It just struck me this morning. I was thinking about the one part of the secular Christmas stuff-you-have-to-do nightmare that was actually something to look forward to- going to my Grandma’s. Grandma had lots of cheap and kitschy old decorations from the 1950’s and 1960’s, including the aluminum foil looking tree and the really fruity looking elves, and the hollow plastic Frosty with the lightbulb stuck up his ass. She had a good number of decorations she had made herself too, which I thought were far more aesthetically pleasing than light-bulb-up-the-ass Frosty, but there was room for everything. Her display was rather eclectic. I enjoyed helping Grandma put up that corny kitsch, (and the pretty stuff she made) which was all carefully labelled, stored and you knew exactly where everything was supposed to go. Grandma enjoyed Christmas and all the decorating, cooking and baking that went with it. Her candy and pies and cookies were 100% homemade, and 100% legendary.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the Christmas story and I love the way that God came to us as a human and that Jesus lived here on earth with us in a flesh and blood human body. I love the season of Advent and observing Advent and Christmas as part of the church year. It’s the materialism and the formalities and the stuff that people think you have to do that really gets on my nerves. The world could do a lot more with more quiet contemplation on what Christmas really is about rather than running around spending money they don’t have buying crap for other people that they really don’t need. Just my two cents’ worth on that. When the “celebrations” turn into being too expensive, too awkward and just plain another whole big stress, it’s time to re-examine the whole hoo-hah and maybe just drop out of a few things.
The real Christmas story (not Santa Claus or the kid with the BB gun) features a miraculous birth. It was about God becoming man and coming to earth to save humanity. I don’t care how much money someone has, you can’t top that gift. Materialists, you might as well go ahead and admit defeat now.
As far as secular holiday celebrations go, I can cook. The only thing I don’t do that Grandma always did is I don’t make my own pie crust. It’s too easy and less expensive to buy the rolled sheets of pie crust than it is to try to deal with just the right ratio of Crisco-to-flour. I have the delightfully tacky pink Christmas tree with blissfully tacky kitschy ornaments including a buzzard, (Jerry will not allow a live tree in the house, because Mr. Let’s-Get-Wasted-and-Start-a-Fire-With-Gasoline-in-the-Fireplace deems them to be “fire hazards”) and (less one Wiseman, because of someone’s bad decision to use gasoline in the fireplace) the Nativity set Grandma got for me the year before she died.
But it’s hard for me to get into the Christmas biz these days. The traffic pisses me off. The crowds in everyplace from Target to the Speedway station piss me off even more. I don’t have the money to buy gifts for people the way I would like to. I don’t have the time to do the crafts and cooking which made Christmastime fun like what Grandma used to do. Jerry goes off on his I’m-so-depressed holiday funk that lasts from December until the end of February, and it just plain drives me batshit. And to top it all off the past few years, I’ve been spending Christmas at my oldest sister’s, and that leaves me feeling more like the turd in the punchbowl than anything. I might have to break with that latter day tradition and do anything that does not require me to be around my sister’s boorish father-in-law as he’s swilling Chardonnay and catatonically staring at the football game. Perhaps I will take the camera and go to the west end of Marion and take some tacky Christmas pics. That is always fun.
Then this morning- I had a very sad longing, a sort of a dark epiphany. I realized the reason why the holiday cheer was getting on my nerves more than usual. As a kid, the best part of Christmas was the afternoon. Grandma and Grandpa would have dinner ready, and it was an elaborate spread. Everything from turkey to homemade cream pie and homemade candy, egg nog, scalloped potatoes, you name it, it was there. They had presents and goodies but that wasn’t the allure. There was something about the whole atmosphere in their house. It wasn’t high faluting like the house in the picture. It was modest, it was clean, it was perfect in an unpretentious way, and it was home. Truth be told, my grandmother’s house seemed more like home to me than my own home. Grandma was safe. There were no heated arguments over money or the lack thereof at her house, or being treated to Mom and Dad constantly picking at each other about this or that petty issue. My sisters were not allowed to beat on me with impunity as they normally could do at home, and most of the time when I was at Grandma’s they were somewhere else which was even better.
Now there’s a stranger living in Grandma’s house. Grandma died back in 2009, though in all fairness she and Grandpa had both started declining not long after Steve-o was born. Grandpa died in 2006 aged 91, after only three days in the hospital, and ten years after he had his bicuspid valve replaced (which was the first time since WWII that he’d been in a hospital for any reason.) Grandma unfortunately died a more sad and lingering death from pancreatic cancer, heart failure and liver failure at age 93, a little more than three years after Grandpa died. It was hard seeing her lose her sight from macular degeneration so for the last ten years of her life she wasn’t able to do the sewing and crochet and other crafts she loved. I guess that’s why I hope and pray that my time comes quickly when the time comes, but you get what you get.
No, I am not going out and buying tampons to do this, (I am still delighted that I’ve been able to skip that aisle at the store for over three years now) but I never thought a feminine hygiene item could be made so festive!
Grandma’s house is still there but it’s not the same. I’m sure the lady that rents it from Dad is alright. Dad generally tries not to rent to serial killers and nut jobs, although his last renter’s family were pretty crazy after he died and they left the place a disaster area. I’ve not met her but she does have a lovely Pitbull that Dad says is a very sweet dog. I think what bothers me even more than knowing that there’s a stranger living in Grandma’s house is that I’m not able to be anywhere near as involved in my own grandchild’s life as my Grandma was in mine. I seldom get to see Sophia, and even when I can, I am beholden to her mother’s schedule and whims. To make that even worse, I live an hour’s drive away. I can’t live in the safe house across the field. Her mother doesn’t want her to be in my house, because she doesn’t trust Jerry, and Jerry smokes in the house. If I want to see my granddaughter I have to either go to her mother’s house or take her to my parents’ house. I cherish any time I can spend with her, but I don’t see where I am going to be able to have much influence in her life. It saddens me.