I don’t want sausage fingers this Christmas, so I’m taking precautionary measures. The first thing I’m doing this holiday season is instructing my adult children not to read this essay. You see, instead of having sausage fingers this year I will do no shopping at all. Between Christmas and New Year’s, I’ll take my kids out to dinner or lunch — whatever they want to do. My fingers will thank me for it.
Of course, this means I won’t get to wrap gifts. While I detest Christmas shopping, wrapping presents is something I enjoy. I like getting the paper and bows and enjoy making the gifts look as good as possible. I even put ornaments on the gift just below the ribbon to make it look special. Often the wrapping is better than the gift inside. I’ll spend five bucks on the wrapping for a $3 pair of socks.
It occurs to me to be a gift wrapper at a department store this season, but then that would mean smiling at people and wishing them a “Merry Christmas,” so I think I’ll pass on that idea. This time of year, I don’t like to smile that much.
This year, you won’t find a Christmas tree in my living space. I live alone and don’t feel like putting it up. It just means after the holidays, I’ll have to take it down.
Sending Christmas cards? It should go without saying I won’t be doing it.
This “Christmas removal” process has been progressing for years now. I wasn’t always this way, wasn’t always a grump when it comes to the holidays. Let me get all defensive about it and talk about Christmases passed.
When I was a child growing up in southern Indiana, I always looked forward to Christmas and the gifts and the eating and seeing my grandparents and aunts and uncles and getting Christmas cards and listening to holiday music. But the years go by. Nothing stays the same, and if you’ve read me over the years, you know I hate change.
Grandparents and aunts and uncles die. Parents die. Children grow up and go out on their own. This is the time of year when I start to feel increasingly sad about it.
I remember being in my grandfather’s arms as I thanked him for a gift I’d received. I remember my grandmother cooking turkey and ham for Christmas dinner and the spread she put on the table. I remember one of my aunts saying grace for all that wonderful food.
I remember holding my 2-year-old daughter up to the Christmas tree to place an ornament. I remember staying up late on Christmas Eve with my then-wife wrapping gifts for our small children. I remember how excited they were the following morning opening those gifts.
I can honestly say during all these wonderful Christmas memories that my fingers never once turned into sausages. I think when you become older, the holidays become more complicated, and that’s what I don’t like. For me, it’s too easy to think back to the past when things were simpler.
Often as I go to sleep during this time of year, I think of these memories and those loved ones who are gone. I usually find tears in my eyes. A part of me took these Christmases for granted. I’ll never get them back.
I know what you’re thinking. I need to look more forward than back, and that’s probably right. But I wish somehow I could blend the current with the past.
The perfect Christmas gift for me would be having my children meet my grandparents. I can imagine them getting gifts for my kids. I can imagine my son sitting on my grandfather’s lap just like I did and hugging him. I can imagine my daughter helping my grandmother with the holiday meal.
It ain’t gonna happen. Fantasies seldom come true and too often reality sucks.
To all you young readers out there: Someday you’ll be older like me. Enjoy the holidays, buy gifts for your kids and loved ones and sing along to those Christmas songs. Christmas 2011 will only come around once. Don’t take it for granted. Take it all in, try to remember every detail.
As for me, I’ll be alright. I usually am. On Christmas Day, my kids will probably come over and we’ll visit for a bit. Being with family is really the important thing. It isn’t about presents.
After they leave, I might have a few cocktails and maybe watch a movie. That night, I’ll probably go to bed early. As I tuck myself in, I’ll think of those Christmases so long ago and try to smile. That’s what I should be doing. After all, they are good memories.
While trying to do this, at least my fingers will still be fingers and not sausages. This will be a gift to myself. ©