The cable repairman came to install our new HD box the other day and felt the need to engage me in small talk. “Excited for Christmas?”
“Uh, yeah. Sure.”
He laughed. “Yeah it’s not like when you were a kid, right? Getting all those gifts under the tree. Not fun like that anymore, right?”
“Yeah...not like that anymore!” I overcompensate.
“Well, have a good one anyway!”
To this day, B and Eldest Bro tell me about the “Best Christmas Ever.” The year they woke up to find stacks of gifts under our sad little plastic Christmas tree. Big boxes wrapped tightly in paper stenciled with drawings of stockings and candy canes. They tore in to discover a brand new Nintendo, games, toys, stuffed animals, and left piles of crumpled paper, bows and boxes in their wake as satisfying skeletal reminders. I was one year old then, so I don’t remember that year, but from their "oh man"-riddled descriptions, it seems like it would have been fun.
My parents never did it again, so I never got a “Best Christmas Ever.” I still believed in Santa at that point so I assumed he was too busy. Even as a naïve child who believed a fat man in a red suit flew into chimneys and delivered gifts, I was reasonable enough to know that it was impossible for one person to go to every house in the world in one night (it was things like this that had teachers often labeling me "precocious"). I assumed he just never made it to our apartment. We didn’t even have a chimney. When we moved into the new house, there was no fireplace there either, and despite the huge upgrade from our roach-infested, tiny one-bedroom in Elmhurst, it pinched at the back of my mind that Santa had no way of getting in.
None of that mattered, though, when that same year, three weeks before Christmas, B was teasing me with stories about Santa, where the legend came from, why he never came to our house and, after pausing to chuckle to himself, he rather nonchalantly dropped the bombshell—“Whatever, you know there’s no Santa anyway.”
My little six year-old world was upside down. No Santa? I lay awake late into the night all wide, teary eyes wondering what else I had been lied to about. God? Was there a God? Did Jesus really change all that water into wine? Loaves of bread, fishes, Noah’s Ark.
B had no idea about any of this, of course. Even at six years old, I was prideful and sensitive to the ridicule of my older brothers, so there was no way I was going to let on that I had believed something so silly. Obviously there was no Santa.
One year, when my brothers were in junior high, we tried to recreate that Christmas ourselves. We walked to the shopping center by our house armed with whatever tiny sums of change and lunch money we could scrounge up and bought ourselves trinkets, board games, books. We wrapped them carefully and put them under the tree. Christmas morning, we tore into them, feigning surprise, but as we sat around in the clumps of packaging, B broke the illusion and said what we were all thinking: "It's just not the same."
Other than some hideous costume jewelry bracelet my mother gave me one year—one I showed off to all my friends at school until it began to rust—the gifts never came again. That didn’t stop me from hoping that one day they would. I still jumped up Christmas morning convinced this was the year they’d do “Best Christmas Ever: Part II,” but they didn’t and eventually I stopped hoping. Christmas became a source of dread, waking up early to snore through a two-hour mass, going home and watching It's a Wonderful Life.
There lies the reason that, unlike most of my friends who plan secret santas and holiday dinners, I don’t look forward to Christmas. I cringe at the compulsory let's-have-a-girls'-night-for-Christmas email that pops into my inbox the second week of December. I hate the holidays. I’m a typical Scrooge once Thanksgiving leftovers are packed into Tupperware containers and radio stations start crooning, “I’m dreaming...of a white….Christmas” and all the houses on my block are adorned with sparkly little white lights. From my childhood hoping for gifts through to my adulthood hoping for anything, the holidays have been associated with nothing but disappointment and resentment and the hope that something will be different come Christmas morning, but waking up to see nothing has changed.
So poo on you and your cheesy holidays.