Well, actually it is not Christmas. This is Yule, the shortest day and longest night of the year, a sacred pagan holiday. It is the reason for the season.
I do not have a fireplace to burn a Yule log and I am not up to extinguishing and relighting all the fires in my home (Hello, Gas Company?). I did manage to put the traditional light in my window to show the way for all the travelers (alive and dead) who may be about on this long, dark night.
You may also put Christmas on the list of things I am done with. It really doesn't mean much to me to start with. I don't believe in the virgin birth or the wise men or the star. Nice story, but a little fanciful. I like Jesus just fine without any miraculous backstory, thank you.
The fact that it now starts in early October is more than a little wearying, too. Nothing could be worth THAT buildup. It just loses all its charm by the time the parking lot decorations have begun to fade in the 10 weeks of sunlight. A fifth of the year dedicated to...what?
Tonight took the cake, though. My family is so weird. And we are led by the Queen of the Odd, my dear mother.
Mr Stapler and I had decided to take Mom and Dad out to a nice place for Christmas dinner. My mom first refused, saying we could call out for a pizza or something, but Dad took the reins and said yes. That was about 10 days ago.
Tonight my mom said "I don't think anything will be open on Christmas."
I said, "We're going to the Pierpont." The only grand old hotel in town. Nice ocean view dining room, a good Christmas menu.
Mom: (in an anguished tone that would do Scarlett O'Hara proud) "No! Nooooo! Don't make me go there! Oh, please, no."
Me: "WHY NOT?"
Mom: "Oh, it is so expensive and I feel like a frumpy old lady when I go there and you shouldn't spend all that money and I would be happier if we just ordered Chinese and ate here or something."
Me: "It's Christmas. One nice meal at a nice place."
Mom: "I went to Burger King yesterday and I had a salad that was so good, I was perfectly happy eating that salad."
Me: "We are NOT eating Burger King on Christmas."
Mom: "I wasn't suggesting it. I was just saying..."
Me: "I already have reservations."
Mom: (sighing deeply and in a martyred tone) "I suppose if that is what Mr Stapler wants, then we have to go there."
Me: "Oh no. Oh no. We do not haveto go anywhere."
By then my head hurt so bad that I felt like someone had cracked me across the bridge of the nose with a yardstick.
What IS it with these people? This Great Depression-haunted life, this exaggerated sense of humility, this failure to grab the brass ring, even when people are handing out brass rings for free.
I just can't make my actual family match the well-behaved, charming family that I have in my head. A family who enjoys going out together for Christmas dinner at a place with cloth napkins and who will smile deep into each other's eyes as they toast the holiday with a nice bottle of burgundy. My genteel, imaginary, well-behaved family.
What my mom doesn't realize is that her refusal to let us do nice things for her doesn't make us happy because then, in her words "You don't have to make a fuss over me."
It makes us miserable by denying us the pleasure of providing pleasure, by saying in an indirect way that our gifts aren't wanted, and by making no day any more special than the one preceding it.
Being a gracious receiver is an honorable place to be. It brings joy. Don't say "You shouldn't have." Because sometimes, really, they should have and they want to. Don't ruin it.
Update: I decided that the only thing that would make me happy would be to make Christmas dinner for my family, since I love to cook. I am cooking on Christmas eve, too.
Mr Stapler called and said no. Cooking 2 days in a row is not an option, in his mind. He does not want to be bored out of his mind chitchatting with my parents while I cook a feast.
This made me almost burst into tears. Caught between take out Chinese and a mad boyfriend.
I am now considering running away for the next four days. Please leave your suggestions in the comments section. No locale is too improbable. But I suppose Denver is out.
Update #2. I think I have pinkeye.