Ralphie: No! No! I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!
Santa Claus: You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.
– A Christmas Story
Well, it’s Christmas time again, and all the frantic shopping and wrapping and tearing apart of toys, electronics, clothing, jewelry, and gift cards will soon be over. Ribbon will be flung, boxes crushed, paper shredded, hopes dashed, and lives ruined, just because there weren’t enough iPods to go around. The holiday season tends to sneak up on you from behind, as if you’ve got a nasty case of the hiccups, and your loopy Uncle Bob is trying to scare the bejeezus out of you. AAUGGHHH!!! Are you CRAZY? I’m not ready! What are you doing?! I almost had a heart attack! Are you TRYING to scare the bejeezus outta me?! You’re never ready for it. You don’t see it coming. And yet it gets you, every single time. You might as well just face it, whip out that Mastercard, pull on those fuzzy slippers, pour yourself a stiff eggnog, and give in. Give in to the gingerbread, toffee, popcorn balls, nutty fudge, sugar cookies, hot cocoa, candy canes, candied fruit, candied yams, and cocktails a’plenty. Look at it this way, at least you’ve got a couple months to recover before Valentine’s Day.
Charlie Brown: Rats. Nobody sent me a Christmas card today. I almost wish there weren’t a holiday season. I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?
– A Charlie Brown Christmas
There are some holiday traditions that you just look forward to every year. “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, for example, with Vince Guaraldi’s timeless score, the “Grinch”, “Scrooge”, and the classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Some of us set aside a whole box of Kleenex for that one. We yearn for the smell of pine trees and pies baking, the sound of bells and children’s laughter, and the sight of multi-colored lights strung on cozy houses. For most people, these are what Christmas memories are all about. Well, most NORMAL people. And then there are those who bring a whole new meaning to the “spirit of giving.” Those who start shopping in March. Those who wear out their Visas by Mother’s Day. Those who cram their car trunks to the point of explosion. Those who buy so much frickin’ STUFF, they can’t seem to locate half the 97 gifts they purchased throughout the year. Those who devote entire bedrooms to said purchases. Those people who can’t be stopped, reasoned with, or talked to during a 25% off department store sale. In particular, people like my roommate’s mother. We’ll call her Margaret.
Harry Bailey: A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town.
Clarence: Remember, George: No man is a failure who has friends.
– It’s a Wonderful Life
Now, we love Margaret. She is quite fabulous. She makes a damn good potato cheese soup, has a well-stocked bar, and a jolly good laugh, much like St. Nick himself. Unfortunately, she’s also laboring under the complete misapprehension that she IS, in fact, Santa. Sometimes we wonder about the wiring in her platinum head. Or the number of platinum place settings she owns. Or just how many platinum credit cards are stuffed into her over-flowing wallet. To quote Holly Golightly, “I must say, the mind reels.” Margaret is a professional shopper. Well, she doesn’t do it for a living, but she easily could. And she’s got the wardrobe to prove it. And the shoe collection. And the artwork. And the table linens. And the decorative plates, bowls, and candlesticks too. But her true calling is shopping for others. Birthdays, anniversaries, Groundhog Day…I’m talking piles of presents. However, nothing comes close to the Christmas shopping. The BIG shop. The BIG Kahuna. The BIG cheese on campus. The mother of ALL shopping occasions. The holiday of crazed women hurtling carts through packed parking lots, frantic men wandering aimlessly down the jewelry aisle, and kids hopped up on so much chocolate, their heads spin at the very mention of the words, “Tickle Me Elmo.” This, my dears, is what Margaret lives for.
Frank Cross: It’s Christmas Eve. It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be.
– Bill Murray, Scrooged
But it’s not just the buying process that makes our Macy’s maven drool, and tremble, and buckle her knees in a joyous delighted heap. It’s the wrapping, wrapping, and more wrapping. The unfurling of gigantic rolls of snowman, reindeer, and mistletoe paper, so heavy and wide in circumference, you could use them to jack up your ailing auto. Not to mention the pre-printed boxes, bags of bows, tons of tape, nametags, curling ribbon, scissors, tissue, and MORE paper. I’m talking rows of paper. I’m talking miles of paper. I’m talking a veritable football field of paper. All lined up in 47 lovely plastic Target containers; long and tubular, squat and stout, short and round…and all jammed into one square foot of garage space. Great. You see, you can’t really WRAP anything up into a manner befitting Spanish nobility, until you actually, well, FIND the wrap. It makes things a whole lot easier that way. Of course, FINDING the aforementioned 97 PRESENTS (see Paragraph II, Sec 3) to wrap AFTER you FIND the wrap, is well, Nirvana. Now just make sure the royal blue ribbon matches the quarter-inch stripe on Dancer’s hoof, then cut the tape at a diagonal angle for the right corner, and keep your finger on Rudolph’s nose while you apply 3 sequins to the chimney, dust the whole thing with powdered sugar, and pop into the oven at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Uh oh, I think I just wrapped the cookie dough and baked the flannel sheets. Is it Happy Hour YET?
Fred Gailey: All my life I’ve wondered something, and now’s my chance to find out. I’m going to find the answer to a question that’s puzzled the world for centuries. Does Santa Claus sleep with his whiskers outside or in?
Kris Kringle: Always sleep with them out. Cold air makes them grow.
– Miracle on 34th Street
I am in complete and utter amazed wonder of folk like Margaret. Inherently, women are supposed to be wired for the whole shopping thing. I must have been absent the day they doled that trait out. Now mind you, I used to enjoy a good shop. I could shop with the best of them. And then, one day, I just lost interest. My roommate, on the other hand, seems to have acquired her mother’s said shopping gene, and makes her happy lists, and strolls down the shampoo section with glee, and giggles when buying toilet paper, and is basically thrilled to bits when entering the laundry soap aisle. Oooooh…detergent…dryer sheets…aaahhhhhh. I look at it this way; everybody has some sort of talent. My mother is a fantastic cook (another attribute I seem to be missing), my sister Jill makes people laugh their brains out, my dad is creative with his hand tools, and my other sibling, Kelly, can miraculously speak to her flock of cockatiels. Well, that’s either a talent or a surefire ticket to Bellevue, depending on how you look at it. So while some of us enjoy a lovely evening stroll down Christmas Tree Lane, or an afternoon of gift buying in downtown Reedley, or an unforgettable night at the Philharmonic listening to Carol Channing belt out “Hello Dolly”, others have a different idea of quality holiday time. And whether it’s caroling on a moonlit evening, or sharing cocoa with a friend, or wrapping 412 pounds of prezzies in front of your sweltering pellet stove, just remember this; “it’s better to give than to receive” is more than just a phrase to some people, it’s a lifestyle. Just don’t offer to help them wrap.
John Boy: Christmas is the season where we give tokens of love. In that house, we received not tokens, but love itself. I became the writer I promised my father I would be, and my destiny lead me far from Walton’s Mountain. My mother lives there still. Alone now, for we lost my father in 1969. My brothers and sisters, grown with children of their own, live not far away. We are still a close family and see each other when we can. And like Miss Maime Baldwin’s fourth cousins, we’re apt to sample the recipe, and then gather around the piano and hug each other while we sing the old songs. For no matter the time or distance, we are united in the memory of that Christmas Eve. More than 30 years and 3,000 miles away, I can still hear those sweet voices.
– The Homecoming