I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about Christmas. There were presents, of course. Not too many–just enough to wake you before your parents. Saving the best for last, my brother and I went first for smallish parcels from dista nt relatives while still working the kinks from our corneas, the phlegm from dry winter windpipes. It wasn’t all that important we got a good look at what was inside the boxes anyhow. Yawning and bleary-eyed, we unwrapped and deposited the contents far from the tree in discrete piles–for me, a pile of brightly colored clothes mostly, whose tags wouldn’t be plucked until the afternoon they were dropped at Goodwill. I’ve always wanted just to blend in; these logoed pastels raised expectations I knew I couldn’t meet. I needed Army-green, brown, khaki–navy blue, maybe, if I’d had a really good week.
There were Christmas parties, lavish meals, awkward phone calls to family we hadn’t spoken to for exactly twelve months, and church services too. The parties were crammed with flushed, sweatered adults cradling mugs of warm cider, balancing red and green paper plates above plush white carpets, smiling broadly and more often than they were used to. We kids eventually coalesced into a corner of our own, where we yelled our conversations behind handfuls of calories while scanning our parents’ body language for the cue to leave. The parties were fine–something to do–– but I wouldn’t say they beat vegging out in front of the television set, where we might munch away mindlessly on candy canes and caramel corn straight from the can, flip aimlessly past old Christmas black-and-whites we’d heard so much about but never had the will to endure, and drift in and out of consciousness as our bodies molded to the sofa.