Thursday, December 18, 2008

On attempting to have a perfect Christmas

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial Page

Attempting to have a perfect Christmas is what many of us strive for. You want everyone who receives a gift from you to be thrilled, those who receive Christmas cards to feel special, and those who receive visits to be happy to see you!

Every year, I prepare quite an extensive Christmas letter to go with the more than 100 cards I send to friends, relatives and colleagues. I make a list of stuff I did, places I went, and a bunch of other things, including major family news. To make it look presentable, I try to learn a few more new tricks with my word processing software every year. Having it professionally laid out would be too expensive and a bit of overkill.

Actually, it's pretty amazing what you can do with software when you actually learn how to use it! I'm not one to read instructions. I usually only use about one-third of the capacity of anything electronic that I own -- with the other two-thirds never put to good use because of my stubborn refusal to read instructions and user manuals.

"Huh? You mean my googaphonic thingamajig can do that... and that... and that?" I usually only find this out when some problem I have with the thingamajig in question sends me to the never-opened user manual to figure something out that is maddening me. I'm sure readers of the female persuasion who are reading this right now are saying in unison, "Typical man!"

And no, I won't ask for directions, either. Honestly, I could go out for a leisurely Sunday drive and get lost and I will refuse to ask for directions. I would rather die than admit I don't know where I am. I'll stop at a gas station and buy a map. I'll retrace my steps and try to figure out my error -- perhaps wasting a tank of gas in the process -- but I'll never ask for directions.

Should you be unfortunate enough to be out with me on one of these errant Sunday jaunts, you'd better bring along your rifle because nothing short of the feel of the cold barrel of a gun against my temple would make me stop and ask for assistance. Well, either the feel of a gun on my temple or when the language of the road signs turns to Russian... then you know it's time to admit defeat and get help.

Anyway, back to my Christmas letter. Somehow this column got turned around from about my letter to Russian-language road signs. See what happens when you write a column about nothing? You tend to let your mind wander. (It's too bad I refuse to ask for directions back, eh?)

Throughout the entire Christmas letter writing process, one thing kept nagging at me. I was forgetting something important. What was it? I went through every relative... who died... who got sick... who had babies. What had I done or been involved with that was noteworthy during the year?

I saw Elton John in concert. I saw Bill Clinton give a speech. I helped out on a few election campaigns here and there. I wrote about this column and some radio work. I wrote about how the book I edited was doing. I wrote about work.

Thinking I was just being paranoid, I finally decided to get the letters printed. After all, it was getting close to Christmas and I needed to ensure that the post office had enough time to deliver the cards.

Finally, when everything was done, it came to me. Not a single word about my son made it into the letter, which is kind of like forgetting to mention you won a kabillion jillion dollars in the lottery, were elected Imperial Grand Poobah of Uranus (feel free to giggle at the word "Uranus" -- we all do it!), or married and divorced Phyllis Diller during a wild weekend while drunk on margaritas made with mouthwash and sore-muscle liniment.

By the time I remembered, it was too late to go back. Everything had been printed already and I was past the point of no return. With deadlines looming and absolutely no more time to work on the cards, I mailed everything with no mention of my son and how he's doing at university. (Very well, I should say.)

My guilt was amplified by the audible whimpers of Baby Jesus in my head. As well, I could just imagine that Santa Claus was immediately putting me on his "naughty list" and hereby declaring me unfit for any semblance of parenthood. (I should explain that my son believes that my Christmas letters are completely stupid, so my guilt at having forgotten to mention him was eased by the likelihood that I subconsciously forgot him on purpose to in order to punish him. How dare he, huh?)

When I mentioned to an aunt that I'd forgotten to mention my son, she told me she'd been wondering what was going on. "Great, now the rumours will fly," I thought. I could just imagine the next family gathering rife with gossip about trouble in Brianland.

"Oh," she continued, "and you forgot to mention your uncle's (her husband's) open-heart surgery!" For heaven's sake! Not only was Baby Jesus now flat out bawling, but Santa had hired professional assassins to take me out at the first opportunity. "Oh," I stammered. "I guess I forgot that, too." Considering it was the "talk of the family" for two or three months, you'd think I would have remembered!

I give up. Next year, all everyone on my Christmas card list is getting is a drunken telephone call from me in the middle night! I'll even let them talk to Phyllis Diller.

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