My stockings were not hung by the chimney with care. They were hung with a hammer and a slight bout of impatience. My index finger, a victim of a wayward blow, began to swell.
My daughter, my son, my niece and my nephew ‘decorated’ the tree. They started by stringing the lights around my ‘discount’ spruce (which, after tax and the couple of extra garlands my wife threw on the counter, cost only slightly more than the retail one I bought last year). Before the kids were halfway done, the tree looked like a hostage of the Christmas season: it so was tightly wrapped in lighted electrical wire, its branches pointing directly north, victims of a rude and violent cinching. It took me twenty minutes to free them, another twenty minutes to re-light the bush, and a final twenty to vacuum needles which were being scattered towards heating ducts.
At least, unlike parents, the tree doesn’t have to become the Ethan Hunt of Christmas shopping:
“Hello Mr. Hunt. This mission, should you choose to accept it, includes the following tasks:
- Leave work early, convincing your boss you have ‘personal business to attend to’, in order that you may:
- Sprint from store to store before the ‘after-work crowd’ (i.e. ethical employees picking up your slack) deprive each other of oxygen as they search the shelves for toys they knew weeks ago their kids were desperate for.
- Once the gifts have been acquired, you must proceed directly home and store the gifts under the kitty litter in the garage garbage can, lest they be noticed by the children whom you are now...
- ...Late picking up. You will now drive more erratically than this ludicrous weather safely permits, and collect your children. Slow your breathing in order that these lovely offspring not detect your level of exhaustion and exasperation.
- Once the children are in bed. Do NOT forget the gifts are still hidden in the unheated garage. You may want to leave the electronics in the trash can, Ethan, the cold has already destroyed the circuitry.
This message will self-destruct in five minutes...which will seem like a relative eternity when compared to the minutes of actual relaxation you are about to experience over the holidays.”
Did you ever wonder if, perhaps, there is a reason Santa only delivers once annually? Perhaps he avoids using a noisy motorised vehicle, and evades and face-to-face contact, after millennia of experience with children.
Maybe that’s the real lesson of Christmas: go like gangbusters for twenty-four solid hours, then retreat to cottage country - as cold as it may be - and take the next three-hundred-sixty-four days off.