CHRISTMAS STREAMLINED

As if the poor woman needed an annual event to drive her even deeper into emotional crisis and anxiety, along came Christmas for Mama. Every year around December 15 or even later, without fail, she'd put aside her psychotic distress caused by eleven and a half months of normal life, and focus on that thing that really stressed her out – Christmas!

“I've got to do my cards,” she'd say well into January of the new year.

“I don't have enough gifts for Richard!”

“I don't have enough gifts for Marilyn!”

“I don't have enough gifts for David!”

(Funny she never worried about too few gifts for Daddy.)

“I have to bake a ham!”

“I've got to do my cards!”

The woman was a basket case at Christmas, and she never really got that involved in decorating! We had a tree and stockings and a few table top things, but that never really stressed her. It was the shopping and the ham and, oh hell – it was mainly the cards.

We all know a lot of folks who do much the same thing. I've seen folks who actually buy two or three Christmas trees! Now, it really doesn't matter how big a house these guys have, more than one tree is just asking for trouble. For the love of God, do a tree, get it the hell out of the way and move on to the ham and the cards,.

Christmas should not represent stress. It did in my marriage, though. As I remember it, we always got our tree in July. When the damned thing dried up and the needles fell off before the fourth game of a new NFL season, it was always my fault. But that's what being a husband is all about, right? Taking the fall for a dead, four-month-old Christmas tree and other reasonable failures of unreasonable actions. I accepted that.

But when the ex-wife left, I did two things. I put both toilet seats up. And I streamlined Christmas. The toilet seat thing was easy and bold and a satisfying statement on my part. The Christmas thing I kind of had to ease into. My kid was only 10 years old at the time. He expected trees and decorations and hams and stress. I couldn't let the little guy down, you know.

But over time, the decorations diminished. So did the gift giving. I never send cards, so...

The stress diminished, too. Now I go to my son's house, kick back and watch the young stress develop and play out. I think they have about 37 kids now, so the stress there is plentiful.

But I give gifts. I don't stress about the fairness of it all, though. My Christmas shopping costs me $39. Total. $37 for what I think are the 37 young-ins they have, and two-dollars for my son and his wife. That's right. A dollar a gift.


Sure it's cheap and despicable – on the face of things. But if one of those lottery tickets hits, it will be the best gift someone in my family ever gets.

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