Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Curmudgeon’s Christmas

I received one of those e-mail questionnaires that you fill in the answers and send to all your friends so that they will know you better—like they really want to? Anyway, this one was about Christmas so I thought—even though I never forwarded it—that I would fill it out.

1. Wrapping paper of gift bags? Neither. If I can’t buy it on-line for direct shipment then you ain’t getting it.

2. Real tree or artificial? Hard to say—it was a real tree that now I suppose qualifies as an artificial tree. Janet bought it at Handcrafter’s in the Galleria many years ago. It is now a series of progressively shorter wooden dowels stuck into a larger wooden dowel in somewhat of a tree shape—thus at one time it was a real tree. Each dowel has a platform at the end for a votive candle so it requires little other decoration—although some times we do hang on colorfully painted wooden soldiers.

3. When do you put up the tree? Well, here is the curmudgeon part—sometime back in the Nineties. It’s not very tall, maybe three and a half feet so Janet used to put it on a tea table in front of the living room window—the rest of the year—or now all of the year it resides inside a closet in my computer room—so we see it frequently without the candles.

4. When do you take the tree down? That’s a duh. Again, sometime in the Nineties.

5. Do you like eggnog? Now, it seems that both my brother and my sister-in-law took some umbrage with this question. I was not aware that eggnog was on the banded list, so like Scotch, I acquired a taste for it—I would drink it all year with or without. I mean, like it really doesn’t require the Scotch.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? This requires some background—I was spoiled rotten—as was my older brother. We both qualify as an only child with a sibling. I got any and everything that I ever wanted (and if I didn’t well… then we went and got it, but that’s another story) so probably the gift that I most remember was an electric train that I had not requested and had no idea it was coming. We lived on a rural route and the postman brought the package from Sears and Roebuck at a time my parents were not at home. I opened the package, played with the train and repacked it before they got home. Yes, my parents were smart enough to know that I would no longer be surprised no matter how much I tried to cover up the crime—but they weren’t about to say anything to their precious darling baby boy.

7. Hardest person to buy for? Anyone out of town. Out of Towners just get convenient stuff—like, I mean, are they going to come and hit you with it?

8. Easiest person to buy for? Me—I know exactly what I want.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? No, but both Janet and I have always wanted one. It just didn’t seem all that important if we were not going to put up a tree.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Intermittent. Some years I buy cards and mail. Some years I design a digital card and email. I have never used one of the card services that you find on the Internet. For the first several years of marriage to Janet I would design a card and print it out on the ink jet folding card stock. I really enjoyed that because—well you know me, if it can be done differently I’ll probably do it. Then some years—like this one for instance—neither. That is the intermittent part.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Well, I may have some trouble determining my favorite Christmas present but believe me I do remember my worst. Now, my older brother I understand liked to receive clothes. Me on the other hand didn’t want anything that I could not play with. So the very, very worst Christmas present I ever received was flannel pajamas with the feet in—I was twenty-two. I think my step-mother was trying to make a point.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I heard a talk radio program the other day say that my favorite Christmas movie was the very worst Christmas movie ever made. Well, maybe if George hadn’t been born the people of Bedford Falls would have had a much more exciting life of debauchery but I still love—and always watch—at least part of It’s a Wonderful Life. Of course Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer it a close second.

13. When do you start shopping? Late, very, very late—if at all. Shopping sort of coincides with sending Christmas cards.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Clinton wanted the definition of “is.” I need one of “recycled.” Have I ever given a gift I received as a gift to someone else? No, never. Have I ever made a trip to Goodwill in early January? Yes. Does that count?

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? I eat to live, not live to eat—food is food is food. If it’s a dry boloney sandwich I’m fine. It is difficult to say whether I prefer desserts to vegetables or not. I know I always like green beans, sweet potatoes and German Chocolate Cake. BTW: the next time you have a really rich chocolate cake—try eating it with dill pickles—yeah, I know, but it is a great combination. I picked that up from one of my step-grandmothers (had five, this was the one that was considerably younger than my grandfather) that made a great chocolate cake and let me sit on her lap while I ate it—I was darn cute as a teenager.

16. What is your favorite Christmas song? All of them. They are the only songs that I know more than three lines of. Whether or not I know those more than three lines in the correct order is questionable—but I know them. If you ever heard me sing you would understand why I never developed a familiarity with songs.

17. (must have gotten censored)

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? If you have to ask, what is it about the word r-e-c-l-u-s-e that you do not understand?

19. What does Christmas mean to you? Here I really wish that I could give a more noble answer—like my brother and my sister-in-law. I love them dearly for their answers because I know they are truly heartfelt and indicative of the lives they live. Any family holiday, including Christmas, has always meant two things for me—stress and quilt. It seemed that no mater what I did I was never sure that it wasn’t the wrong thing to do. The commercialization of Christmas has always bothered me. I come from a family that almost everyone (my brother is the exception) has some artistic talent. I would give anything if everyone would make gifts, not buy gifts (all those trips to Goodwill wore on me when I thought of all the money that had been wasted because there was this “obligation” to send a gift and I knew they were doing the same thing,) but I could never seem to get the idea to catch on. I have a treasure trove of things made by my parents, by my step-mother. Some are very nice, some are pretty crude—but each is a treasure. Sure, I’ve still got the Scofield Reference Bible from my brother and I treasure it but the things that were hand made are special. Hey, if you don’t like receiving paintings I have done or books of photographs that I made, I’m sorry. To make it more palatable I occasionally alternate that with sending a Christmas flower arrangement for the table. However this year I did make an exception. I know that my brother collects Bibles and I saw a new one where the books are supposed to be in chronological order (I didn’t know they weren’t—maybe I should open up that Scofield.) I got a call from the publisher yesterday—my brother had returned it with a note that he had gone on line to make the purchase but had problems and didn't realize the order had actually gone through. Upon receiving it and seeing the price—which he says he had never been able to locate on line—there was no way he was going to pay that much for it. I told them to send it back and I would give him a call—apparently I am not the only cheapskate in the family. I called him up but he was a sleep—in the middle of the day. My sister-in-law said she would explain that it wasn’t going to cost him anything and that he should keep it the next time it is delivered.

20. Angel on the treetop or a star? In the nineties we did replace the candle at the top of the tree with a very pretty angel. I think back home we used a star.

21. Open the present Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning? I have never been able to wait till Christmas morning. Could we add a week or so before? Like maybe as soon as I learned of it. I use to let my first wife do that--open it in advance then I had to go out and buy her something else.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? People—well sort of. They are always where I want to be at the same time that I want to be there—but I found a solution. Years ago I asked Janet why she never gave me any hints about what she would like to have for Christmas. I always had a list a mile long but she would never give me any assistance. Her answer was very simple, “If I want something I go out and buy it.” I thought about that and realized it was true—so we made an agreement not to exchange Christmas gifts. If we want something we buy it and at Christmas if there is something that we want as a couple we will hit the sales after Christmas and buy it. Our agreement is that between the forth Thursday in November and the second day of January of the following year we will not enter into any retail establishment other than a grocery store. So, if you expect me to buy you something and you don’t like cheese—you have a problem. This eventually morphed into online shopping and thus no gift wrapping.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Don’t recall a favorite ornament but I do like the wooden soldiers.

24. Do you go to church at Christmas? Unfortunately, no.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Absolutely nothing. If I wanted it I bought it. My Christmas is spending the day with Janet.

26. Who is most likely to respond to this? Why do all these questionnaires contain this asinine question? Like I’m clairvoyant? Hardly anyone ever responds to my ramblings why would I think they would respond to this.

27. What was your most memorable Christmas as an adult? This is an easy one. Not long after Janet and I married Christmas came in the middle of the week and I had only one day off that gave me a good excuse for not fighting the holiday traffic to return to North Texas—at least it diminished the guilt. Janet cooked chicken legs in a wine and we drove down to a very cold, very windblown and very deserted beach at Matagorda. We had the beach to ourselves, we enjoyed our lunch—it was probably the most guilt free, stress free Christmas that I can remember.

28. What was your most memorable Christmas moment as a child? I am assuming this does not apply only to pleasant memorable moments and thus requires some background. My father loved Christmas pranks. He loved to tell the story of the time back in Oklahoma when he and his friends disassembled a neighbors buggy and reassembled it on top of their house. As he got older the pranks became less strenuous. Texas law allowed the issuing of a driver’s license at the age of fourteen under special circumstances. Because of my mother’s illness I qualified so I took my driving test on my fourteenth birthday—and as usual aced it. When I was fifteen, Dad and Mother swore that they had purchased me a car for Christmas—it made sense because I drove the family car to school and dad walked to the refinery where he was a truck driver (this was in the tradition of my big brother who had done the same thing—just threw that in so that I won’t seem to be the thoughtless little twerp that I was.) They had all the details down and could deflect any, “Naugh, you didin’t because…” that I could come up with. The car was to be delivered Christmas morning. They convinced me that I should spend the night with my cousin at his grandparents home and when I got home Christmas day the car would be in the drive. I awoke before sun up and walked home because I wanted to be there for the delivery—which I was. Because family had been scattered about town for Christmas Eve—we always had a big family Christmas at Granddads—all the laws, in-laws, out-laws and the families there of gathered at Granddads—we didn’t open presents until well into mid afternoon—no car had shown up. However, when it came time for the presents I got my car—it wound up and run around in circles on top of the box that contained a Remington Portable Typewriter. It was the first time that I had been the bunt of one of Dad’s Christmas pranks—I always was gullible, still am. Yes, I was hurt, disappointed but in hindsight learning to type on that Remington has been applicable to every endeavor I have attempted as an adult—even this blogging. So I have concluded that I got more out of the typewriter than I would have if it had been a car—in which I would probably have killed myself—I honestly do not know how any of the kids I grew up with lived to adulthood but that’s another story.

29. Have you ever been involved in a Christmas gift prank? As noted above, you did not grow up in a family with my Dad and not be privy to, involved in or the bunt of a Christmas prank. As an adult, did I follow in my father’s footsteps? Although I like to think of myself as being much like my Dad, no—anytime I considered it I remembered the Christmas of my fifteenth year and the car.

MERRY CHRISTMAS—now aren’t ya glad you know me better?

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