There are no bell ringers, no Rudolph noses. Tinsel is on clearance. Churches quit lighting candles. Nat King Cole is dead, and Tony Bennet is looking less pink every day.
This is the worst day of my cotton-picking life. And it's always the most miserable day of the year. It's as though God extinguished the sun, shot Old Yeller, and ran off with his secretary.
I woke up this morning face-first on the living room floor, wearing a santa hat. I kicked away empty egg nog cartons and stumbled into the kitchen. For breakfast: leftover potatoes, with piss-warm green bean casserole.
Christmas is over.
The tree in the corner is preparing for its own funeral, and we've decided to stop watering the poinsettias. How did this happen?
Twenty-four hours ago, I had a fork in one hand and a new iPhone in the other. I told jokes, I made toasts, I fed the dog so many turkey bones she puked in the laundry room.
And just when I thought it couldn't get any better, somebody pulled out a guitar. The kids danced, ring-around-the-rosy formation, while I twirled in the center. And when I screamed,
“God bless us, everyone!” the family liked to have torn the place apart with their bare hands.
Now the world is one big cow patty.
There are no bell ringers, no Rudolph noses. Tinsel is on clearance. Churches quit lighting candles. Nat King Cole is dead, and Tony Bennet is looking a little less pink every day.
We've done this to ourselves. Yesterday, we were part of the best damn thing ever conceived by mankind, and it was beautiful. We sang songs about love, gave gifts to strangers. We watched kids giggle. We drove hundreds of miles just to wash dishes together. We took walks around the neighborhood. We smiled a lot. For Christ sake, I even hugged my mother-in-law; I squeezed her so hard I almost broke her titanium hip. But it's all over today.
We act like different people again.
You can wish for whatever you want this Christmas, but I'm going to wish for something I know I'll get. Older.
Santa hasn't let me down yet.
I saw a childhood photo of myself, sitting by the Christmas tree in a pair of pajamas. The kind with the seat-flap that unbuttons. Good God, I looked like a baby. Twenty-five-year-olds ought not wear those kinds of pajamas.
The truth is, you couldn't pay me enough to go backward and grow up all over again. I don't care how good my skin looked, I hate algebra.
One of my childhood friends has developed a head of gray hair. I saw my buddy after twenty years. It's funny how silver hair-color can change someone altogether. He's not the same man.
That rambunctious, dark-haired joker, who once landed me in jail for exactly one night; who slept like a log while I hummed the “Folsom Prison Blues,” has vanished. He's now
a financial advisor who drinks the kind of wine I can't pronounce. Boo-shay something or other. Whenever he tells a lie, I yell, “Aw, that's total boo-shay!” His kids love it when I do that.
The truth is, I believe age makes people better. I think it helps cure the deadly affliction of youth, which folks spend a lot of money to sustain.
Therefore, I hope Santa makes my crow's feet a little deeper this year, maybe a little more arthritis would be nice. I hope he keeps altering the way I pile on body fat. I enjoy watching numbers on the scale climb for no discernible reason. Maybe Santa can bring me a good fiber supplement and some Velcro shoes this year, too. But for Christ sake, please hurry, Santa.
I'm not getting any younger.
The big man ringing the bell sang like a fool. He bellowed the words to “Twelve Days of Christmas,” like he wrote the damn song himself. He grinned big and sang to shoppers coming and going.
It wasn't long before an entire crowd gathered. Including me. And soon, we all joined in singing. When it came time for the operatic five-golden-rings part, I found myself hollering like Shania Twain.
By the end of the song, there were thirty of us standing nearby. Without skipping a beat, the man closed his eyes and launched into a slow solo rendition of “O Holy Night.” And he sang it lovely enough to make your arm hair curl.
When he finished, the only thing to be heard were sniffles.
Then he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for heaven belongs to them. Blessed are folks that mourn; for they'll be comforted.” Then he looked at me. “And you.”
“Yes, you. You're blessed, to be on
two feet, to have that bag of groceries, money in your pocket.”
Then, he pointed to a lady.
She froze like a possum in the headlights.
“You too, ma'am,” he said. “You're blessed your kids are healthy, that you have a nice car.” He pointed to another. “And you sir, for having such a beautiful family.” To another, “You too son, for being so young and strong.”
Then, he tapped his chest. “And me. That my daughter ain't living underneath a bridge anymore, that she's off drugs. Blessed I get to see my grandbaby grow up." His voice broke. "Blessed my family is finally back together this Christmas.”
He wiped his eyes, and then started singing again. Folks nearly ruptured that red bucket with five-dollar bills.
Because as it turns out, we were blessed.