Aspen Princess: The Grinch is a rich man
“You’re a rich man, Mr. Grinch,” my father-in-law bellowed, singing his favorite tune at least two octaves too low and seriously off-pitch.
“It’s mean man, not rich man,” I tell him. I have told him this many times before, but he keeps saying “rich man” anyway.
Yesterday, he left the Grinch song on our voicemail. He thinks this is hilarious.
He is the self-proclaimed Grinch, and every year he gives us what he likes to call “Grinch gifts.” In years past I’ve gotten a Nebraska Cornhuskers T-shirt (likely purchased at a truck stop somewhere on Interstate 76), fleece pants with monkeys and bananas all over them, and a skiing Santa statue that I actually kind of love.
The first time I went to Ryan’s for Christmas was in 2009. We were a year into our courtship, still boyfriend and girlfriend and not yet engaged. I didn’t know anything about Grinch Christmas. I was under the impression we’d celebrate a real Christmas, like the Norman Rockwell Christmas I’d been dreaming of since childhood, of trees and lights and warm baked goods and red sweaters and cheeks aglow.
It all started out that way — ice skating on the rink next door, a decorated tree in the cozy family room with wrapped presents beneath it, stockings hung from the fireplace in the living room and Christmas carols playing on the radio. Though truth be told, the carols I could do without, as my mother instilled in me such profound disdain for this grating music that, if you are not Christian, takes on a mocking, shrill tone that makes you want to tear your hair out.
So you’ll understand my story a little better knowing this about my childhood: My Jewish parents resented the holiday but conceded to letting us kids celebrate it anyway because we were spoiled brats who got whatever we wanted — so they just gave in.
I know I’ve told you guys this story a thousand and one times, but the best way to explain what it was like growing up in my family was the year I took my Irish-Catholic boyfriend to our time share in Beaver Creek, where we used spend Christmas every year. We went out for Chinese food for Christmas dinner, and he was so traumatized I thought he was going to cry. He didn’t speak the entire meal, and the worst part was we were so busy yelling over one another in order to hear ourselves in a restaurant packed with other Jewish families doing the same thing that no one even noticed. I am particularly ashamed that we actually ordered our entire meal without consulting him about what he wanted. He didn’t want Peking duck or moo shu pork; what he wanted was to be home in New England, where they know how to do Christmas right.
Since joining the Margo clan, this has been my experience with Christmas:
That first year, Ryan’s dad made us all wear antlers on our heads and socks with toes and took like 20 silly photos of us. This was on the Dec. 26, when we celebrated Christmas to accommodate their only granddaughter, who is apparently more important than Jesus.
The second year, I bought Ryan a flat-screen TV, a new ski jacket and a pair of goggles. In my little shallow, materialistic mind, proper gift-giving in a serious relationship involved one big gift, one medium gift and one small gift. Everyone thought it was hilarious that Ryan wrapped the six pairs of socks he gave me individually (he had been trained by the Grinch, after all) and that was it.
“I bought you a flat-screen TV, and you gave me socks?” I hissed as soon as I had a moment alone with him.
“This is going to be the best New Year’s of your life, so shut the hell up,” he hissed back. “What 40-year-old has tempter tantrums? Go to your room!”
That was the year we got engaged, and he had spent all his money on my engagement ring. I know! What a brat, right? I’m lucky he married me. Christmas definitely does not bring out the best in people.
The third year, I was forced against my will to go snow tubing on Christmas, even though it was 20 below zero, and I’m not even exaggerating.
“I don’t know if this is a good idea,” I told my mother-in-law. “Does it really make sense to do something outside when it’s this cold out?”
“Oh, no,” she scolded. “You will bundle up.”
That’s when I was dragged, against my will, to the local ski hill, where crazy Minnesotans and their offspring braved arctic temperatures and went hurtling down a mountain of ice in a rubber tube. The Grinch gave me a flask of brandy to keep me warm, but that did nothing to prevent the trauma I suffered spinning out of control at 40 miles per hour with no way to slow my speed, dizzy and disoriented as I flipped around, mostly sliding backward down a dark, rock-hard hill of death.
“Five-year-olds can do it,” the guy running the magic carpet said, shaking his head.
Last year, we stayed home. We threw a couple of lights on the one plant we have that has since died and exchanged gifts that disappointed us both. This year, we did Jewish Christmas, which meant going to Bristlecone and picking out what we wanted and putting it on our credit card.
The only gifts we have this year under our laughably modern tree (all white and made of lights and metal) are from the Grinch.
I have to admit, the Grinch is on to something. With no real gifts under the tree but plenty of love in our hearts, the Grinch has it right: He is a rich man, and thanks to him, so are we.
The Aspen Princess knows you’ll get everything you want for Christmas because you’re in Aspen — hello. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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