And we don't stop on December 26th anymore, do we? Nope. There's the returning of gifts, more parties, after Christmas sales to rush out for, and my personal favorite...The errand that some relative gratiously granted me...THE GIFT CARD!
To me the gift card tells me that they didn't really care enough to take a few precious moments of their busy schedules to actually give my gift, or me for that matter, any real thought. Too much effort I guess to actually try and think what Rich might want this year. I know, I know...I'm a real toughy to buy for, what with my not having any apparent hobbies or activities anyone would know about. I mean, God forbid they realize I am a voracious reader of novels (all kinds), comic books (ANYTHING comic book related! Toys, statues, memorabilia, movies!), graphic novels...Heck! I even work in the field...Think that'd tip 'em off?! And have any of them noticed for the past 30 or so years that I dig sports? Both watching and playing them. Guess not. How about the fact that I'm an avid movie goer? Love collecting nostalgic toys from when I was a kid. Food. Wine. Beer. Art. Art supplies. MUSIC! My god I've over 500 cds, records, 45s! I even DJed as a part-time gig for a few years! I'm always talking about music!
So, does anyone take that into account? Does anyone put their little thinking caps on? Do a little digging? Not usually (Sandy does. I'll give her some props or she'll skewer me).
The gift card. What a lazy friggin' cop-out that item is. Come on people! Give it a little effort! Remember! It's the thought that counts. And you're sending us out to have to use this gift card anyways...So if you, God forbid, get us a cd or book we don't care for we're going to have to go to the store anyways to exchange it, right? But at least we'll know you've tried, dammit...We'll know you've TRIED!
I try. I'm a pretty damn good gift-buyer if I do say so myself. This year I got my new brother-in-law's name when my wife's family picked names. I know he's a huge Elvis nut. Very cool, I think to myself, I'm gonna seek out some cool Elvis stuff! And I'm not talking the same old, same old crap anyone can find at K-Mart. I'm talking something really unique! So, for the past few months I've kept my eyes open. Not really too hard a task...Just putting forth the teensiest bit of effort, really, to keep one's Eyes Open. And, voila! I manage to score some pretty kick-ass items. I find an unopened box of 36 packs (all unopened of course) of Elvis trading cards from 1978! Extremely cool! I find an Elvis jackknife...Okay, it's a newer item, and pretty easy to obtain, but still pretty cool and a nice compliment to the cards. But then! whilst shopping at a little record shop/nostalgic toy store here in Milwaukee called Flipsville Records (not at the mega malls people!) I find the coup de grace! An authentic movie poster circa 1958ish of one of Elvis' movies with Nancy Sinatra! And the best part is that I don't know which movie! WHY? Because this poster is from MEXICO! It's an authentic, 1950's Elvis movie poster from Mexico! It's going to blow his mind! It is the coolest thing. I'd really like to keep it for myself. AND!!! I get the darn thing framed to boot. And the frame job is SPECTACULAR (think of Teri Hatcher's breasts! Get it? When she guested on Seinfeld? Aw forget it)!
You see?...That's putting some thought into it. And you know what? I feel good about it. What's that other old saying?...Oh yeah, "It's better to give than to receive." It is. Especially when you know you did good. When you tried.
So my next act as President will be to ban the gift cards!
My fondest personal memories of Christmas as a small boy growing up were the two (back-to-back if I remember correctly) Christamses where my mother totally went bonkers and on the day of Christmas blew a gasket (or two) and tore down the tree, removed all the presents, and all the while (as me and my two brothers looked on in sheer horror) berated us that we didn't know the true meaning of Christmas and should all be ashamed...I was around 10 years old...I just wanted a few toys, ma.
Anyone ever see "Mommy Dearest?"
Yep, we had some real doozies while I was growing up. My wife, Sandy, wondered why I was such a Scrooge about Christmas when we were first dating. I gave her the gorey details about those infamous family gatherings. Since then (we've been married 16 years) she's come to know my mother and more fully realized my Scroogeness. Anyone ever seen "Everybody Loves Raymond?" I could sue Ray Romano for using my mother in his show. I've gone back and scoured my parents house looking for the hidden cameras but found nothing. Apparently Romano has some pretty good connections.
I probably wouldn't celebrate at all if it weren't for my 4 year old daughter. She's innocent. She doesn't have to know the loathing I personally feel inside about Christmas and the over-commercialization. I am making it my mission in life to make all her memories special and good when it comes to these holidays, birthdays, etc. To see the look of joy on her face!...There's nothing better. So I suck it up and do it for her. And you know what?...I couldn't be any happier doing it.
That's what's special about Christmas for me.