12 Days of Christmas with Terrence Scott
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Today's guest is:
What Christmas Means To Me
By Terrence Scott
You know, Scrooge didn’t have it completely wrong. Neither did Cratchit have it completely right. They were just opposite ends of the same spectrum. From the crotchety old miser who avoids emotional entanglements and uncomfortable social gatherings, to the heart-of-gold, see the best-in-all-of-us through rose-colored glasses, uber-happy family man, these extremes have always bothered me. Especially in the sense that the basic premise of the Chuck Dickens’ story (I call him Chuck) was having to choose which you are, or want to be, with most (if not all—including Scrooge himself) choosing jovial, uplifting Team Cratchit as the clear winner. I don’t subscribe to that, of giving me only two options to choose from, neither of which particularly fit a profile I care for. I’m going to invoke my ‘Oppositional Defiance Disorder’ condition right here and take a stand.
This is what makes the Christmas holiday so confusing for me on an emotional level. See, I’m in my apathetic, don’t-really-care-that-much-for-humanity, just-stay-out-of-my-way-and-don’t-drink-the-last-of-my-Diet-Dr.-Pepperlifestyle. It’s comfortable, it’s quiet, and mostly it’s not a club many want to join. And that would be just great—except I have a daughter...a six-year-old daughter. One who is simply enraptured with the entire holiday experience.I’m talking from the wonder of Santa Claus to the magic of The Nutcracker. To baking cookies and breads, to decorating the tree till there’s nary a pine needle still visible. This conflicts greatly with my cynical, sarcastic let’s-make-fun-of-everything-sacred nature. Oh, does it conflict.
Since that is a foreign concept to me, and I am unsure how to deal with the flood of such emotion, this leaves me little choice but attempt to bring her down to my level. However, despite my best attempts to break her spirit, to crush her belief regarding a gravity-defying old fart in a red suit, she remains ever positive and on that constant edge of total euphoric freak-out over the prospect of an endless supply of presents and candy come the day after December 24th.
Leading up to the fateful day, we engage in the requisite plethora of holiday-themed movie fare. We’ve watched the Rankin-Bass, stop-motion; Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, television specialad nauseam, punctuated by my witty observations about how Santa is just a total butt (he really is, just watch), how all the females in the movie were meant to stay at home (Rudolph’s mother and Clarice), and how Hermey is the only elf that uses styling product in his hair. And aside from my eerily accurate impression of Rudolph, as played by Hannibal Lector, saying, “Well, hello Clarice.”she nevertheless remains undeterred in her goodcheer and enthusiasm for the holiday.
I’m baffled by this. After all my musings and observations on why one should take a shoulder-roll into the holiday season with a grimace, she refuses to agree. She has that 6-year-old vision of the future, that perspective yet to be tainted by reality.
And I’m jealous of that.
Yes, I know, I have a few years on her. A few years of disappointment and understanding of how jarringly harsh the real world can be and how fictional characters, though fun to fantasize about (yes, 1977, Lynda Carter, Wonder Woman, I’m talking about you) are not the basis for how you structure your life. It does not strike her odd in the least that a good portion of her calendar year revolves around some fat-man breaking and entering.
She currently makes the leap from one fictional-based character holiday to the next without hesitation. From the Thanksgiving turkey to Santa and Rudolph, to the Easter Bunny, Leprechauns—pretty much anything she can get her head around and can figure a way to make a craft out of, she will. Her unwavering enthusiasm is impressive, and I’ve come to believe she is adopted as I don’t think I had that as a kid, which means she more than likely doesn’t come from my bloodline.
It’s been so long since I’ve been able to view things through those narrow, though enviable, lenses, that I must admit I’m envious. Long gone is that sense of wonder, of constant excitement, of overwhelming anticipation for a single day of the year. It’s been replaced with stress over required social gatherings, faux declarations of good tidings, and unexpectedly high expenditures in the realm of gift-giving. None of which are hideous endeavors, they’re just simply outside my circle of comfort.
My daughter has an amazing ability to combine the fantastic with the practical. The idea she can randomly send a letter to Santa, simply by shoving it in an envelope (which she made herself), labeling it “Santa – North Pole”, and having no doubt it will reach him without getting lost (not to mention have him know who it’s from and where that child is located in the world without a return address) is quite phenomenal. That somehow the messages she’s been attempting to contact Santa with via snail mail, texting, smoke signals, and mental telepathy have managed to get through and have been translated into the wondrous bounty found under our treeonChristmas morning. A bounty she’s been dreaming about and drooling over from the 12-months of television commercials and Happy Meals that were beyond her financial reach. And that’s where I think the catch comes in, where my difficulty in whether I’m Team Ebenezer or Team Bob.
I make a decent enough living that if I want to get something during the year, say an XBOX, pornography, or a jumbo size 55-gallon barrel of Absolut Vodka, I can. I’m not hindered by the prospect of waiting for and hoping that on Christmas I get any number of these things. So, that has changed the excitement in opening gifts. I get what I want, when I want. I’m lucky, and not beholden to Christmas or my birthday, and so do not experience the same thrill my children enjoy. But that’s okay—they do. And I get to see it.
While that is an exceptional thing to experience, it nonetheless conflicts with my core being. I’m like Rain Man: I’m not good at processing emotion, no matter if it’s good or bad. So I have to compensate in other ways, by down-playing the more wrenching aspects or pretending outright that they don’t exist. Not all of my techniques are productive.
My daughter and I have a constant test of wills. One that’s been growing more intense every year, and we’re getting to the point of it being a nuclear holocaustshy of Thunderdome every time we have a conflict, because to say we have differences in opinion is putting it lightly. These ‘differences’ usually lead to heated and monosyllabic ‘debates’ on who is the parent and who is the child. Unsurprisingly, often there is no clear-cut winner in the matter. This also occurs on an almost daily basis, and usually over the most insignificant of events. But come the holiday season, with the lights and music and the food and anticipation, everything gets ramped up, heightened to a Spinal Tap11. Which means she has less tolerance for anything deviating from the norm, less tolerance to humor that may conflict with her prime objective. Making jokes like we’re having reindeer for dinner (hamburgers) or we’re going to wait until the day after Christmas to get the Christmas tree because we’ll get a really good deal, tend to elicit less raucous laughter and more angry facial expressions riddled with the occasional obscene gesture. I’m usually scolded by my wife for such witticisms, which makes it difficult for me because that’s how I keep my emotions under wraps: through inappropriate and ill-timed humor.
And so the conflict, the confusing emotional tug-of-war between the extremes of Scrooge and Cratchit pull at me during the holiday season. I am incapable of displaying the goodwill Bob Cratchit imbues, that my daughter so fully embraces. And yet, cannot completely embrace Scrooge as that approach gets far fewer women into bed (my wife hates this joke.)
I think I probably relate more to Bobby C’s wife, Mrs. Cratchit. Dickens didn’t even give her a first name he thought so little of her more realistic, middle-of-the-road perspective.Subscribing to neither a Scrooge nor a Bob point of view.
I get that. I can identify with that.
Now if I can just get the rest of my family to feel the same, maybe we could contain Christmas and all Christmas related cheer to a single day of the year so I won’t feel so uncomfortable.
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