The Unintentional Mr. Grinch

I’ve been telling you for the past couple of weeks how much I love Christmas. Instead of rehashing, I’ll let you read my previous post containing my Random Christmas Thoughts. Go ahead. I can wait.

So after all that, why do I feel like Scrooge McGrinch now that Christmas gift-giving is over?

Because I love giving gifts. Ol’ Santa and I are bruthas from different muthas. I way overspend each year, because, hey, it’s only money, and I love to see the eye-lighting, the smile-spreading and everything else that goes with giving someone a nice gift, particularly something that catches someone by surprise.

This year, with the sagging economy and things being tough among certain of my friends, there was an understanding amongst many of us that gifts should be held to a minimum. Or even less if there were children involved, because it’s really for them anyway. I have a friend that is having a rough time right now moneywise; I told him no gift exchange between us this year. Use whatever he would spend on me to buy something extra for one of his grandkids. Many people I know commented that they weren’t even sending out cards this year. They can be costly and get tossed after a week or two, anyway.

So, in light of all that, I kept myself in check and went easy on the presents. Instead of going all-out, I held back in order to avoid any possible embarrassment. The few gifties I did buy were nothing extravagant. I did not make out cards for those who said they were passing them by this year.

Of course, I got screwed. While I was trying to keep things low-key, my friends and family were plying me with all sorts of gifts and cards that, while appreciated, of course, left me looking like a goof.

My ex and I historically haven’t made a big deal out of exchanging gifts, preferring instead to spoil the only fruit of our loins. When I asked her for a list of ideas this year, she gave me a few; she just got a Blu-Ray player, so a couple of DVD’s would be nice. She showed me a Christmas ornament in a catalog she liked. She asked me for a list that she could share with others, because certain of our friends and family would go to her for gifts ideas for me.

So I got her a couple of Blu-Ray discs and the ornament, and a video game I thought she’d enjoy, and she got me everything on my list! I probably spent $125 on her, and she got me $100 just in iTunes gift cards! Yes, yes, I’m a thoughtless male, but I’m generally not this bad.

Another friend I have is going through a tough time, and had indicated that she wasn’t even giving anyone a card this year. The past couple of years I’d given her family a card just because, but this year I respected what I thought were her wishes and kept my card to myself. Damn if she didn’t come up to me at a social event and hand me a box of chocolates because I’d given them cards in the past and they hadn’t given me one. Okay, the choccies were no doubt a regift, because everyone knows I don’t indulge, but they thought of me, and I didn’t even send them a damn card this year.

An online friend sent me a very nice Cleveland Browns blankie, despite her financial problems; I sent her a DVD. Late, even. *Sigh*

And don’t get me wrong, this has nothing to do with money or amounts spent or who got who what. But I kind of feel like I disappointed a few people, and that’s not the Christmas Spirit I want to leave with anyone.

I don’t know. Probably nobody cares but me. But I do care. It bothers me a lot.

How about you? Did you feel like Santa or Grinch this year?

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Random Thoughts (Christmas ’09)

The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of the year. I start decorating the weekend before Thanksgiving, because the big dinner and football take up too much time. Once a month, on the 25th when possible, I listen to Christmas music for an hour or two. I stock up on Febreze Fresh Evergreen and Snow candles and air freshener in December so I can enjoy them throughout the year. “Winter Village” is my iGoogle theme year-round.

It’s not the presents and gift-giving; it’s not the nostalgia of the holiday programs (although it has to be close to a national emergency to make me miss “A Charlie Brown Christmas”); it’s not the music; God knows it’s definitely not the snowy weather (which I hate) that keeps me singing “We Need A Little Christmas” in my increasingly raspy voice.

It’s the general atmosphere, what the season does for most people’s attitudes at this time of year that I look forward to most. People who are Scrooges or Grinches the rest of the year find their hearts, if only temporarily. Children are on their best behavior, hoping that being on the straight and narrow for a month or so will make up for eleven months of naughtiness. I don’t know that there’s ever been research done on the subject, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that there are more smiles flashed, hands shook, and hugs given in December than any other month.

I love, love, love the season (of course, I do my shopping online; getting anywhere near a mall would dampen my enthusiasm)!

A few random memories and other tidbits:

  • I don’t remember my first Christmas. Give me a break; I’m 58 fer cryin’ out loud.
  • One year we had an aluminum tree, illuminated by a lamp with a rotating wheel that held different colored sections of cellophane.  You don’t see that much any more.  Probably a good thing.
  • I think it was in 1963 that we were living in Walnut Creek, California. For Christmas the family piled in the station wagon and drove to Anaheim and spent Christmas Day at Disneyland.
  • My five favorite Christmas recordings, in no particular order: “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” – John Lennon and Yoko Ono; “The Little Drummer Boy” – The Harry Simeone Chorale; “Christmas Canon” – The Trans-Siberian Orchestra; “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” – The Trans-Siberian Orchestra; “Christmas Time Is Here” – The Vince Guaraldi Trio.
  • We lived with my grandparents for a spell when I was younger. I remember one Christmas season (probably the same one with the aluminum tree mentioned earlier) one of my siblings happened to look out of the window to see a strange man waving his arms around and jumping up and down. We couldn’t quite see him in the dark, but he seemed very frightening. The youngest of us started crying as the strange figure came knocking on the door, although the adults were laughing and telling us everything was OK as they opened the door and let the strange man in. He was, of course, outfitted in the requisite red-and-white and fur-trimmed uniform, and the adults were ho-ho-ho-ing and saying it was only Santa Claus. We were all encouraged to sit on his vast lap and tell him what we wanted for Christmas, but none of us kids were excited about it; yes, we were all familiar with Santa and had met him several times at local shopping centers (yes, Virginia, this was long before the concept of “malls”), but this guy…his hair and beard were scraggly, his face was battered, he didn’t speak (not even one “ho”) and his eyes seemed like holes cut into his face. Which, of course, they were; this Santa was, in fact, my grandfather dressed in a rather old and well-used suit and a mask that must have dated to the Civil War.
  • One of my fondest childhood memories is of Mr. Jingeling, the Keeper of the Keys. He started out as a character created at Cleveland’s Halle’s Department Store in the mid-50’s to sell toys during the holiday season. He proved to be so popular that he’s been around ever since. I remember seeing him during his daily spots on Capt. Penney’s show on WEWS.
  • For my son’s second Christmas, we stayed up late, getting everything just right, and set up the video camera so we could catch the look on his face when he came into the room. Getting up early, we double-checked everything, made sure the camera angle was perfect, and as his mom was bringing him, I pushed “Play” and “Random” on the CD player, which had been preloaded with various titles of Christmas music, including Volume 4 of A Very Special Christmas. As Cam came into the room, he eyes widened and his jaw dropped at the sight of the tree and presents. The camera caught it all, including the audio playing in the background: “Christmas in Hollis” by Run DMC. Not exactly the mood setting music we were hoping for.
  • My five favorite Scrooges:
  • #1 Alastair Sim

    #2 Jim Carrey

    #3 Mr. Magoo

    #4 Michael Caine

    #5 Rowan Atkinson (as Ebenezer Blackadder)

  • (Added Dec.16) Mrs. Claus would visit us on New Year’s Eve (a ruse, I would imagine, to get us off to bed early so the adults could enjoy midnight). Our stockings would be hung somewhere with care (we didn’t have a chimney), and we would awake in the New Year to find she’d loaded them with apples and oranges and other healthy snacks; no doubt to atone for the sweets and so forth that her health-unconscious husband had filled us up with. We weren’t crazy about Mrs. Claus.
  • (Added Dec.22) Somehow, in 5th Grade at Spicer School in Akron, Ohio, I was chosen to participate in the school Christmas play. I probably volunteered, but I don’t remember the details. I do remember that I was supposed to be a shepherd (Shermy!), but I didn’t have any lines to memorize. Probably had to sing a carol with everyone. I was really looking forward to it…until the day of the play. I got stage fright before I even left the house, and had my mom call me in sick. What a wuss. Merry Christmas to all schoolkids who dread the holidays because they’re afraid they’re going to look silly in front of their peers.
    I’m sure as the season goes on I’ll add to this list. I tend to wax nostalgic as I hear certain songs, see certain things, and even smell certain smells. Hope your season brings you special memories, too.

    Merry Christmas!