Apropos of Nothing: The Good Old Holidays
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett
Many years ago, before DVDs MP3s, Bluetooth or WiFi were even thought of, there was a palpable sense of national joy permeating the very air we breathe. We called this heady time of year, “The Holidays,” and they were good. Better yet, so were we. Or at least, we tried hard not to annoy each other for a few weeks out of the year.
We all have our limit, after all.
It all started in November. Not in October, and certainly not in September. Back then only an absolutely crazy person would even think of uttering a word about Thanksgiving or Christmas before the leaves had fallen off the trees and we’d all packed away the summer wardrobe in favor of our winter wear.
The first sign of something truly festive heading our way was when our mothers woke us up on a Thursday morning even though there was no school that day.
Every other mother in America would then insist her family dress formally, even if they had no plans to leave the house. That was the signal relatives were coming to visit. Old relatives. The kind who smelled of mothballs and beef stew.
Their visit kicked off with awkward kisses on the cheek and loud comments about how much we’d grown. Far too many chairs were pulled up to tables filled with rare foods we only saw once or twice a year.
And there was wine. Not for the kids, mind you. But adults who were on the wagon all year round suddenly found a taste for distilled spirits and fermented grapes. Hey, let’s party.
If you lived in a dry county, the stories about how those alcoholic beverages made their way from a far off store to your table could get pretty darned interesting, too. Believe me.
Somewhere in there, a Sears and Roebuck catalog would find its way into the hands of young, hopeful children. We knew nothing of price tags, credit limits, or overnight shipping. Those were all completely foreign concepts to us. What we knew, however, was that there was at least a chance that anything catching our eye in that big, colorful book of miracle products could at least theoretically show up under our Christmas tree, if we did everything right.
Doing everything right was key. That involved getting good grades in school, cleaning our room on a regular basis, taking out the garbage without being asked a second time, and if I recall correctly, it may also have involved a display of the almost insurmountable restraint necessary to not hit your younger siblings when your parents weren’t looking.
That was the basics of it, anyway. It wasn’t much more than a philosophical exercise for me, of course. I couldn’t stand up to a list of tasks like that for a full day, let alone for two entire months. That’s crazy talk. Crazy, I tell you.
’Twas a magical time. But ‘tis gone now, never to return. We’re way too sensitive and easily primed for battle today. Just look around your house, your office, or the street you’re driving on as you read this screed on your favorite mobile device. We’re so modern, connected, enlightened, and of course pharma-ceutically enhanced these days you couldn’t make a dent in our emotional armor with a winning lottery ticket and a Whitman sampler the size of Nebraska.
Today, you’re as likely to get a slap in the face as a smiling response if you dare to wish a total stranger, “Happy Holidays” on your way out the supermarket door. That is if the shoppers around you complete their phone calls, kill their music, and actually disconnect their earbuds from their ear canal for long enough to notice there are actual living people wandering around in the world with them.
We’re a little self-involved, you’ve got to admit.
That miraculous harbinger of holiday joy, the Sears and Roebuck catalog is long gone now, too. And why wouldn’t it be? We already own two of everything we could possibly need, or want. Go ahead, just try to get away with giving your nearest relative under the age of 20 something as mundane as a pair of bright red socks, or a baseball mitt for Christmas. In no time flat you’ll be on the receiving end of the worst case of stink-eye you ever saw.
We now live in the age of Amazon dot com and the hopeful day when drones will deliver exotic products to our door faster than the pizza delivery man can get there.
With all that in mind, I won’t wish you happy holidays this year. Instead, I’ll wish you good luck. We’re going to need it.
And by the way, I would have been fine with a pair of bright red socks. I’m not that picky, or popular, now that I’m starting to smell like mothballs and beef stew, myself.