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Column: Holiday stress

Posted: December 3, 2018 4:55 p.m.
Updated: December 4, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Ah, holiday stress.

I have tried and tried to not worry about this stuff. It’s pretty easy to do if you allow your inner narcissist free rein. After all, if it’s all about you, then it’s far better to receive cool stuff than it is to think about anyone else, and worse, have to part with your hard-earned money to give them something, right?

Alas, I have always had someone standing nearby, blackjack, rolling pin, or stun gun at the ready, all the better to knock my inner narcissist right upside his severely swollen orange head.

It starts when you’re a kid. You want that baseball bat or BB gun, but your mom won’t let you have it. Then you get the bright idea to buy it anyway, but give it to your baby sister, the idea being that she’ll never use such implements and you can borrow it any time you want.

But moms are nothing if not savvy. I think the one time I attempted such a cunning ploy, the scheme quickly crashed and burned, with the result that, not only was anyone in the house getting a BB Gun that Christmas, but I had the honor of shelling out and presenting my hard-begged cash to the clerk for some incredibly girly/frufru item, at the store, in front of God and everybody.

Or maybe not; such horror stories tend to mash up over the years. But it might have happened to someone I might or might not know.

The biggest stressor way back in the day was, of course, whether or not the Big Guy himself was actually that careful when checking over his naughty/nice list. Was he going to remember the window that inexplicably broke itself last summer while you happened to be throwing dirt clods at the wasp nest on the sill? Would he have a record of the math test you failed, but somehow forgot to tell the folks about? Did he have secret armies of elfin spies roaming the world following up on, say, the story you told the folks about how a big fish yanked your line and that’s how you fell into the pond in your church clothes? Did he have a secret recording of that “Who knows the dirtiest words” contest you won at school?

These were times that would severely try a kid’s soul, or as Calvin, the bad little kid main character from the great cartoon strip Calvin and Hobbes once opined: “Santa Claus: Kindly old elf, or CIA spook?”

I started wondering about these things a little more the year a real-life version of Calvin moved into our neighborhood. This kid, in the time his family lived there, would get away with everything from knocking down freshly set house foundations to setting the woods on fire. He might even have taught me how to get the five finger discount on such otherwise unaffordable necessities as candy, comic books and baseball cards. And yet, even when we got caught in the act of committing some heinous crime, even when the rest of us were facing the prospect of eating gruel and breaking rocks in some reform school or worse, actually sentenced to picking up pinecones for the rest of our lives, he would receive “a stern talking to” -- which I believe was the ’70s version of home PTI -- and then absolutely clean up on Christmas morning.

Who knows, maybe he was actually a paid informant for the North Pole, or some such.

These days, I still worry, but not about the consequences of bad behavior -- I am a reformed character and besides, I retired the naughty list years ago. No, this stress has more to do with trying to get all my shopping done sometime before Christmas morning. The time does get away -- and quickly.

In the meantime, I can’t remember what else she might have wanted, but I’m betting my Beloved is going to really love the neat electric guitar and amplifier I bought her.


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