On the Christmas sale ad were the words, “Come look at Santa’s futons, dropped off just in time for Christmas.” It’s a shame Santa’s futons dropped off, but I don’t think I want to go look at them. Are they floating around in a jar of formaldehyde like my cousin Linwood’s gall stones? What part of the body are futons anyway? Are they one of those superfluous organs like the appendex or the spleen? Perhaps futons are unwanted growths like warts and bunions, in which case Santa’s probably glad to be rid of them.

The enticements to participate in the holiday revelry are beginning to get to me. I felt so guilty about my lack of holiday spirit that I replaced my sole decoration, the Bah Humbug porch flag, with one featuring a golden winged angel. I was so exhausted by this unaccustomed whirlwind of holiday decorating that I had to lie down on the couch with a damp rag on my forehead.

The passage of time has dulled my enthusiasm for the season. If holiday enthusiasm were graphed, the resulting image would be a bell curve. The beginning low point represents your first Christmas as an independent young adult, when the holiday season is a blur of booze-soaked parties, when no one has the inclination or the money for shopping and decorating.

As you edge up the incline of the curve, you marry and the two of you spend your last few dollars on the cheapest, scraggliest tree you can find and one lonely ornament which says, “Our first Christmas together.”

Each year is marked by another new ornament, until one year it says, “Baby’s first Christmas.”

The curve reaches its peak when your child is old enough to begin to grasp the concept of Santa and his bounty. It was at this time that I tried to talk my husband into having eight children, so we could name them all after Santa’s reindeer and have them pose for the family’s annual Christmas card, dressed in fuzzy brown pajamas and plastic antlers. He refused, so I had to settle for three children, but one of them has allergies and has a constantly running red nose. We named him Rudolph. Ho Ho Ho! Ok, that’s not really true.

When your child is about eight years old, you suspect that he no longer believes, but neither you nor he is willing to give up the myth. That’s when you tip over the edge of the curve and begin the long slide down the depressing decline of disillusionment. The year the youngest turns sixteen and demands as Christmas gifts a car of his own, a shotgun, and a video game system, the thrill is gone.

Here’s what I discovered about mingling with the masses, doing your part to support our country’s economy. It isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Don’t expect any help from store clerks, provided you can find one. Gone are the days when over-solicitous clerks followed you around making suggestions and bringing you items until it got annoying and you wished they would go away and leave you alone. They have.

People begin their shopping excursions with enthusiasm and good cheer, but by midafternoon, something has gone horribly awry.

Male shoppers, wandering, out of their element, aimless and bewildered, are trying to hold back the tidal wave of panic. “Please help me,” their sorrowful eyes plead as they search for a gift their wives would consider adequate representation of his undying love and devotion. They still don’t understand why last year’s gift of the Dust Tornado vacuum cleaner was so poorly received. That baby would suck the wall-to-wall carpeting right off the floor.

My sympathies soon shifted to the children,in major melt-down, dragged along because Mom couldn’t afford a sitter. All over the mall, children were shrieking and sobbing in hunger and exhaustion as Mom tried to find one last gift.

After a while, I’d had about all the holiday cheer I could stand. I trudged out to the car, loaded the trunk, and headed for the exit. Blocking the parking lot’s aisle was a trio of tired-looking shoppers. For several minutes I drove very slowly behind them, thinking that any minute they would sense my presence and move to the side. No such luck. I tapped my horn lightly. One of the young men twirled around and screamed, “You got a problem, Lady?!”

“Yes,” I nodded, and gestured him aside, for which I received a not-very-Christmassy string of expletives. Determined to retain some scrap of holiday spirit, I rolled down the window and called out a hearty, “Merry Christmas to you, too, young fella!”

The only reply was another string of expletives and a one-fngered salute. Next year, I’m booking a cruise for the entire month of December. Even a case of disentery would be more fun than this. Bah, Humbug!

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