21 December 2006

So this is Christmas

Well, actually it is not Christmas. This is Yule, the shortest day and longest night of the year, a sacred pagan holiday. It is the reason for the season.

I do not have a fireplace to burn a Yule log and I am not up to extinguishing and relighting all the fires in my home (Hello, Gas Company?). I did manage to put the traditional light in my window to show the way for all the travelers (alive and dead) who may be about on this long, dark night.

You may also put Christmas on the list of things I am done with. It really doesn't mean much to me to start with. I don't believe in the virgin birth or the wise men or the star. Nice story, but a little fanciful. I like Jesus just fine without any miraculous backstory, thank you.

The fact that it now starts in early October is more than a little wearying, too. Nothing could be worth THAT buildup. It just loses all its charm by the time the parking lot decorations have begun to fade in the 10 weeks of sunlight. A fifth of the year dedicated to...what?

Tonight took the cake, though. My family is so weird. And we are led by the Queen of the Odd, my dear mother.

Mr Stapler and I had decided to take Mom and Dad out to a nice place for Christmas dinner. My mom first refused, saying we could call out for a pizza or something, but Dad took the reins and said yes. That was about 10 days ago.

Tonight my mom said "I don't think anything will be open on Christmas."

I said, "We're going to the Pierpont." The only grand old hotel in town. Nice ocean view dining room, a good Christmas menu.

Mom: (in an anguished tone that would do Scarlett O'Hara proud) "No! Nooooo! Don't make me go there! Oh, please, no."

Me: "WHY NOT?"

Mom: "Oh, it is so expensive and I feel like a frumpy old lady when I go there and you shouldn't spend all that money and I would be happier if we just ordered Chinese and ate here or something."

Me: "It's Christmas. One nice meal at a nice place."

Mom: "I went to Burger King yesterday and I had a salad that was so good, I was perfectly happy eating that salad."

Me: "We are NOT eating Burger King on Christmas."

Mom: "I wasn't suggesting it. I was just saying..."

Me: "I already have reservations."

Mom: (sighing deeply and in a martyred tone) "I suppose if that is what Mr Stapler wants, then we have to go there."

Me: "Oh no. Oh no. We do not haveto go anywhere."

By then my head hurt so bad that I felt like someone had cracked me across the bridge of the nose with a yardstick.

What IS it with these people? This Great Depression-haunted life, this exaggerated sense of humility, this failure to grab the brass ring, even when people are handing out brass rings for free.

I just can't make my actual family match the well-behaved, charming family that I have in my head. A family who enjoys going out together for Christmas dinner at a place with cloth napkins and who will smile deep into each other's eyes as they toast the holiday with a nice bottle of burgundy. My genteel, imaginary, well-behaved family.

What my mom doesn't realize is that her refusal to let us do nice things for her doesn't make us happy because then, in her words "You don't have to make a fuss over me."

It makes us miserable by denying us the pleasure of providing pleasure, by saying in an indirect way that our gifts aren't wanted, and by making no day any more special than the one preceding it.

Being a gracious receiver is an honorable place to be. It brings joy. Don't say "You shouldn't have." Because sometimes, really, they should have and they want to. Don't ruin it.

Update: I decided that the only thing that would make me happy would be to make Christmas dinner for my family, since I love to cook. I am cooking on Christmas eve, too.

Mr Stapler called and said no. Cooking 2 days in a row is not an option, in his mind. He does not want to be bored out of his mind chitchatting with my parents while I cook a feast.

This made me almost burst into tears. Caught between take out Chinese and a mad boyfriend.

I am now considering running away for the next four days. Please leave your suggestions in the comments section. No locale is too improbable. But I suppose Denver is out.

Update #2. I think I have pinkeye.


Mignon said...

Great post, from beginning to end.

I feel similarly about people that say "No problem" when I thank them. It makes me feel slightly less thankful, if it really was 'no problem,' you know?

Happy Solstice, SueBob. It is a wonderful day.

Carolie said...

It's just as important to be a gracious recipient as it is to be a gracious giver. I'm very sorry your mom has such issues.

Come to Japan. I'm making all sorts of things like standing rib roast and yorkshire pudding for Christmas Eve. FH has to work on Christmas Day, so I'm going to the 100 yen stores in the shopping arcade (Japan doesn't close for Christmas) and then plan to play with the children at the park, where they're bringing in a snow machine for one day.

You (and Mr. Stapler, *IF* you decide to let him come!) are invited to come and eat, shop, walk, explore, sit, nap, read, whatever. You don't have to bring anything, but if you do, I will say "How wonderful! Oh, look, FH! It's exactly what I always wanted!"

Anonymous said...

Ugh, how frustrating. I am sorry this is so stressful.

You can come to DC if you'd like. Bring Mr. Stapler or not, depending on how you're feeling at the moment. We're ordering dinner, or you can skip it altogether and watch TiVo or rest.

Happy Solstice.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...well, the weather here in the Great White North as of late has been downright balmy...come here?

Sorry, I had to laugh at the not eating at Burger King on Christmas part. I'd have the same reaction. Chinese? Yes. Grand old hotel? Yes. Chicken Fries and a double with cheese? No.

And you know, I think you're right...Christmas prep starting the day after Hallowe'en really does drain the festive spirit.

Happy Solstice...and good luck. ;)

Anonymous said...

I don't know the answer, Suebob. I suspect that if it were me, I'd cook Christmas Eve and go out Christmas Day and if there was another "oh no, please don't" plea I'd probably say, "You know what? We WANT to do this, and the very best Christmas present YOU could give ME would be to hush up and enjoy it." I don't know your mom so I have no idea if that would be prudent in your situation, though.

Deep breaths. Tis the season to try to enjoy being with family without bickering over where and what to eat, right? ;)

VenturaMom from said...

When my mom was diagnosed with cancer she started using the good china for everyday meals, stopped using the mismatched wine glasses and switched to Waterford. She also started wearing her "fancy" camisole that she only wore on special occasions. Undergarments for fancy occasions?!? Keeping the tradition alive, we use our china for pizza and Waterford for two-buck Chuck. Tell your Mom that every day is special. Make every day a fancy undergarment day. Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

This is perfect and brave: "Being a gracious receiver is an honorable place to be. It brings joy. Don't say "You shouldn't have." Because sometimes, really, they should have and they want to. Don't ruin it."

Like you, Suebob, I shrug at Christmas. It's too long and too busy and its trailers suggest something finer than it is. I want to dropkick whomever employs the phrase "the magic of Christmas."

Plus, I don't want any more shit. I don't wear new shirts. Every year, I buy a new pair of shoes. Every few years, I buy a new pair of jeans. I sure don't need a sweatshirt with a glittering reindeer on it.

Won't wear it.

Can't make me.

As far as your family, it sounds like your role is She Who is Tugged. And in some way, you oblige all that tugging. It's dramatic. People love drama. People wouldn't tug if that didn't provoke some drama.

SUEB0B said...

Thank you everyone for you kind thoughts and wishes.

Holly, you are right. I am putting the grieved parties on the phone and they can work out the details.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with that, Babe. I'll think a good thought for you and yours.

Lynnea said...

Well I agree that starting festivities in October spoils the whole thing. But I have to admit that I am a big fan of Christmas and enjoy it through and through. The magic is where you make it - dinners and friends, hot drinks, snuggles, you name it. But I loathe to think it comes from any store.

I think Mr. Stapler might have been thinking about you and not wanting you to feel you have to work so hard at the holidays? I'm guessing here, but that is how my husband would react and for that reason.

Anyways, you're right about gracious receiving. I'm sorry your mom is doing that to you. Oh the martyrdom - my mother is an expert at that.

Anonymous said...

I can relate, SueBob. Next year I'm creating a Christmas for orphans--all of us (SINKS and DINKs?) whose families will not get with the program. What really sucks is that with Christmas starting so early, in October, that's so much longer to feel inadqueate and neglected. And then once it's over, we're into Valentine's Day!

Stephanie said...

My mother is exactly like that. Plus she will physically fight over paying a restaurant check.

You know what I kept thinking as I read? That Chinese restaurant scene in A Christmas Story. Find someplace where you can get a duck with a head still attached & serve that.

Also, I burn a red Yule candle with a ring of greens. Works just the same. ;)

Heather B. said...

Cook Christmas Eve. Go out Christmas Day and tell your mother to embrace the holiday. This is something nice that you want to do with and for her.

Begging and whining and bribery may all be employed in your particular situation

Skye @ Planet Jinxatron said...

Or come to Austin, we're happy to go out to a nice dinner with you and Mr. Stapler - and the weather here is fantastic!

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