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Meg's Blog

Holiday Trauma

Wow, did I ever get a lot of mail about my last blog entry! Thanks so much, you guys, for all the cards and well wishes. My coccyx bone does still hurt, but it's slowly getting better. I was pleased to hear from so many of you who had suffered similar accidents and were able to assure me that with time, it will get better. My broken ass should be cured in no time, thanks in no small part to all of your tips and reassurances! I definitely feel well enough to update my blog, so here goes:

So people keep asking me what I'm doing for the holidays and I keep telling them nothing and they don't believe me. They're like, “You're not getting a tree? Lighting a menorah? Nothing?” and I'm like, “Yeah. Nothing.” And then they're all, “Why? Is it your broken ass? Don't you LIKE the holidays?” and I'm like, “No, it has nothing to do with my broken ass, and I love the holidays. I just don't want the holidays IN MY HOUSE.”

Don't get me wrong, I LIKE the holidays. I don't happen to be a religious person—and I am married to someone who doesn't happen to be a religious person, either–but I like going around, looking at all the houses with the lights up. I watch the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center. I love seeing all the new Old Navy Christmas ads, even if that one lady is way too young to have a son in college. I adore getting holiday cards and newsletters in the mail, and if I weren't so lazy, I would fully send out cards myself.

And giving gifts is, of course, the bomb, as is viewing Christmas movies, of which I have a complete collection, including such classics as “The Ref” and “Bad Santa.”

But I don't feel the need to put up lights MYSELF.
I don't have or want a wreath or tree.
And I am not making any latkes.

I just like watching OTHER people do it.

Then going home to my holiday-free house.

Does this make me a Grinch? I don't think so! Isn't the point to keep the holiday spirit IN YOUR HEART, ALL YEAR ROUND? Well, I do that. I am ALWAYS giving to the needy and stuff, not JUST around the holidays. Ask anyone if you don't believe me.

So if I'm happy not doing anything special for the holidays—if to me, the perfect holiday is, in fact, doing nothing—why shouldn't I have what I want? Isn't the whole idea of the holidays to appreciate your family and give thanks for what you have?

Well, what's wrong with my doing that in my heart, and not, you know, in my living room and all over my front yard in the form of a giant blow-up Santa?

Especially given that I'm pretty sure I just feel this way because I have been through way too much holiday trauma in the past to get excited about the holidays anymore.

Don't worry, I'm not that into memoirs, either. So I won't go into too much detail about the psychological torture that used to be inflicted at the “Kids' Table” at Christmas dinner, by older children informing the younger ones that Santa's sleigh had been hit by a DC-10 over Ohio, and so neither he nor Rudolph would be coming to Indiana that year—or ever again, due to having been sucked into the jet's engines and ripped to shredded-Santa-and-reindeer bits.

Or the tears the year one neighborhood mom actually listened to the words to “Darling Nikki” on her son's Purple Rain soundtrack (the one we'd all asked for, and received, from our parents) only to figure out what “Darling Nikki” was actually about, and then alert all the other moms, so that EVERYONE's Purple Rain soundtrack got taken away…

Or the Christmas when I was 13 and found a Daisy disposable razor in my stocking, and my dad went, by way of explanation, when I looked up at him questioningly, “Yeah, Santa thinks you're starting to look like a sailor in the old armpit area, there, Meg.”

Don't worry. I won't mention any of those incidents. Much less the Christmas when my dad decided he wasn't going to get anyone anything on their Christmas lists, but was going to use his imagination and get us what he THOUGHT we'd want, instead.

Which was how I ended up with a pair of tennis ball-sized wooden seagull earrings.

And I know it's the thought that counts, and that my dad was honestly trying to give me something he thought I'd like, and that he's dead now, and I should honor his memory by saying that if he were alive today and gave me those earrings now, I would treasure them always.

But that would be a big lie. Because I never saw anything in my life as ugly as those earrings.

And if he were alive today and gave them to me, I'd be like, “What were you THINKING?”

Because you know as well as I do that the gift someone gets you says much more about what they think of you than it does what they can afford, etc. I mean, the fact that my dad actually thought I'd like tennis-ball sized wooden seagull earrings TOTALLY FREAKED ME OUT. I was like, “What have I ever done to project an image of someone who would LIKE earrings like that? And how can I keep from EVER DOING IT AGAIN, whatever it was?”

And I know that there are kids out there right now going, “I don't HAVE a dad, and if I did, and he gave me seagull earrings, I would love them always.”

To them I have only this to say:

No, you wouldn't. Not if you'd seen THESE earrings.

And what about the wind-up ceramic BABY BETSY ROSS figurine that really rocked and played Yankee Doodle that my dad got me the only other Christmas he thought he'd do his own shopping? Seriously. What does that say about our father/daughter relationship, that the man whose DNA I share would actually have gotten me—ME–something like THAT?

Trust me. You'd be scared, too.

I was so appalled when I opened it, I didn't actually know what to do. If it had been an ADULT Betsy Ross, it would have been all right. But it was a BABY, dressed as Betsy Ross. And it was actually sewing a flag. Because you would so give a baby a SHARP POINTY NEEDLE.

And okay, it was the bicentennial, which meant it was the 70s, a decade no known for its taste. But that is still no excuse. The fact was, my own father thought I might actually like a rocking BABY BETSY ROSS figurine.

Proving that my own father didn't know me AT ALL.

This threw me into an existential crisis the likes of which no ten year old has ever experienced, before or since, and from which I still haven't quite recovered.

Don't get me wrong: I loved—and still love, even though he's dead–my dad. I tried to treat Betsy equal to my other, much more superior dolls, like my Madame Alexander Jo March and Barbie.

But it was an all an act.

I've tried to get over it. I really have. I've tried telling myself that it might be that my dad was just trying to get me back for the Farah Fawcett poster I got him for my office when I was nine.

Or it could just be the fact, that, let's face it, he was a dad. Dads very rarely know what to get their daughters for Christmas. They have never been a girl, and many of them—my dad, clearly, among them–just…don't…get…it.

Case in point, I was speaking to a dad not long ago who was wondering what to get his teenage daughter for her birthday. I said, “iPod,” and he said, “Really? I was thinking she might like a pot-holder loom.”

Seriously.

But the truth is, neither the disposable razor Christmas, the Purple Rain Christmas, nor the Seagull Earring/Betsy Ross figurine Christmases traumatized me nearly as much as the Christmas we call The Mr. Rogers Christmas Special Year. Anyone from my family who is reading this (hi,
Matt) will vividly recall that extra special Christmas. Those who aren't familiar with it…well, read on….

At your peril.

Because after reading this, you will never again wonder why I can't bring myself personally to have holiday things in my house.

You see, Mr. Rogers was putting on some kind of Christmas special and my mom's plan was that we were all going to watch it together as a family after dinner, and then enjoy the delicious holiday cookies she had spent all week baking, including thumbprint cookies filled with jam and our favorites, seven-layer cookies (seven layers of pure chocolate, butterscotch, and coconut heaven).

But you can't really make a guy who would put a disposable razor in his daughter's Christmas stocking and tell her she was looking like a sailor (let alone buy her tennis-ball sized wooden seagull earrings) watch a Mr. Roger's Christmas special. It's just not going to happen.

See, the plot of the Mr. Roger's Christmas Special was that Mr. Rogers is on some kind of hike, and these kids he's with get lost in the mountains, and the only way they can find one another is to sing “Angels We Have Heard On High” or “Do You Hear What I Hear?” or something. Because they didn't have cell phones back then. Or forest rangers. Or whatever.

And I imagine if you had been like five, or something, it would have been a totally good Christmas special.

But none of us were five. Some of us were, in fact, much older than five.

And some of us kept making really rude comments, cracking the rest of us up at inappropriate moments during the show. I can't recall EXACTLY what was said. But I do believe when the line “Do You Hear What I Hear?” was sung, one of us replied, “No…but do you smell what I smell?”

And cut one.

I am not denying that there might also possibly have been some lewd comments about King Friday and Queen Sarah's puppet sex life.

This was the night it finally hit me: Some of us are just not capable of taking the holidays seriously, okay? We GET the thing about the charity and the giving. Really. We do.

But some of us will ALWAYS freak out over the supposed hidden meaning behind perfectly innocent gifts given to us by loving family members.

We are the same ones who are ALWAYS eager to watch the live Nativity scene, not just because we are moved by the story (although of course we are, as who could not be?), but also because we are hoping the donkey will poop in church. Or that the sheep will panic and run amok down the aisle.

If the sheep were to poop as well, that would make our night.

We are the same ones who will ALWAYS prefer the South Park's Mr. Hankie to Charlie Brown's sad little tree, and the ones who will ALWAYS make fart jokes during the Mr. Rogers Christmas special.

THAT IS JUST THE WAY IT IS. WE CAN'T HELP IT. IT IS IN OUR GENES…THE SAME GENES THAT COMPELLED SOME OF US TO BUY HUGE WOODEN SEAGULL EARRINGS FOR OUR ONLY DAUGHTER FOR CHRISTMAS.

AND IT IS BETTER FOR US NOT TO CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAYS AT ALL, OR GOD ONLY KNOWS WHAT KIND OF TROUBLE WE WILL GET INTO.

Don't feel sorry for us. We don't want your pity. We just want you to UNDERSTAND.

Because the truth is, we were actually enjoying Mr. Roger's Christmas Special VERY MUCH in our own way—until my mom, disgusted with our inability to view some wholesome entertainment without being reduced to offensive scatological humor, went into her room and locked the door…

…shutting us out from all the Christmas cookies which we knew she had hidden in there!!!!!!!

It was a tragedy of epic proportions. Being deprived of Mom's Christmas cookies was like being deprived of OXYGEN, for God's sake.

Obviously, this incident taught me a valuable lesson about the holidays that has stayed with me ever since. How could I, for instance, in the years that have passed, ever let one rip in front of the Christmas tree without bringing back the painful memory of “Do You Smell What I Smell?”

The only answer, of course, is to NOT HAVE A CHRISTMAS TREE IN MY HOME, and thus prevent this from ever happening.

A rash step, I know. But not one from which, I must admit, I have never suffered any hardship.

And in the ensuing years, Mom DID forgive us. I received a batch of seven-layer cookies from her just the other day. And my dad's gift-giving improved drastically after he gave up and just let Mom buy all the gifts.

But you can see why, to this day, I enjoy the holidays only from a safe distance.

Which is the most perfect way of all for people like us to celebrate the holidays, if you ask me.

I hope all of YOU, however, have a safe, happy, and Purple Rain soundtrack/disposable razor/wooden seagull earring/Mr. Rogers Christmas Special-free holiday season.

More later.

Much love,

Meg

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