Wednesday, April 20, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #10



Written: December 25, 2004

On Christmas day you can’t get sore
Your fellow man you must adore
You’ve time to rob him all the more
The other three-hundred and sixty-four!!!

Five words enter everyone’s vocabulary every year, right around the time the months start ending in the letters “-ber”. Five words that make many people roll their eyes to heaven, partly out of surprise that yet another year has gone by so quickly, and partly out of realization that their wallets are soon to take yet another beating. For around this time, everything that is discussed, everything that is planned, everything that is speculated is done with the necessity to bear in mind that we are “coming up to the Christmas”.

Christmas is for many people a time when family gets together and does exactly the same thing every year, but I seriously doubt any two of the festive periods I have experienced can be compared. This year is a classic example. Since Maura (my mother) is apparently unable to come over as she has for the past six years, it has meant we have needed to attempt something of a military operation to make sure everyone sees each other on the day. Sandra stayed with me last night, and Ruth will leave the kids over around lunchtime, when we will sit and have brunch with Grandma to get her somehow involved.

Then comes the hard part, when I will be leaving the 95-year old widow on her own as I go to Sandra’s mum’s for dinner. It was either that or be apart from my fiancée, and as Sandra rightly points out, it is really Maura that is abandoning Grandma and not me.

Besides, as many people constantly say, Christmas is supposedly a time for kids. I often wonder exactly what my two make of this time of year. Do they really believe in Santa Claus or are they at the stage where they are afraid to admit they know the score in case they no longer get presents? Either way it has been for the past ten years a time when they have been happy for all the gifts they get to receive.

You often hear parents bang on about hardships when they were growing up, things like being lucky to get a block of wood as a present and that kids today aren’t grateful and all that stuff. Seeing as how I was an only child raised by his grandparents, I can’t really fall into that category, since I was showered with presents, even when the only family around was my two elderly relatives. One year was an exception, however, and I will never be able to work out why.

I must have been about nine or ten years old. Towards the end of November, my grandfather had invested in a colour television, which was pretty expensive at the time. He and his wife were clearly torn between their desire to grant me something I really wanted, and their assumption that the big picture box in the corner was the source of all things evil. Whatever about their own crises, they obviously reached a decision that the purchase was to be my one and only Christmas present of note.

Unfortunately, they neglected to share the nature of this decision with me, and on Christmas day I got up early as I always had and went downstairs to see what “Santa” had brought me. To my surprise, there were no presents to be seen anywhere, just a stocking that contained apples, oranges, and peanuts. I wasn’t sad or disappointed, but I was confused. Looking back now, and having kids of my own, all I can think is that it was a strange thing to do to a young kid on such a day.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t traumatized by the affair, and I cannot complain about the way my grandparents provided for me. All the other years I was laden with gifts, and be sure I am well aware of all the children out there who are lucky to have their lives on Christmas day let alone a truck load of presents, and this is kind of my point about how we treat this season as a whole.

Season of good will to all men or season of retailer’s paradise? After working in a sports shop for six years on the trot I would have to say it is the latter. In modern day Ireland Christmas is a time to drink large amounts of booze, spend vast fortunes on presents for your loved ones, and for some, spend even more on ridiculous lighting displays on the outside of their house. I would love to see the electricity bills of these morons in January and plead with them to forego the lights next year and instead donate that amount to the homeless.

Speaking of needy people at a difficult time, I was extremely moved last year when I heard of the silent protest of a separated father who dressed as Santa and stood on O’Connell St in downtown Dublin holding up a sign explaining how he wasn’t allowed to see his children at all over the festive season. I wish there was something I could do for him, because he is being denied a natural right; I should not have to consider myself grateful to Ruth for “permitting” me access.

I will never allow myself be called a Scrooge, but on the other hand I would not be one to push the religious connotations to the full. Tom Lehrer put it best if you ask me.

Basically I guess my notion of Christmas is that of a time when we force ourselves to display qualities we seem unable to show the rest of the year. As much as I hate the song that goes “I wish it could be Christmas every day”, in some ways I can relate.
© JL Pagano 2004



Buffalo said...

I certainly agree with your last paragraph!

fairygirl701 said...

I agree to, that is terrible about that poor father..:(