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Featured Article

Bah Humbug!

By: NLogan

CHRISTMAS,
THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR...
EXCEPT WHEN IT ISN'T.

"What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose?” - Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol



Bah Humbug!


“If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should.”
- Charles Dickens,
A Christmas Carol

Not everyone loves Christmas. There are many reasons why, from the petty not getting the present you wanted to the true disaster of burning down the house, the presents under the tree, or even losing a loved one.

Whatever the reason, there are many Ebenezer Scrooges snarling sneers of disdain, plenty of Grinches with sour grinchy frowns, loads of Burgermeister Meisterburgers who hate toys, too many Old Man Potter's with greedy fingers, and Jack Frosts nipping noses with their hearts of solid ice. There are many who would stop Christmas from coming. Some became bitter through tragedy or happenstance, others are victims of the mercilessness of vicious slum lords, or heartless bankers, bill collectors, horrible bosses, or cruel circumstance, all of whom care not a whim for the season.



"Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did not. The Grinch hated Christmas, the whole Christmas season. Now, please don't ask why; no one quite knows the reason. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. Or it could be that his head wasn't screwed on just right. But I think that the most likely reason of all... may have been that his heart was two sizes too small. But, whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes, he stood there on Christmas Eve hating the Whos. Staring down from his cave, with a sour grinchy frown, at the warm, lighted windows below in their town." - Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

There Goes Christmas!


It begins early for many, 'tis the season of being dragged off to do things you don't want to do. Take for example the lovely tradition of teaching young ones to abhor strangers yet plopping them down on a strange lap to take a picture with Santa Clause whom they have never met and they are told he will come while they are sleeping into their homes and that he is always watching them. Some evil elf who has the power to decide the amount of presents one receives and who can punish the naughty with no presents at all. Clearly the stuff nightmares are made of.




This is my twin brother and I terrified by Santa Claus. He does look a little deranged. He has probably had to sit through hundreds of squirming screaming children who may or may not have wet his lap, I wouldn't put anything past him.

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch
You really are a heel
You're as cuddly as a cactus, you're as charming as an eel
Mr Gri-inch!
You're a bad banana with a... greasy black peel
- Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!



If not complete strangers, no one is stranger than some of your relatives. My dad would keep a unlabeled wrapped box of chocolates just in case some distant relative took it upon themselves to visit us and he be caught unprepared to gift in return for their ancient popcorn tin or fruit cake. Kids of all ages are routinely dragged off to see distant relations and endure the pinching of cheeks, the smothering hugs smelling of powder and moth balls, and slobbery kisses from lipsticked mustachioed gibbering mouths.



Kids are forced to go play with cousins who they have rarely seen unless on an episode of the Twilight Zone, say hello to uncles reeking of alcohol wanting to know when you are going to be big enough to take them on, and aunts of all sizes with record breaking mascara-ed, inches long eyelashes and enough eye shadow to give any clown a run for their money. There are great grandparents with one foot in the grave that every relative must take a picture with that smell of death and the elderly. Christmas is the time of year for families and then remembering why it was that you only made the effort to see them once a year.

I myself was dragged away on many excursions to visit these relatives. At one relative's house my mom discretely told me not to eat the "chipped beef" that we were served covered in cat hair because she had seen it come from a can of dog food but thought my senile relative was about to feed the dog. One has to carefully choose the right amount of poisonous foods to eat or not carefully balancing death or avoiding offending the host
when visiting relatives; foods that may have expired sometime during the Nixon presidency.



This is my great Auntie. We would visit her to receive our yearly back-rubs with her bunched arthritic fists while munching stale popcorn or striped hard ribbon candy glued together in one big conglomerate ball of color that you needed a five pound sledgehammer to break apart.



In her remaining years she was placed in a retirement home where we dutifully visited her. She was amazing at the piano and played for any and all ceremonies requested or not while at the home. At one such ceremony (a Christmas dinner) presents were being distributed purchased by the home for the residents as they were called by the announcer to the front. One elderly lady's name was called over and over with no one twitching a muscle or making a move towards the front. Suddenly my great Auntie bellowed at the top of her lungs, "Oh, move on already, she doesn't know whether it is night or day!"




Sometimes unfortunate kids are convinced they should spend many hours freezing in the cold singing Christmas carols to the neighborhood and herded around in youth groups with the promise of hot chocolate to the survivors. Inevitably one stop will be at the retirement home except this time there is no loved one to visit but a group of cranky seniors who don't know you from Adam who just want to get to bed or bingo. The look on this group of elderly folks' faces nicely sums up putting up with the screeching cracking pubescent voices mangling beloved carols.

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch
Your heart's an empty hole
Your brain is full of spiders, you have garlic in your soul
Mr. Gri-inch
I wouldn't touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.
- Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!




Christmas Disasters


Every year someone somewhere is having a Christmas meltdown. Accidents abound this time of year and the foolish come out of the woodwork. Thankfully my family never lit the tree on fire, but we have had our fair share of incidents.

One year the stockings were hung with care from the mantle. He who shall not be named decided he was cold and turned on the gas fireplace on Christmas eve. Christmas morning was punctuated by my mother's sobs and our exclamations of disgust as we dumped melted chocolate mixed with foil, and soggy deflated half-boiled oranges onto the carpet.

After an exceptional snowfall my dad, worried that the roof may collapse, went up a ladder and attempted to clear away the several feet of snow accumulated there. I distinctly remember the curses and his yell as he slipped then slid right over the edge of the roof and fell two stories to the ground below. Luckily there was plenty of snow to break his fall as he disappeared into the dad shaped hole in the snow with a whump.

Another year my aunt was reduced to tears as we cut into the beautifully plump turkey she had prepared for our Christmas feast only to find out that it was nearly raw and still frozen in the center.

My little brother had just made it into the door when he heard my mother shriek an announcement that there had been a Christmas Eeee-merrrr-gency in a teary voice. He rounded the corner to find me and my twin brother in the heat of battle armed with brooms, gardening gloves, and oven mitts in the kitchen as we were outwitted by the mouse who had destroyed the pantry and forced my mother to throw away tons of food. Nibbled packages, spilled mixes, powders, droppings and mice footprints evidenced the mouse's Christmas festivities in the pantry. While surveying the damage my mother had seen the culprit and her screams were legendary! We came running and I actually had the little rodent in my mitt but he squeezed out before I could clamp down not feeling him well in the gardening gloves I was wearing for protection. He promptly raced down my arm and over my brother's legs as he was simultaneously trying to block and squish him with his body and broom. I thought my mother would faint and I feared that she would be grievously injured as she was perched like a mountain goat on top of a stool. The event was later dubbed the Mouse-megeddon. Chocolate, peanut butter and some dozen traps solved the problem in about two weeks with trips to the dumpster with the corpses of all the relatives of the original mouse king that started it. Into the new year we were mice free.




You're a vile one, Mr. Grinch
You have termites in your smile
You have all the tender sweetness of a sea-sick crocodile
Mr. Gri-inch
Given a choice between the two of you, I'd take the sea-sick crocodile
- Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!



Christmas is cancelled


"No securities, no stocks, no bonds, nothin' but a miserable little $500 equity in a life insurance policy. You're worth more dead than alive!" - Henry F. Potter in It's a Wonderful Life

Sometimes there is so much pressure to have a nice, merry, or perfect Christmas that it seems the universe just conspires against it and something is bound to come up to distance ourselves from the holiday or worse, distance ourselves from our loved ones. There are those in the Armed Forces that may be stationed away from family during Christmas, or policemen, firemen, doctors, and nurses who may be working during the holidays to protect us. Even the everyday hero working man, woman, or kid may be required by a heartless boss to work instead of getting it off. That same heartless boss may be thinking of saving a little money by not giving Christmas bonuses this year.

The phrase "I'll be home for Christmas" becomes a powerful promise, a hopeful wish, or a sorrowful regret instead of mere words. I have spent holidays away from family and know what homesickness is. Others may be outcast this time of year through having had an overblown disagreement and being no longer welcome to come home. Some have no home or family to go to. Some wish to spend Christmas with that special someone but never had the courage to follow through or never found them, and instead spend a lonely holiday alone with their broken hearts. Some unfortunately have lost loved ones and miss them dearly especially during Christmas.

There are parents with despair in their hearts because they cannot afford to give gifts to those most precious to them, their own children.

You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch
You're the king of sinful sots
Your heart's a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots
Mr. Gri-inch
You're a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich, with arsenic sauce
- Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!




My son just asked me what the picture of the coal was. I replied that I was Christmas shopping for him.

The Naughty List


When my wife was ten years old she was in search of an afternoon snack during the holiday season and stumbled across an unopened container of Smucker's Caramel ice- cream topper in the refrigerator, quickly checking the freezer for ice cream she came up empty. But she decided to eat some anyways grabbing a spoon. My wife is a caramel fiend. She chooses caramel over chocolate every time. She ate spoonfuls after school thinking at first no one would notice; then it was just the top layer, then it was nearly gone over the space of about two weeks. Her dad angrily called all the children up from downstairs playing. He demanded to know who had eaten all of the topping he had just bought. Silence. Asking each by name he demanded again. Afraid and ashamed she said it wasn't her when asked. He then turned to grill her brothers again focusing on the older more mischievous one, the perennial troublemaker of the family. He accused him of lying as the brother proclaimed his innocence. Boiling with rage dad grabbed the paddle to administer a spanking. He then spanked the brother in front of the other children while giving a lecture on lying and dishonesty. Feeling awful while watching in horror her brother being spanked and bawling his head off, she squeaked out, "I ate the carmel. I'm sorry. I was too scared to say anything." Her dad stopped mid-swing. Wordlessly he handed the paddle to her brother, then bent over. He gave it all his little eight year old arms could give for three good swats. My wife now in tears herself also bent over to receive justice. Her brother barely touched her with it, then dropped it, his vengeance already spent. This was the brother more often than not she was at odds with growing up mind you, tattle telling on each other and picking fights. Profuse apologies followed on all parts and her dad gave her the lecture of a lifetime. After that my wife and her brother were a little closer, for awhile they stuck together like peas in a pod.

We were playing outside and past when we should have been home. We had strayed far from the apartment complex where we were supposed to be playing into the fields beyond, near the golf course and river. We were tired of playing guns and were making our way back when we discovered an ice covered pond. We began throwing things out onto the ice in an attempt to break it. One of my foolish friends began to break the near shore ice by stomping on it, but he ventured further and further out. Until suddenly he just wasn't there. We heard him yell and turned to see him splashing in a hole in the ice. The pond was probably only five feet deep at most but had at least a few feet of slimy mud under that. I remember distinctly the fear in his wide eyes. We scrambled for a solution trying to throw things to him to grab including our coats. Then we tried to reach him with sticks. This led to lying on the ice to stretch further. Then a solution presented itself. Prone on the ice spread out we distributed our weight and it held. We quickly formed a human chain across the ice with our buddies. We tried in vain to pull him out but his waterlogged weight was too much for children to lift while laying down. We ended up breaking the ice in a path and he dog paddled to shore. A freezing muddy mess scrambled out vaguely resembling my friend. Sobbing he said, "I just want to go home to get my whupping."

Evilly grinning as we hid behind our snow fort built near our home we prepared the onslaught. Several slush/ice balls lined up in a row. My buddy gave the signal as headlights swung by. My brother and I stood up and began peppering the oncoming car as it passed us on the street. I distinctly heard a cracking sound as the car hit its breaks sliding to a stop. Beating feet out of there we raced home. Our buddy wasn't with us. My brother cursed softly as we peeked out of the curtains. There he was being led by an adult right to our doorstep. He never even ran but stayed put and he led the guy right to our door!

One winter-y day we were tasked with slogging through the snow to pick up the Avon money for the Christmas orders from the neighbor lady. My mom sold Avon and this was the biggest haul of the year as people geared up for Christmas presents for relatives from stinky old cologne to the latest gaudy jewelry. We dutifully collected checks from old ladies but to our surprise many gave us cold hard cash. At the time it was possibly the most money we had ever held in our hands at once. My brother and I mulled over the cash as our greedy and wicked hearts grew darker and darker clouding our judgement with a blanket of thick stupidity. Of course mom would know the totals didn't add up. We would blame it on dropping some in the snow and if we had to go back wouldn't be able to find it of course. We then made tracks directly to the comic book store. There had always been these coveted books displayed on the shelf that were out of our price range, the fantastic back issues of yore. The unscrupulous proprietor didn't bat an eye when we flopped down way too much money for any children to be carrying on the counter and made our demands for the elite out of reach books. We foolishly spent the cash on comics and made our way home. Of course my mom came unglued and we were shortly following our footprints back in the snow retracing our steps looking for the "dropped money". What we hadn't counted on was that our footprints led past the route we were supposed to take and led directly to the comic store! Mom, being no dummy, quickly deduced where the money had gone. She stormed in dragging us along and told her story of woe to the owner. He flatly refused a refund unless he received his books back. By then they were safely nestled in with our collection already. We feigned ignorance by not remembering which ones they were. Mom was in no mood to return anyways and confiscated the whole lot. She ended up balancing the Avon funds with her own checkbook. Christmas was nearly cancelled. We did in fact receive coal in our stockings, but it turned out to be gum. It took months and months to get our comics back, held in ransom for good deeds and withheld allowances. We paid back every nickle and then some, I can assure you.

You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch
With a nauseous super-naus
You're a crooked jerky jockey, and you drive a crooked hoss
Mr. Gri-inch
Your soul is an appalling dump-heap, overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots!
- Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!



Bad Presents

The tradition of white elephant gift giving comes from a legend about an unwanted present. The king of Siam would give a present of a rare white elephant revered and respected as a living god to those whom had irked him and gained his displeasure. Nominally a great honor and impossible to refuse, but really a burden. Those in disfavor could be driven to ruin by the cost of keeping the living divinity well fed and cared for.

My wife's brother has a birthday woefully close to Christmas. Annually he would be plagued with the dreaded happy birthmas gifts that served as both a birthday present and Christmas present each year. Rarely was a party thrown either as all of his friends would be scattered to the relatives during the Christmas season.

One year my wife unwrapped a gift from my dad and discovered a Chex cereal box. Surprised she graciously exclaimed, "Oh, I like that cereal." My dad said, "No, I just used the box to wrap it in." She then pulled from the box a hideous sweater. She bravely mustered a feeble smile. Later she turned to me and said, "I would have rather had the cereal." She has also received a horrendous muumuu from a well meaning aunt that could have easily fit 5 of her in it.

My little brother once received a hilarious Christmas sweatshirt from the same aunt that had decorations dangling from the glued on glittery design. My mother demanded he put it on to appease her. He ended up crying in his room refusing to come out. Now he probably wishes he would have kept it for all of the hideous Christmas sweater parties of today.


You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch
You're a nasty, wasty skunk
Your heart is full of unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk
Mr. Gri-inch
The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote: Stink, stank, stunk!
- Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!



Saving Christmas

“The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.”
- Charles Dickens,
A Christmas Carol

“No space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused”
- Charles Dickens,
A Christmas Carol



Have you ever wondered why Christmas is always in need of saving? It has been saved many times by the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman, to Garfield the cat and the Flintstones. The truth is there is always a villain trying to ruin Christmas. Sometimes that villain is us.

I am ashamed to say that it took me far too long to learn the true meaning of Christmas. It does not matter what is under the tree as much as who is around it. This truly is the happiest season of all as we open our hearts, surround ourselves with family, and love. Now is the time we can thaw our icy hearts. We can find catharsis in this season of forgiveness and welcome all. Sinners can be reconciled. We can reach out to others. Peace on Earth, good will towards men. I hope all of our hearts can grow several sizes and we can find the strength of ten grinches, plus two to help those in need.

"Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp"

- Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

"
Welcome Christmas
While we stand
Heart to heart
And hand in hand" -
Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

I regret in my youth that I was reluctant to visit relatives that I thought were uncool or old and decrepit. I take back the grimaces as I received their hugs and kisses. Thank goodness as I got older I gave hugs and kisses of my own accord and grew to appreciate them more. I just wish I could have given more. I do love them. They are my family after all. I realize now that painful back rubs were done with love and would have been a gentle touch if it were not for the knurled and painful arthritic hands. I realize now that popcorn may have been all they had to give or that it was all those painful hands could make on short notice.  I miss them terribly now that they are gone.

I renounce the greed of my youth. When I cared not how much time could be spent with loved ones but what they got me for a present. I wonder now and realize just how much my parents sacrificed and probably went into debt to get me presents that I rarely deserved. That lesson is driven home as a parent. Now I struggle to provide smiles on Christmas morning for my sons. I love that in my family we have a tradition now that the recipient of a gift gives a hug and thank you immediately to the giver upon opening the gift. I have video of my boys running on little legs with delight in their eyes as they give huge hugs and thank yous with little feet kicking in the air and arms wrapped around necks.




I know how hard it is to accept help when help is needed, unwilling to hold out my hand, too proud to beg. I remember a time one Christmas when my single mother, jobless, wondered how it would be possible. Miraculously presents appeared at our door, food, coats, and quilted blankets; tears and smiles. I had that quilt on my bed clear until college and into my marriage. By then it was ragged and in tatters and I was forced reluctantly to give it up.

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!'' - Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol



"A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit.''

"Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him." - Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol




I hope we realize how much what we do touches the lives of others. That we can all be the richest in town not in gains or gifts but in love surrounded by those we love. I hope that your heart will glow with the love of Christmas and your fellow man as we remember He who saved all.

A Very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season to You and Yours!




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NLogan Posted on Dec 14, 2015 at 05:06 AM

@vkimo, mine were tattooed former airborne rangers at 6'6" and 6'4" respectively. One put us on his Harley Davidson motorcycle and wheelied scaring the crap out of me. The other had the nickname "Tree" and had his own slot machine one armed bandit that you could play. It never escalated beyond beating them at chess and losing to them in arm wrestles. By the time I could actually take them in high school I was heavily into martial arts and they were both in their late 50s. But I still remember the, "Say boy, c'mere lookit this".

vkimo Posted on Dec 13, 2015 at 08:13 PM

"say hello to uncles reeking of alcohol wanting to know when you are going to be big enough to take them on"

What is it about that? My uncle's wife's brother was a total jerk. He was a short squat drunk who was calling me a wimp. I was about 14 at the time and was debating if I could push him off the roof patio we were all leaning on.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 13, 2015 at 07:37 AM

Indeed.

My parents eventually became friendlier to each other as well. By the time mom was in the late stages of her cancer, they had all but forgotten the "bad old days". It was very difficult to deliver the message from my father to my mother that he was sorry for the way things turned out for them. He wanted her to know it before she left this old world.

If nothing else, Christmas is a reminder to me to let everyone I care about know my appreciation for them. Even if it's awkward or uncomfortable.

NLogan Posted on Dec 13, 2015 at 07:20 AM

The important thing Tony, is that you made the effort and didn't deprive your children visiting their grandmother. Your wife is worth way more than her weight in gold and she was right (they usually are, don't tell mine I said that). My parents and my wife's parents are divorced. There have been plenty of awkward get togethers. But if they wanted to see the grandchildren they had to at least be civil to make it work being in the same room together. My mom and dad are now good friends, but it wasn't always so. My wife's parents have a ways to go but at least are no longer being juvenile and petty. It is hard when people feel deprived of their most precious things in the world their own children, whether in decision making or just quality time. That is the magic of Christmas however, the season brings people closer together.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 13, 2015 at 06:37 AM

It's a cliché, but an accurate one - "You don't know what you have, until it's gone."

This hits very close to home for me. My relationship with my mom after my parents divorced was strained. There were a lot of things at play there, but it amounted to feeling unappreciated. So, by the time I became a parent, that relationship was almost non-existent. My wife actually convinced me to make things better, putting aside the past and forging ahead.

So going to visit her with my wife and kids was an awkward and nervous affair. I was always glad to be leaving more so than anything else.

Now that she is gone, I feel like I would give most anything for one more of those awkward Christmas visits.

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