'I Hate Christmas'
Christmas instrumentals crackled from a desktop radio; shriveled poinsettias stood in pots pressed up against the wall. We were hunched over a table littered with print-outs, each gripping our editor's pen with the talons we had formed from day after day of marking run-on sentences, inserting commas, and dashing out les accents aigus and les accents graves. Earlier that morning, we had exchanged gifts—homemade toffee, gourmet gingerbread cookies, odds and ends scraped up from forgotten drawers—but our merriment was momentary. We had an issue to birth and you need multiple midwives to put out a magazine.
About an hour into the eye-bleeding process, one of the editors started tearing up and blurted, “I hate Christmas.” Flatly. Matter of fact. No exclamation. Now it was our responsibility to absorb the information, process it, and, perhaps, cast judgment.
Scrooge. Bah, humbug! Who hates Christmas? Everyone loves Cary Grant, not the bishop because that bishop is a real baloney head, abandoning the spirit of Christmas and scheming for a cathedral instead. Meanwhile, Cary Grant waves his hands to add more tinsel to a Douglas fir than it can probably sustain. Think big! That's the Christmas mantra. Go all out! Max out your credit card if need be! You can always pay it off next year! Huzzah! Hot chocolate, candy canes, a fat bird in the oven—Christmas is delicious...if you can afford it and have no qualms about excess.
A week prior to her outburst, that same editor had told me that Christmas bothers her because it only reminds her of people “who go without.” These are the people whose Advent is a far cry from the Hollywood interpretation. These folks don't get a Christmas roast because they're lucky if their EBT benefits will last them through the end of the month for a Christmas PB&J. They can't cozy up because they can't pay for heat. They wait outside for the bus in the rain and snow to get to their minimum wage job. That's the same job that probably requires them to work on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas day.
Part of me feels the same way as my fellow editor. How can I prance around in my new dress if there are other young women my age who have nothing nice to wear? How can I snuggle up in my new blanket reading my new book and sipping tea from my new mug without even a hint of guilt? Shouldn't I be firing up the grill, agonizing over how I'm going to pay for baby formula as customers insult me?
This weekend, I visited Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, a word-class arboretum and botanical garden established by Pierre S. du Pont. Yet as much as I enjoyed the dazzling lights and exotic plants, I also worried about the staff members. They probably wished they could wander the grounds with their families the same as all the tourists.
Of course, fretting over strangers doesn't accomplish much, either, not unless you're actually helping them. And “help” is such a subjective word. What's kind? What's demeaning? Sometimes “helping” unintentionally turns into “enabling.” The words “charity” and “whore” both come from the Latin “carus,” which sometimes makes me wonder if we're whoring ourselves out by performing so-called good deeds.
Not to be a Negative Nancy. Just some thoughts before you make merry this Christmas.