Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Berry Christmas


By BETTY BELL

One night after dinner, close to Halloween, my father said, "Your mother and I want to talk to you after you do the dishes."

I'd just turned 16, just got my driver's license and the ticket to the world that comes with built-in temptations for adventurous sin. I wondered what I'd done.

At the dining room table Dad got right to it. "Betty—you don't really believe in Santa Claus, do you? Do you?"

Bummer. I sighed a soft "No."

There it was—goodbye to Merry Christmas. You don't keep merrily asking for the moon when you've admitted you know the moon isn't free.

Even as a callow youth I wondered how Merry came to be hitched to Christmas. I figured it happened so far back that not many pilgrims could passably read and write and their vocabularies were just enough to get them by at the market and deal with everyday stuff. Not many could have known that "merry" means "hilarious"—jolly, titillating, humorous—none of which go with Christmas.

I suppose there's only a handful of other pilgrims who, at least a few times in the lengthy season, find Christmas heavy—hard. Personally, ever since Halloween I've been guarding against melancholy—well, not melancholy, which is, if you think you are, too downbeat. So I think of my occasional spells as the Frets. I don't hate Christmas and it'd be a grave injustice to label me a Scrooge because a spell of the Frets is nothing more than getting off in a corner and sucking my thumb—metaphorically—which is anything but Scrooge-like.

When I was your age a Fret could come upon me, as perhaps it could come upon you, when I reconsider the presents stashed in the closet: Worry that Honeykins might not be thrilled with the Weed Eater; worry that Junior will display big dismay with the Toshiba laptop after seeing featured over and over again on 24/7 news the $200 laptop invented by a philanthropist whose goal is to get one into the hands of every child in the world—a computer that in addition to being way cuter than the Toshiba can be dunked in water, used in direct sunlight, comes already Wi-Fi'd and has a battery recharged simply by pulling an attached yo-yo string; if you're a kindred mom, perhaps you wonder why in the world you thought Little Missy would be enraptured with a Really Real Kitchen when you, her gene giver, is hardly ever, almost never, in her really real kitchen longer than 30 minutes at a time.

Sometimes when I'm in Fret I start fooling around with "Merry Christmas." First I say it Merry Christmas six or eight times, and then switch to Merry Christmas. Either way is as oomph-less as "Have a nice day." So then I try to figure out ways of keeping more meaning from seeping from a meaningful time. Maybe it'd be as simple as better words for wishing one another all the best, though changing the practically genetic Merry would take some getting used to. We could ease into it though, start with Merry-rhyming words—of which Berry is the only one that works. Wary ... Scary ... Hairy? Hardly. That's OK, Berry could get us past inanity—why not give it a try? Wish someone Berry Christmas and at least you'll get their attention—it wouldn't be like hearing "Have a nice day."

Once we get comfortable with Berry we can be more venturesome: "May your Christmas be warmhearted," "may it be cordial," "gentle." Delicious words, that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside—right before your eyes I bet you'd see anxiety furrows unfurrowing.

Sure, it's important as well as patriotic that we stay with seriously serious shopping and keep the economy revved, though there's a subset among us that's a pain—they of the "No sweat, I finished shopping two weeks ago and found the perfect gift for every dearly beloved and so what if I'm in hock up to my ears and sure I'm worn out but nothing to see the Doc about."

Almost everyone hangs on and does passably well with Christmas. It doesn't hurt that in the back of our minds we know the holidays will soon be behind us and grand fun-in-the-snow winter takes the A-track.

To the few unfortunate pilgrims who may feel a late Fret coming on, let's get together—cheer one another up. On Saturday night at seven I'll be in a Subaru across the street from Suds Yer Duds. Come on over, hop right in and we'll all Get the Spirit as we croon a cheery carol:

We wish you a BERRY CHRISTMAS,

We wish you a BERRY CHRISTMAS,

We wish you a BERRY CHRISTMAS

And a HAPPY NEW YEAR!




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