It’s that time of year again: the Halloween decorations are in the bargain bin and the Christmas trees decorate the front entrances of every store in America. Catalogs you wouldn’t dream of ordering from litter your mailbox, (and later, your trash bin) and department store employees are teetering on ladders, stocking shelves with junk that shoppers will soon tear each other part to get at before the next person through the door. Oh, and my all-time favorite: we’re fighting for that all-important parking space so we don’t have to take too many steps to get to the automatic door. Happy Holidays!
Are they? For some people, maybe. I’m not one of them. For all the above reasons and more. In fact, Christmas is just another reason for me to escape to parts unknown. Been doing it for fourteen years, and I just booked escape number fifteen. It’s the only way I can tolerate said holiday. My contribution to Christmas is packing my Santa hat and taking pictures in some cool place. (Above, the Valley of Fire, north of Las Vegas.) I might even coin some really witty phrase on social media like, “You: Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. Me: Rocking Around the Joshua Tree.” That’s about as good as it gets.
Here’s my disclaimer: Thanksgiving isn’t a challenge to me. Someone else cooks and I eat. What’s to complain about? And New Years is probably my favorite holiday, because I love setting goals that I’m never going to accomplish. But the form Christmas has taken in this day and age is a topic of disgust for me, as is the behavior of people in stores, parking lots, and on the roads of America. If I can leave the country altogether, that’s the best case scenario. My favorite experience was in Fiji, with Santa floating up on a white sand beach in a rickety wooden boat. But if I decide to stay in the country, as I have this year, it has to be somewhere that I know isn’t hardcore Christmas. Like, one year I climbed Mount Lee (of Hollywood sign fame) in L.A. I can always count on people in my old stomping ground to have a totally bored attitude about a holiday that has lost so much of its luster. Christmas: so yesterday!
As a teacher in an urban school setting I see exactly what Christmas isn’t. I see children being bought expensive gifts so their parents don’t have to deal with them. I hear the same kids swear that the primary purpose of the day is so they can get presents. Two years ago I tested my special ed high schoolers to see how many of them knew the actual traditional meaning of Christmas. Out of forty eight of them only one knew it had to do with the birth of Jesus Christ, and they marveled at the fact that the word Christ is the first six letters of the name of the holiday. How about that. Not a coincidence, kiddos!
Part of my lack of interest in Christmas is due to the fact that many of the people who love me most in the world are gone, but not all of it. This year, add in the extra burden that I’ve made yet another poor attempt at finding someone special to share some time with, and that a beloved family member is ailing, and there you have it: a recipe for escape. I’ll be on the road alone through the dreaded day, and by the time I land at my first major destination it’ll just about be over until next year. Cactus and sand, not pine and snow, will be my landscape. To say that I can’t wait is the understatement of 2018.
Until then, I’ll be searching for the perfect gifts for people I love but hardly see, and those I’d like to see a lot less of. Trying to get everything done before the stress-induced road and parking lot rage starts. And dreaming of sliding into my plane seat and buckling my belt, the only sure sign that my work is done for another holiday season.
Call me a scrooge. I call myself a realist. Christmas ain’t what it used to be, and ain’t what it’s supposed to be. I’m out!