Another year over; a new one's just begun.
I guess it's safe for me to come out say it: I hate Christmas. I never used to hate Christmas though, probably because I never used to have to shop for anyone. That's because until I was about 23, my family and I never used to exchange gifts. My parents, in their infinite wisdom and stinginess, decreed that nobody got gifts. Ok my parents weren't really stingy, they were just very very cheap.
It's really quite an amazing thing really, because the gifts that I do receive from my family are totally unexpected and require no reciprocation. I remember a few years ago when my brother Peter who had just gotten a TiVo, enjoyed it so much that he bought me one too. He presented it to me unwrapped and unadorned one cool September.
Nobody got Game Boys, but nobody got ugly ties, macaroni art or yet another coffee mug either. Because of this, my family never gave or got gifts to each other for any holiday, birthday or graduation from modeling school/diploma mill, a situation that continues to this day, thirty-odd years later.
I should say, this situation continues to this day back home.
Here in Chicago, I am swept into this tsunami we call Christmas. I never realized how good I got it until I was standing in the middle of the Mall of Destruction. The only thing that kept me sane this past season was my mantra, which I repeated over and over as I fought through the crowds and waited in line: "Prepare to die, you motherfucker."
If you asked me what is the biggest threat facing the world today, I would say it is the Gift Exchange. That and knee-length tube socks, but I digress. Gift exchanges are tearing down the fabric of our family and our friends--the ones that we still speak to after the holidays.
Oh, don't try to defend it. For every gift you got that you begged Santa for, there is a landfill of stuff with your name on the gift tags--in a landfill.
I have spent the last two weeks before Christmas running around trying to buy the perfect gift for my friends; the gift that is the symbol of our friendship, my understanding of their spirit, my wish for their future happiness. There is only one caveat: you cannot give them the only gift that could possibly fit the bill: warm, soft money.
That would be crass. Ironic that it's inappropriate for all this crass commercialism.
And after all that, people judge you. They judge you for the gifts you give them. They think about how much they spent in relation to what they received and they judge you for not reading their minds. Even worse, they judge you for your excessive use of tape to wrap the gifts.
Can you imagine the First Christmas? Remember when the Three Kings bore gifts to the Child in the manger? Can you imagine what the guy who brought the myrrh must've thought when Mary opened the other guys' presents and it was silver and gold? Can you imagine him pulling the other two aside, hissing angrily, "I thought we agreed on a 20 chicken limit! That must've cost at least a goat and a dairy cow!"
Imagine his embarrassment when Mary said, "Myrrh... and oh, frankincense? That's... nice." and surreptitiously looked for a gift receipt? Can you imagine the hassle of traveling by donkey 200 miles to the bazaar and only managing a bazaar credit?
Christmas has come and gone. Saddam is dead. The world is still the same.
The war is still the same.
This past Christmas, I watched WWE's Tribute to The Troops: Christmas in Baghdad. John Cena, The Undertaker and CM Punk pummeled each other, bounced around the ropes and pumped their fists in the air. The troops cheered for them.
I cheered too.
I cheered for these combatants in tights, prancing in the ring, these fighters in a false war.
The Long Way Home - Twelve posts about my incredibly interesting family and my remarkably sane relationship with them.