It Happens Every Year

It is once again that time of year when my residence becomes festooned with ornaments, do-dads, trinkets, gewgaws, knickknacks, baubles, adornments, and various other pieces of utterly useless crap that I never wanted, just to have them stare at me mockingly for three weeks or so; until the day that I manage to wrestle them all back into their respective boxes and put it all back into storage for eleven and a half months of the year. Meanwhile every nook, cranny, alcove, and recess hides a gift from the prying eyes of a six-year-old. This is the hazard of being a family man I suppose.

I guess you could safely say that I am not a “Christmas” type of person. I hadn’t celebrated it in years, not really since my mom died. My dad never really cared for all the rigmarole, him being both an atheist and generally opposed to crass consumerism, and so it just fell by the wayside. The holiday went largely unobserved until he passed away as well two years later. After that I just didn’t need to bother at all. I was usually alone for the holidays after that and felt quite fine about it. There were sometimes parties or other gatherings that I attended, but it always just seemed like just another party, except there was tinsel strewn around and the music was more annoying than usual.

On one or two occasions I somehow wound up spending the holiday with someone else’s family; a roommate’s or a girlfriend’s parents would ask me to come over for Christmas dinner. Those were awkward, usually because it was the first time their families had ever met me in person; and here they are doing this serious familial ritual stuff and here’s me sitting quietly on the end of the couch not belonging there at all.

After I got engaged to my wife I was a regular at her family’s gatherings across the board. This worked out after a couple of years, as I got to know their quirks, but it really never made an impact on me either way if we were getting together for Christmas, or Labor Day; of course, once again, the decorations were different, and sometimes the weather; but in Florida even that isn’t guaranteed.

It wasn’t until my daughter was born until any of it mattered a fig to me again. It wasn’t much at first since a Christmas tree really isn’t the most baby proof of items, but the magically appeared in my life a cute little outfit for my darling little girl to wear. Simple gifts with brightly colored, to large to swallow, and slobber proof seemed to be the major criteria.

When she was two we put up the first tree I had dealt with in probably close to twenty years. A small affair, measuring only three and a half, maybe for feet in height; set on up on an old typewriter stand we found in the thrift store. It was elegant with its bows and balls and beads of red and gold, and a string of white lights. Didn’t really take long most of the ornaments to break between the efforts of the toddler and the cats, but damn it we tried. The girl got a tricycle that year. Assembly of that blasted thing was unreasonably complicated and aggravating as I recall. From then on the decorating thing kind of leveled off for one reason or another but the season seemed to keep getting increasingly expensive.

Then there is the issue of the fat man. I am not sure my wife and I, two fairly scientific minded adults, decided to contribute to the perpetuating of the Santa Claus myth. I was fairly certain that we decided against it during the pregnancy and explicitly decided against it. We probably should have been clearer with the grandparents and other family members about this point because somehow I unknowingly got involved in a complex game of subterfuge and chicanery with someone who is a natural detective. To be honest I find this part of it quite fun. I think my daughter already has suspicions about Old St. Nick’s existence but amusing to play along for now.

In truth my daughter, the sole reason I bother with this holiday mess at all, makes it all enjoyable. Her anticipation of presents to come, the exuberance she has for setting up the decorations, her enjoyment of those horrible holiday songs; I just can’t help feeling just a little excited along with her.

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