Hurrying, scurrying and worrying. It may as well have been plastered on the foreheads of all the people passing me by on a last-minute holiday shopping trip at Target. The magi might have brought the infant king gold frankincense and myrrh. What he brought to us was a triple scourge of mental anguish. And for what? An Orwellian denominated “celebration”? Of the mythical birthday of someone who most assuredly lived but had little to do in creating the myths of his life, and especially of his birth? Even if Christmas really were a celebration of Christ’s Mass, or perhaps, really if it were, what greater misery could God have devised than he burden us with such a holiday? For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, but so hated the world that he eventually decreed the whole world would hurry, scurry and worry over celebrating his birth.

To polite society (i.e., suburban females), all my holiday shopping trips are last-minute, as I never do any shopping for Christmas any more than a week before the actual holiday. Because, I’m an optimist. Every year when Christmas rolls around, I wait and wait and wait, thinking that maybe some public or personal catastrophe might render all the silliness mute. It actually happened more or less that way one year, so don’t laugh.

The silver lining to my son’s relapsed leukemia in 2009, is that he was in the hospital throughout the holiday season—from the week before Thanksgiving all the way through to a week after New Year’s. I missed the whole stinking season! And for a good purpose—to take care of him. And after about mid-December, he was so doped up on morphine he didn’t even know anymore what season it was. On Christmas Eve, I stayed up most of the night to see if he would be moved downstairs to intensive care so they could continuously dialyze him, as his kidneys had already failed and his liver was getting ready to. But still, it beat having to put up with family gatherings and decorations and all that nonsense. I should rent myself out to people who really love Christmas but whose family member in the hospital is making their celebration inconvenient. I could take care of their family members while they celebrate the holiday. But I’m not sure that would get me a pass from my own family. Charity begins at home and stays at home. Ask any wife.

I went to Target to get my daughter a Panini press. She’s been asking for one for about the last five years. She says it’s because we don’t love her as much as we love our son—the kid with leukemia—that we haven’t gotten her one. No. It’s because it’s just another crappy little appliance that our kitchen counters don’t have space for. Besides, we already have a Panini press. It’s called a skillet and a spatula. But that still doesn’t mean we love her as much as we love our son. Of course we love him more—he is, after all, a boy. Or at least, that’s what I tell her. Why be unreasonably accused of favoritism? Go ahead and play favorites and make the accusation reasonable. But the truth is, if I were to play favorites, she would be mine because she’s just like me. Or, maybe that would be a reason for disfavor. Anyhow, she can shut up about the Panini press after tonight.

There was no holiday joy at Target today. There were crowds of angry vehicles hurrying, scurrying and worrying in and out of the parking lot and parking spaces. There were crowds of angry shoppers hurrying, scurrying and worrying up and down aisles, pushing shopping carts almost big enough to fit their foul moods, except that their moods got more foul each time they bumped into each other. All in all, it was an ugly scene. Not gut-wrenching ugly, like seeing someone getting beaten with a pipe in an alley, but just melancholy ugly, that kind that arises from the despair of seeing how impossible it is for mankind to experience happiness and joy and peace without which he is striving to prove himself the better of his fellows.

Christmas is a fraud, not just for the materialism, but for the whole premise of gift-giving. Nobody ever gives anyone anything except that it benefits the giver somehow. The principle is amply illustrated with the proliferation of gift cards. Social rules demand a gift be proffered in certain circumstances and for certain relationships. It is considered gauche to simply remit cash, but nobody ever really knows what someone else wants. A gift card economically fulfills the obligation for the giver, without appearing to be simply a payoff. But there is an idea even better than gift cards. It’s my sincerest hope (and isn’t hope the point of the season?) that we can one day just dispense with the holiday gatherings and the presents and the wrapping paper by simply establishing Christmas accounts and directing money appropriate to the obligation be deposited in the appropriate account. Account balances could be accessed on Christmas morning (no peeking) and finally a discrete and quantifiable difference between naughty and nice could be discerned. And better yet, so that mankind’s infernally striving nature can be placated, the Gift Balances for all the Christmas accounts of a given area should be published, so that everyone can know how much everyone else received. No need to show it off in the driveway, just tot it up on the computer screen. And the subterfuge of cheap gifting or re-gifting would be summarily dispensed with. The true value of relationships would be laid bare.

Alas, my system would require no more hurrying, scurrying and worrying to buy trinkets and baubles sufficient to keep significant relations happy. And well, that’s become the whole point, has it not? There is no real purpose to a human life except for its striving to overcome obstacles, even if the obstacles are self-created or induced. So my plan would never come to fruition. Oh, well. Maybe next year there’ll come a personal or public tragedy that prevents celebration, in which case, skipping Christmas would be such sweet, and welcomed, sorrow.

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