It used to be that I just loved Christmas and pretty much everything associated with preparing for the season. Then came the first year I was in therapy, and I was talking to my therapist about feeling overwhelmed with shopping and decorating and everything, but I kept insisting that I actually loved it all, and she kept gently suggesting that what she was hearing was that it actually stressed me out, which I was finally forced to admit. So now I approach the season each year with cautious enthusiasm, mindful of the fact that I need to pace myself in the decorating, shopping, wrapping and holiday carding processes so as not to turn myself into a basket case.
This year I've done very well, due in large part to the face that Thanksgiving was pretty early, so things like putting up the outside lights were done before it was even December yet. Christmas shopping seemed to be a little easier this year as well -- Reasonable Man took an active role in selecting, purchasing, and arranging to go in on gifts with other people, and I had at least a few things tucked away early on, and it's all just generally come together very nicely. I did get my cards out a bit later than usual, and I had them printed at Target rather than printing them myself at home for the first time quite a few years, but I still had the same feeling of satisfaction when I was cramming them in the mailbox the other day, and I'm sure people will like them, so what's the difference?
And now a few words about holiday music:
It's been getting on my nerves this year. I have my own homemade CD of my favorite Christmas songs, and I usually look forward to putting it on while I'm decorating the house. This year, before I even got it out of the box, I was already tired of Christmas music from hearing it in stores while shopping. One day Sue and I were at Marshalls and they played three different renditions of "The Christmas Song" -- you know, "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" and all that crap -- in a row. The same song, three times in a row! WTF? I now support legislation making it illegal for anyone to ever record this song again. I mean it. I may take up arms the next time I hear it.
Part of the problem is, there are really only so many Christmas songs out there, but every year, a few pop singers, or more likely, whatever record companies are pimping them out, feel the need to record a whole album of holiday standards, and then, guess what? We are stuck with these things for all eternity. These singers may have faded from popularity many years before, but that doesn't mean radio stations will hesitate to keep playing their horrible Christmas songs every damn year. Just yesterday, I was in Home Depot and who did I hear singing over the sound system in there? Debbie Gibson, that's who. Now I don't mean to rip Debbie in particular -- it so happens that I kind of liked her during that twenty-minute period in 1987 when she was selling records -- but my point is, they are still playing her Christmas songs 18 years later. And you know we're going to be stuck with Jessica Simpson and Celine Dion (sorry, Mom) and Kenny freaking G. at Christmas for years to come too.
My Christmas music preferences run more to the less sentimental end of the spectrum. Sure, like any good child of the 80s, I love "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band-Aid, and "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" by John Lennon (yes, BLB, I know -- too much Yoko). My personal Christmas CD is also heavy on songs from TV specials, like "Christmas Time is Here" from the Peanuts specials, and the song the Whos all sing in the "Grinch" special. But my favorite Christmas song of all is "Merry Christmas from the Family" by Robert Earl Keen. I think the whole thing is hilarious, but I'll only subject you to the lyrics from the first chorus:
Carve the turkey, turn the ball game on
Mix margaritas when the egg nog's gone
Send somebody to the Quick Pack store
We need some ice and an extension cord
A can of bean dip and some Diet Rite
A box of tampons, some Marlboro lights
Hallelujah, everybody say cheese
Merry Christmas from the family
I can't say I've ever asked a relative to pick up a box of tampons or some smokes for me on Christmas before, but nevertheless, this song sounds a lot like the reality of the holidays to me than Jack Frost nipping at my nose and folks dressed up like Eskimos. I'm just saying.
I'd also like to talk about Christmas lights. The other day, Reasonable Man sent me this link to what is possibly the most over-the-top holiday lights display the history Christmas. It's very cool, and if it's real and not just something someone created on their computer, I have to say that I know I'd enjoy going to see it a time or two each year. If I lived anywhere in close proximity to this house, however, I think I might go and live somewhere else for the month of December every year, because that would get really old, really fast. I can just imagine sitting in my house, watching "CSI" or something and minding my own business, and suddenly having lights blasting into my house to the strains of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra or whatever that is at random points throughout the evening. I don't know -- maybe they only do it once a night or something like that. I hope so, for their neighbors' sake. I like the dancing fountains at the Bellagio in Vegas too, but I wouldn't want to live across the street from them.
Anyway, this provides me with a nice segue into the subject of Christmas lights. We have more Christmas lights up this year than we have in the past, and I'm quite proud of my display. Still, I cut some corners in a few places, and predictably, the lights are sagging a bit in a spot or two. I may remedy this, I may not. They're up, and because I'm not a man, I don't have to obsess about it.
I'm not saying all men obsess over things like Christmas lights, but it seems to me that it is more likely to be men than women who feel that there is a right way to put them up and that is how it has to be done. Me, I just kind of put them up however they'll go up. I've put hooks in a few places to make it easier to put them up the next year, but otherwise I'm pretty low-key about it. This is as opposed to, say, my father-in-law, who, when those icicle lights got popular a few years ago, found the sets you could buy at the store somehow lacking and created his own by purchasing about fifty regular strings of white lights and painstakingly looping them to his own satisfaction. The guy across the street was up on his roof -- like, way up on his roof -- putting his lights around the perimeters of his house on the same day I was putting lights up on our house, and let me tell you -- his lights are straight. I don't know what he did to get them that straight, but I've sure never figured out how to make mine look like that, and I have a feeling it involves serious tools and some kind of process developed over time that I would never have the patience for.
Here in town, there's a guy who writes movie reviews for the local paper, and every year he creates a holiday display in his tiny front yard that includes groupings of cartoon characters that he must have actually someone painted himself on sheets of wood and about a zillion lights. I saw him starting to put that stuff up a full week before Thanksgiving this year. It's an awesome display and I admire the effort, but let me tell you -- I will never go there. I really think the big fancy outdoor lights displays are the province of men with an eye for precision and a "Home Improvement"-style lust for more power. And that's fine. I'm happy to put my modest display up each year and leave the power-grid-killing crazy stuff to the guys. I have too many presents to wrap to worry about stuff like that.