Thursday, December 16, 2010

Nine Days Out

Is it just me or do you get a kick out of Target's version of the Doomsday Clock that has been popping up on television every night this week? If you have not seen it yet, it is a testament to the belief in "direct sell" advertising for it is absolutely short on subtlety. The screen shows a calendar in its center with the pages flying off at breakneck speed until it reaches whatever the present date is, declaring in a loud voice and large type, "THERE ARE ONLY [FILL IN THE #] SHOPPING DAYS LEFT!" Since presumably everyone alive in their target audience knows the deadline to which they are referring without them even saying it, they do not bother to add "UNTIL CHRISTMAS!". Clearly that would be overkill. And most assuredly less than tasteful. Thank goodness for those earthy, homespun Midwesterners at the helm of this particular retail behemoth.

Their tactic apparently has some merit - at least judging by the reaction it elicits from both Margaret and Suzanne each and every time they see it, which is a combination of anxiety and anger. I long ago gave up trying to talk my bride off of the ledge in terms of worrying about what to buy and for whom it "needs" to be bought every Christmas. I try to do my part by removing myself from her "to buy for" list - reminding her that one of the neat things about being an adult and being employed is that if I really want and/or need something I can purchase it for myself. I also offer my suggestions in terms of tackling the rest of the list but in the interest of not burning simultaneously every bridge that connects me to the rest of the world, I will not share that suggestion here. If you are at a loss as to what it might be, then add "An Imagination" to your holiday wish list and if you were indeed nice this year, you will be ready to conquer this exam this time next year.

It is decidedly easier in any marriage to be the husband when approaching events such as Christmas for before we were husbands and fathers we were sons and brothers, which means that the family we have known our entire lives and to whom our spouse has only become acquainted after making one regrettable decision already knows well what truly incompetent individuals we are. Having set the bar so low that jamming a toe is a real occupational hazard through a lifetime's worth of bad, ill-conceived Christmas gifts, we have eradicated the tree of expectation from the orchard altogether. Our family knows we suck. They are secretly - and perhaps not always so secretly - amazed that you still have not figured it out.

Even better for us is that our spouse's family, never having been able to fathom what their perfect angel sees in a wretch like the one we most assuredly are, sets the bar even lower for us than does our own. They grew up watching our wife dazzle them annually with her always smart and just so presents for all creatures great and small. Us? We have added nothing to the mix in their eyes. Perfection existed before we arrived on scene. All they want from us is to not screw it up.

Whether I want to admit it or not, having come to the dance floor carrying all of that with me, once our kids grew out of the age where every Christmas was something akin to "Christmas on Crack" at our house (Margaret and I used to take a "before" and "after" picture on Christmas morning to document the carnage), I lost more than a bit of my zeal for the frenetic pursuit of all things Yuletide. Margaret remains convinced that I will get my Merry Mojo back if and when we become grandparents. She is certain that I shall attack toy stores with the same gusto for the Next Gen as I did for this one. While I presume she is right (I have learned something during all the years we are married) I know not for certain. As of this Christmas it is a discussion that remains purely hypothetical.

I know that one week from today I shall make my happiest pick-up of the season. And it is not to be found on the shelves of any store. At some point on the evening of the 23rd, I shall see Rob's smiling face as he walks towards me in the arrival area in Terminal C at Newark Airport - having traveled from his home in Colorado to his once-and-future (I say hopefully) in the State of Concrete Gardens. The time he shall spend here shall be - as it always is - far too brief. But knowing that it shall be over before I know it does not dampen the enthusiasm associated with seeing him when I pick him up at the airport or - immeasurably more so than that - Margaret's reaction when he walks into our kitchen.

The song says, "The Christmas we get we deserve." We shall see.


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