My family’s own kind of Christmas cheer
December 20, 2007
The other day I went to Mystxx, that store across from Bentley’s that sells accessories, and picked out $200 worth of merchandise.
You know, I was looking at really important stuff like leopard-print barrettes and huge hoop earrings and a black brushed-cotton brimmed hat with three tweed buttons on the side. I think I also grabbed a pair of earrings that were shaped like snowflakes. I have a snowflake tattoo on my left ankle, so I sort of fancy things with snowflakes on them.
I go up to the counter to pay and the sales lady goes, “So, doing a little Christmas shopping are ya?” in that singsong Australian accent. “Would you like me to gift wrap these, then?”
“Ummm, no,” I replied, my face growing slightly hot. “These are for me.”
The most unbelievable part of the whole exchange was it hadn’t even occurred to me to go Christmas shopping. I mean, in my family, we spend most of December arguing about whether or not we’re going to celebrate Christmas at all, threaten not to do it, and then end up running around like maniacs on Christmas Eve buying each other gifts at the last minute. That actually suits me since I like the adrenaline of a tight deadline. I guess not everyone is like that.
Everyone I run into tells me the reason they haven’t been able to respond to my e-mails, voice mails and text messages is because they’ve been too busy decorating trees, wrapping presents and shipping them off to god-knows-where. The amount of planning that goes into it is hard for me to fathom. My family acts like the holidays are this huge inconvenience that they’re clearly not a part of, like when your neighbor has a huge, loud party and doesn’t invite you even though some of their guests are parked in your front yard.
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My mom went so far as to officially rename the holiday Alison-mas. “The only reason we’ve ever celebrated Christmas is because of you,” she said.
“Yeah, I know,” I replied, rolling my eyes. “You only remind of that at least 10 times every year.”
“Excuse me? Jesus Christ, you really are a brat.” That’s when we really start to feel the love between us during this special time of year and also acknowledge Jesus.
My parents indulged me with Christmas when I was a kid even though we’re Jewish. They even let me have a tree ” I just wasn’t allowed to put a star on top of it. My mom would make popovers and my Dad would run around the house screaming, “The Jews didn’t kill Jesus! It was a bunch of Puerto Rican guys!” at the top of his lungs.
I remember when I was 10, I found some gifts that hadn’t been wrapped yet in my mom’s closet. There was this electronic toy called Merlin that was red and shaped like a giant cell phone with red flashing lights that would blink in certain order and you had to remember the sequence as it got faster and longer.
Those old electronic, battery-operated games used to make a ton of noise, so naturally my mom heard me playing with it in the closet, busted me, and took the present away.
“If you’re lucky, you’ll get it for your birthday,” she said, snatching it out of my hands mid-game.
Then there was the year my brother was about 10 years old and my parents were in a panic about his “learning disability” even though as far as I could tell, he was the smartest kid I knew. He had my parents so wrapped around his finger they thought it was cute that he ate popsicles for breakfast and freely watched nude scenes on HBO. A curfew never applied to him because he was “hyperactive” and somehow my mom believed that he was suffering by staying up until 11 and watching whatever he wanted on TV.
So I guess they were sort of fixated on education stuff because every gift he opened had something to do with school: a calculator, a desk globe that doubled as a lamp, and a ruler and pen set. He did nothing to hide his disappointment as he tore open each gift, thinking the last one had been some kind of joke.
“Great. Just what I always wanted: a Random House Dictionary,” he said, tossing the book to his side as my parents chuckled nervously.
When all the gifts were opened, he wasted no time in his innate ability to negotiate.
“Can I return all this crap and get a snowboard?” he asked. Naturally, he got no argument from the people who let him eat sugar for breakfast.
So maybe that’s why I’m not in a big hurry to run around and buy gifts. My parents aren’t even coming to Aspen this year. For a little while, I thought I had them in a holding pattern that ” god forbid ” almost resembled a tradition. They’d come to town and we’d do Christmas dinner at Takah and go snowboarding at Snowmass.
My mom wasted no time in throwing out her excuse, via e-mail no less, on Dec. 6.
“Can’t make it to Aspen this year because our friend’s son-in-law had to go back east for some kind of rare dermatology procedure so their whole family is traveling unexpectedly on Christmas and the kennel was booked, so we’re taking their pooch.”
I’ve decided to start my own tradition this year. The only present I’m going to buy is for my best friend who agreed to spend Christmas with me. We’re going to create our own tradition. We’ll keep it simple: Instead of a big ham, we’re just going to pound a few mushrooms for breakfast and go snowboarding for dessert.
Go ahead and say it: “Jesus Christ!”
See you on the hill. Oh, and have a bloody mary Christmas.
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