Only yesterday it seems, I was quite a normal person, given to occasional attitudes, a rare tantrum, but on the whole reasonable and balanced in dealing with life’s challenges. Then comes Xmas, a time when the whole world comes unraveled, and in spite of my balance, I morph into a totally irrational monster, a Xmas ogre. It is this condition that compels me to document exactly what this condition is, and precisely how it came about. It is not a pretty story, but it is a reflection of the season known as Xmas.
Years back, decades in fact, marketing took hold of Xmas, and through nefarious influences, began anticipating Xmas well before its time. There is little doubt that some business, somewhere, one day after Xmas, will proclaim only 364 shopping days till Xmas. In computer lingo, they call this a loop, an infinite circle from which there is no escape short of pulling the plug. My lovely wife and I come to this loop with totally different perspectives. I want to pull the plug, and she is so immersed in the affairs of the season, that any diversion she sees as mean-spirited. It is in this respect that I characterize myself as the Xmas Ogre.
The spirit of the season acquires a death grip on my wife, now many times over a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. She was not always this way, as earlier she thoroughly enjoyed Xmas in Japan, being poor, and having a tree that was more symbolic than real. With the passage of decades, and the accumulation of things, particularly Xmas things, one comes to revere all things large and small that make Xmas what it is, – an extravagant display of everything ever acquired in order to decorate for Xmas. In the spirit of the season, it becomes essential that everything that one possesses with the look or smell of Xmas must be displayed either inside or outside the home.
During our recent move to Florida, the accumulated Xmas things were carefully packed, labeled, and placed in storage above the new garage, until the storage over the garage was full. Twenty-seven boxes were counted containing some of the Xmas things, with a random scattering of more Xmas things elsewhere throughout the house. Storing and retrieving the boxes in the ceiling over the garage is a perilous activity requiring climbing up and down the narrow and rickety stairs one box at a time.
To deal with the coming Xmas, I prepared myself mentally to wrestle with the boxes and put up the tree. I hoped for a semblance of moderation to overtake my wife. Believing that I should receive a small payoff for cooperation, I stated that I was not excited about crawling back up the rickety stairs, and storing a lot of stuff that we did not use after Xmas. In this regard, I said that anything not used should be permanently removed, – trashed. I figured that a bunch of stuff would not find any spot in our new home. So much for the figuring!!
My wife heard such figuring clearly, and immediately thereafter set her mind to work deciding exactly where everything would go. Twenty-seven boxes of stuff were removed from the overhead in the garage and down the stairs. In sorting through the stuff, the boxes were distributed across the garage floor, taking up the space normally devoted to parking cars. Over three weeks, she sorted, distributed, and displayed the contents of the 27 boxes until the boxes were all empty, and the house was full.
The scene was complete. On vivid display were stuffed Santas, wooden Santas, Ceramic Santas, angels we have heard on high, stockings, Xmas nic-nacs large and small, Xmas table cloths, a full set of Xmas dinnerware, napkins, Xmas mugs, wreaths on the doors, and a new tree with lights included that was too large to sit inside the house. To top off the spirit, the old clocks on the walls no longer served adequately as timekeepers, and had been removed. In their place were new Xmas clocks that chirped and played Xmas carols every hour on the hour. Last but not least we unpacked Xmas pillows, and bedding. It was at this point that I was feeling proud that I had stopped ranting about the extravagance of the moment, yet I worried that the simple manger scene had been overlooked.
A bedroom bookcase was filled with
Santas of all varieties
A chair was stuffed with toys
One bedroom was decorated with
mugs and pillows, and hangings,
hang it all!
The guest bathroom was adorned
with hundreds of nutcrackers.
I thought she had run out of Xmas
stuff. Then she took me into
another bedroom where Santa
had captured every nook and cranny
from floor to ceiling.
(Christmas Pictures complements of Jim and Jere Bowden, Athens, Georgia)
Then it struck.
“Grandpa”, she said, “Would you help me make the bed in the guest room”.
With that I traipsed into the third bedroom for what I hoped would be my last contribution to the Xmas décor.
“We need to strip the bed,” Grandma said, “so we can display the new bedding”.
“What is wrong with the bedding that’s here?” I asked. “It is all new, and has never been slept on.”
“Well,” she replied, “I have new Xmas bedding to finish decorating the house. Our daughter gave it to us last Xmas, and she would be disappointed if we did not have it on their bed when they arrive.”
So we stripped the perfectly clean bed of its bedding that had never been slept upon.
After that, she added, “Now let’s take off the mattress so we can finish the job.”
“And why” I said, “do we need to remove the mattress”.
“Because the bedding includes a Xmas dust ruffle that hides the springs, and completes the Xmas feeling to the bed.”
My response was not entirely constrained, but was totally in character.
“Now you are telling me that these two 70+ year old grandparents, both with bad backs, have to completely remove a 75 pound mattress in order to install a Xmas dust ruffle over the springs. And when Xmas is over, I suppose we will need to remove the mattress with our bad backs again, remove the Xmas dust ruffle, and return the one that is in season the rest of the year. Is that right?” I asked.
“Yes, that is right”
“No! I am not going to do it,” I responded. “We have no business removing mattresses at our age, with our bad backs, to install dust ruffles on the bed at Xmas”.
“Well in that case”, she said, “I guess I will just have to remove the mattress by myself,” she offered.
At that point I knew she was dead serious, and it was time to fetch our back support belts for the job ahead.
We finished the job complete with Xmas dust ruffle. The 27 boxes are completely empty in my garage, and nothing remains in the boxes except for a number of Florida roaches that she judged would not fit in. Had they been red and green, there is no doubt they would be on display somewhere in the house.
To my utter dismay, there was nothing left to throw away. Grandma used my very own words to do me in, leaving me with only an attitude.
What remains for me is how to deal with the Xmas dust ruffle when it is time to go back into the attic. Maybe we should leave the Xmas stuff on display year round? That would make Grandma eternally happy, but I would have to listen to those infernal clocks playing Xmas tunes every hour on the hour, – forever!!! What a life!!!