My Shopping’s Done. You?

Pardon me while I wax nostalgic such that it’s all shiny and the water on it bubbles up to where you could use it to wrap fragile mailings, but Christmas just isn’t what it used to be.  It probably has something to do with my considerable and snowballing oldness and its accompanying cantankerous irritability.  Get off my lawn, by the way.

When you’re a kid every Christmas is like, well…Christmas.  It was an enchanted time of sugarplums and fairies and sugarplum fairies and more sugar but not quite so many fairies.  They were days of innocence in which an infant could travel to grandma’s in the back window of an LTD and if you sat too close to the fire in your PJ’s they would melt right onto your skin.  It was back when it was perfectly safe to drape a month-old, dried-out evergreen tree in the same red-hot incandescent light bulbs we used in toy ovens to bake tasty treats.

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Ah, the good ol’ days, when ads reflected the true meaning of Christmas–without a rendition of
‘Carol of the Bells.’
Photo from

It was back when you got up before the sun to see what Santa brought and had to use more than your thumbs to play with it; when ‘cancelling Christmas’ was all the plot you needed to show that the villain was pure evil.  It was when GI Joe had a beard and the hotly contested debate of the day was how many Sleestaks it would take to defeat the Frito Bandito; back when hospital visits were less about overdoses and more about Lawn Jarts, Clackers and jumping over your sister’s Inchworm with your Big Wheel—as inspired by someone named Evel.  It was back when Lief Garret and Farrah Fawcett had the same hair, you could see the skin on the arms of professional athletes, and you could freely walk the streets of New York packing a Big Gulp.

I still remember the first Christmas I actually bought gifts for my family.  They were candy bars.  To see my dad’s face light up at the prospect of digging into his 3 Musketeers made my heart swell like a Medicaid budget.  And making my gifts was even more meaningful.  My dad still has and uses a pencil holder I made him from an old Crisco can that I painted pink and adorned with my first-grade imagination’s likeness of a drunken Foster Brooks.  It was indeed a magical time.

But that was before; before we knew whistling “White Christmas” was racist and donning gay apparel was what you did before a pride parade.  It was before you had to wake up in advance of going to bed Thanksgiving evening so you could elbow your way to be the first to give your money to Chinese manufacturers; before coffee was good for you, then bad for you, and now good for you again; before crack was something you smoked and instead was what you avoided stepping on for the sake of your mother’s well-being; before ‘chestnuts’ had the connotation of Baywatch addiction.

It was a time before everything had an agenda; before tolerance meant agreement, moral meant boring, and victimizers of society were victims of society.  It was before it became frowned upon to talk about real reasons why and before individual uniqueness became a fad that everyone was doing.  It was before you had to take something from your ear to carry on a conversation (should you not be able to text, chat, or facebook), before we began to wonder why our children are socially inept, and before we had to drive somewhere to play.

Nowadays Christmas has very little to do with Christmas and is instead all about bells, trees, reindeer, figgy pudding, and frenetic consumption, which I think is why a recent survey found that 45% of Americans would just as soon skip Christmas altogether.   You can probably count me in that number; I suppose Mitt Romney would call me a 45%er.  Why fight through a crowd of menopausal grandmas to get your kid the latest Feel-Me-Up Elmo (the box of which he will find more entertaining) for the sake of celebrating the proximity of the sun?   Why wait in line all day at a place called an ‘Apple Store’ looking for that perfect gift to celebrate one’s ethnic heritage only to find out that they don’t even sell apples?

Sure such celebrations can be fun and reason enough to sing songs on neighbor’s porches about mythical characters breaking and entering, but to be truly meaningful, a celebration has to revolve around a uniquely singular event such as a wedding…or the birth of a child…or a Democrat cutting spending.

And gifts should come from the heart; something that’s on par with the event you are commemorating; something that says something about yourself and your relationship with the recipient.  This is why I have spent the entire last year of my travels collecting different peas from around the world to present to my family and friends.  I mean, who wouldn’t be happy with the gift of world peas?

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