Person’s House and No One Else’s. Details Below. (I also have a novel I’ve been working on so you can avoid that one as well, just in the spirit of full disclosure.) Are we all clear? I’m going to say this and once you’ve read this, you can’t unread it. OK. Here goes; your kid does not need to sit on Santa’s lap.

There are those of you who are suddenly exhausted and that’s from the adrenaline that is now draining from your system because you were expecting rage and you’re now puzzled and slightly disappointed. “Of course, Shehe (a unisex name) doesn’t need to see Santa,” You’re probably saying as you wipe the sweat from your eye. “Shehe wants to.”

“In fact ,” You continue. “Little Shehe has a list, adorably scribbled with crayon on my finest stationary. to present to the real Santa, even though, since Macy’s ate up Marshall Field’s, the Chicago tykes are out of luck.”

I agree with you about Marshall Field’s and remember stationery? Many us, mostly women had matching sheets of paper which coördinated with the envelopes which we used to correspond with one another, not because it was charming, but because phone calls were very expensive and we wanted to be sure another person hadn’t been dragged away by a sabre tooth tiger or other prehistoric animal. The paper was an expense but lighter than the stone tablets we had used prior.

Yes, you’re right, I was stalling. I had something to say and you misunderstood and I could leave it at that, but since I’ve come this far…

Shehe doesn’t have to sit on Santa’s lap and sometimes…sometimes Shehe doesn’t want to sit on Santa’s lap and here’s why: Although Santa seems benevolent and harmless on TV and in books and the occasional really atrocious movie, (why are movies and programs about Santa, made before the 1970s almost always heartwarming and reassuring if you don’t count Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and thereafter, a little off putting and less then friendly. Even Tom Hanks, who my husband credits for everything good, is a little scary in The Midnight Express.)

Anyway, that’s my opinion.

Yes, you’re right, I not only left the last paragraph concerning Santa unfinished but I’m trying to weasel out on the premise of this column, which is…stop forcing your small person to sit on the laugh of the jolly old elf at the mall. First of all, he’s hardly an elf, he’s lest elfin than your average football player, even if that football player is European and is actually a player of soccer because Americans are always right about stuff.

Don’t misunderstand me and I couldn’t blame you if you did, because my writing tends to make so many twists and turns that it might be perceived as not having a point when it simply has no map. If your small-sized person, or even Santa matching person, wants to sit on Santa’s lap, (Santa presumably knew what he was getting into when he signed up to be jolly and not take notice of anyone’s weight,) then that person should have a set on Mr Claus’s ample lap and read off their wish list. For those of you who want to stay longer than it takes to accomplish this, remember, Santa has security.

However, if your very tiniest of human beings writes out their list, begs to visit Santa, which requires driving, not only over the river but through the darn woods which don’t have street lights and then parking amidst people who consider finding the a spot akin to proving their worth as a human being (see if it’s me before you give me the proverbial finger,) making your way through shoulder to shoulder shoppers who are waiting for one more shove before going all rabid badger on people and then standing in a line long enough to make you think that Paul McCartney may be giving out kisses at the other end, (I thought I’d give Chris Martin a break, plus I’m not a big sharer, in addition to the fact that Paul McCartney is the longest living cute boy and therefore I, as would many, get in the longest of lines to receive a kiss and tell him how I love him more than all my fellow liners,) only to find, that once your tot is face to face with Santa, the old guy strikes terror into their tiny heart, please, please give them a tiny break.

There, I’ve said it. Said what? You missed it? Well, I surely didn’t mean for that to happen! Well, bless us everyone and Merry Christmas!

All right, what I, in essence, said was; stop handing your frantically terrified less-than-adult person to a strange man and demanding that they sit atop his enormous lap and stay there while evidence is attained before taking them home and tucking them into bed and leaving them to their vision of large, white haired men carrying them off while their parents wave and take pictures.

There, I’ve said it. I’m sure some of you are angry and maybe even accusing me of being a socialist for whatever reason, but that’s my stand and I’m sticking to it, mostly because I’ve been eating Christmas treats while writing this and finding that typing and candy are not only mutually exclusive but, most likely and expensive fix.

I have this tirade once a year with little to no support, much like those boys at the barricade in Les Miz. Something usually sparks my indignation on behalf of my favorite sub-section of people: the little people made from scratch in homes (and less than savory locations) across the nation who have yet to differentiate between fantasy and reality and I don’t mean my mom, although she would qualify.

We all know the real Santa Claus is a person who lives up North and is currently wondering if Global Warming is going to make his home and workplace into a lake side villa. At the same time, he is generally loving the children of the world and making plans to sneak into their homes in the middle of the night to leave items in accordance with their behavior which he has been monitoring and judging during the previous year. He’s just that jolly!

Why should that scare little folks? Who knows! They’re probably a little put off at Halloween when, dressed up as princesses and superheroes, they travel door-to-door to receive candy when someone suddenly some one arises from dead leaves with a meat cleaver and threatens to murder them. They can be sensitive as a group.

So, how about, when your child cuddles up with Santa to tell him what they hope to find under the tree, we take a photo to cry over when they are old enough to have children of their own but don’t, just to spite you. And, when they go rigid with fear, pee their pants and beg their primary caregiver not to deliver them over to the focus of their fear, how about we either sit with them, (giving adults the chance to hand over their list of Christmas desires which will probably send the old guy skittering into obscurity) or let them stand close to, but not on top of, Santa, or, tip our hats (go on, do it, it feels so Fred Astaire-y) wish Kris Kringle a Merry Christmas and try again next year?

Or not.

Why Men Should Read This Before December 24

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So, December’s here and we’re all done shopping, now what should we do? I’m kidding of course. If you’re completely done shopping, nobody likes you. Kidding again, of course. People only dislike you if you’re done shopping and brag about it.

I have to admit, I’m almost done, which should impress you because I’m a woman, which says a couple of things about me, gift-wise. One, I have more shopping to do than your average male persuasion and two, I’ve done none of my shopping at the grocery store and, will most likely not do any gift shopping there, even on the traditional HCCiT (Holy Crap, Christmas is Tomorrow?) Day, which is mostly observed by those with a Y chromosome.

I understand I’m being unfair to you dudes who started shopping in September, purchasing thoughtful and unique gifts for everyone on your shopping list, including your mom, without consulting with the females in your life, but that’s only because none of you guys have done that.

The truth is, only 23% of men have bought even half of their Christmas purchases by December 23 and only 42% will have completed their gift shopping by December 24, which is why they made Walgreen’s. (Yes, I made up those statistics based on my experience, although I will deny this if called upon to testify in court on the matter. I don’t fear perjury charges because I’m fairly certain there is no penalty for making up statistical research or political pollsters would need their own prison.)

At this time, I want to mention that my husband has offered up some pretty great Christmas gifts and I, in no way am insinuating or coming right out and saying that he has ever visited Jewel on the night before the holiday. He saves those trips for my birthday and our anniversary.

Last Christmas was the year of the Coldplay tickets which has given him at least another five years of bragging rights. However, for those of you guys who have yet to shop for the women in your life, I’m going to do you a solid and advise you, thus making it possible for you to attend this year’s Christmas Eve celebration without the anxious feeling that comes with not knowing if the drug store is still open.

The first rule about buying the perfect gift for your lady friend is that there are no rules. While one woman would open a box with a hand sander in it and proceed to test it out on you LP collection, another might squeal and offer you thanks that need to be whispered so as not to trouble the children.

It’s been my experience, however, that the majority of women do not enjoy gifts that imply that work needs to be done and that her significant other is politely pointing this out by supplying the tools with which to do so. Here’s a quick, but not complete list of items most women will take as a hint and therefore, hate you on Christmas morning.

Irons
Vacuums
washing machines
lingerie

Once again, to illustrate the yin and yang of the gift giving conundrum, I asked for a vacuum one year and received it. I was planning to feign surprise just for fun, but my son, who was four at the time, informed me that he was going to keep quiet about the vacuum I would soon be receiving from daddy just as daddy had asked him to do. I was more amused by this than his father.

Another consideration is that most women will retaliate in some insidious way and when you least expect it if you purchase a gift which appears to be less for her than, say…you. For instance, if my husband bought me season tickets to an sports related activity, I would be less than pleased, which is to say, I’d make an appointment with a lawyer. My sisters-in-law, on the other hand, would do the happy dance. If you are a married man and don’t know which type of response you would get in this situation, there is no accounting or sympathy for you when you end up permanently damaged.

Clothes or jewelry are a good choice, so long as you include a gift receipt and promise not to pout when she uses it. In fact, you should thing of these items more as a gift certificate, which is always appreciated.

There are those women who simply make a list and hand it over in a timely fashion thus insuring that she will get something she would have bought herself and thereby saving disappointment and hard feelings on Christmas morning. This takes all the fun out of gift giving, but to each their own.

In my opinion, and I am never wrong, most women want a gift that says; I know who you are, I listen to you, I want you to be happy without consideration of cost or difficulty of obtainability. I want you to offer up your feelings in the form of a wrap-able gift, but only if your feelings do not need to be discussed with a psychiatrist.

Clear enough? Just make it perfect. Don’t screw up because this is life or death stuff. No pressure and no Walgreen’s. Good luck and godspeed.

Why I’m Thankful Post-Thanksgiving

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So, on Thanksgiving, did you go around the table expressing your gratitude? (Prepare for a series of run on sentences. In fact, as Dave Letterman says, “Hold on to your wigs and keys.)) Although we didn’t say it aloud, I’m sure we were all grateful that the burn I got my stomach from nudging a pan of rolls out of my way because my hands were full and my counter more full because the sink backed up and we were unable to cycle the dishes through the dishwasher didn’t mean a trip to the ER where the people who didn’t cook their turkey properly were less than appetizing to be around.

Speaking of thankfulness, and despite what it may seem for the next few sentences, I am speaking of thankfulness; you know how when someone says something to you and you fumble around in your brain looking for Oscar Wilde or at least Groucho Marx and can only come up with the neighbor kid who answers every question with “huh?”? And then, in the middle of the night, when you wake up to worry about vitally important stuff like, should I bring my jacket back the tailor that hemmed the sleeves a good half-inch higher than my wrists or fold shirt sleeves back over the cuff and act like I mean it? You know how, during that same time of the night when TV used to play the national anthem and go off the air, but now airs commercials starring people who can’t sleep because they’re on crack so you don’t bother watching and instead come up with the perfect in-your-face comeback which is not only witty, but thoughtful with the ability to change a persons entire perspective to that of your own, which is the only the only rational point of view? You know how that works, Sparky? That’s how I am when someone asks me a complicated question like, what’s your favorite song or what are you grateful for?

So, when my husband asked me what I was thankful for during our Thanksgiving meal, I could only come up with the fact that my little dog seems feel better and therefore was not urping during dinner. Now that I’ve had a few days to think, I have a much better answer, at least in my opinion. Here are the highlights.

I’m thankful there are so many mind-blowing, reality warping, tear provoking, danceable songs that I can’t come up with just one favorite. I’m grateful that composers can still write new music with the same handful of notes. I’m really grateful that my son is one of them and that everyone who hears his music agrees he’s a freaking genius. OK, not everyone, most people are just impressed with his musical abilities and skills as a conversationalist however, me, his dad, his grandparents, his godmother and some of our life-long friends are in agreement that his is a musical force to be reckoned with. (Please, if you care anything for me, don’t tell him I called him a musical genius as this seems to annoy him.) He’s also adorable.  Buy his CD.
I’m grateful that the election is over and more so, that the election commercials are gone, at least for a few months when the next cycle will begin.

I’m grateful that out latest attendance of the musical Les Miserables is over, because, no matter how astonishing the talent, how evocative the set design, how sweeping the epic, how memorable the music, in the long run, we are paying an enormous amount of money to attend a show with the title, Les Miserables, which translated means get ready to lose hope in everything good in the world. You should go see it. It was sensational and I’m still dehydrated from participating in the mass weeping. What greater tribute is there than that?

I am, as I mentioned, thankful that, after a bill from our vet which fell somewhere between ouch and BWOING, my little dog is feeling well enough to be irritating again.

I’m grateful that my husband made it possible for me to attend the best concert I’ve ever seen. Had I paid to see Coldplay with my own nickels and dimes I would currently be questioning whether I had actually seen Coldplay. Considering the fact that he has seen me slap my hand over my mouth and squeal at the sight of Chris Martin and still loves me enough to pay for me to scream at Mr. Martin in person, that and his charming good looks make him the best husband ever.

I’m grateful that (hang on while I knock on wood) that I have thus far evaded my regular head bashing which I have scheduled nearly every decade whether I need it or not. Thus far, I’ve had three skull related car accidents and one collision with a porch railing when I was short enough to run headlong into a railing. If we ever meet, ask to see my dent.

I’m thankful for the editors who remember I have a car payment.

I’m grateful to those of you who take the time to read my essays which, in case you’ve been thus far unaware, were meant to be funny. I’m especially grateful to those who’ve let me know that they realized this.

And finally, I’m also grateful for my ability to grant wishes to those of you who shared my blogs. Spread the word and bless us, every one.