For us, the holidays started in earnest when we visited Santa this past weekend. Our city has a wonderful holiday kick-off celebration, with music, food, puppet shows, speeches from local celebrities, reindeer for petting, a nativity with live animals (the camel looked cold), and of course Saint Nick hisownself.
MPCs 1 and 2 visit with Santa. I believe he's talking to me in this shot. If I recall, I believe I asked for honest elections.
This is a bittersweet year regarding the big red guy because it's likely the last year MPC1 (in the middle there) will think he's real. One of those little snots who revels in slaying belief in Santa happens to be in my daughter's class this year, and she's gone so far as to say her parents admitted they hid the presents and stuff. My daughter and one other boy in the class are the only holdouts who still believe, God bless'em. (Our cover story is that if you don't believe in Santa, he no longer exists for you and doesn't visit your house, and sometimes parents feel bad for kids like that and take over for Santa. It's worked so far.)
My favorite Santa was the one at my daughter's Montessori preschool. The groundskeeper and husband of the woman who owned and operated the school looked just like Santa - even more so than the one in the picture above. Even though the kids saw him all the time, when he showed up at the yearly Christmas party (the school was wise enough to admit that's what it was, even though it had children of many religions attending), he was transformed, and even as an adult I was impressed with the illusion. It made me think of how those fictional people never connected Clark Kent with Superman, even though the only difference were clothes and a pair of glasses.
Even better, he had a great story about why you would sometimes see him around town throughout the year. He said he had to go around and make sure the kids were being good, so if you saw him cruising around in his white Chrysler sedan with the red interior (his real car, btw, a sight to behold), he was just doing the Santa thing, so you'd better watch out, etc. He was a consummate storyteller; so much so that you could see the tweens in attendance have to mentally remind themselves this was just pretend.
At work this week we had our little obligatory Thanksgiving party, which was interrupted by a small drama. No, it didn't involve the vegan who yearly champions the rescue of a turkey or two (though we did have that). One of our lucky crew was just informed that she'd won a neat little gadget via a drawing at a conference she'd attended. She bounced around shouting yippie I've never won anything, this is so cool, etc. Well, envy and the general Office Space vibe conjoined and our version of Roz from Monster's Inc. rasped:
"Company policy states that we own the [device] since we sent you to the conference."
And then everyone dogpiled on her, asking if she'd used a company printed business card to enter (she hadn't), a company pen, perhaps? (nope), and so on. It was a shitty thing to witness. And allow me to connect the dots for you: These are the clods who couldn't wait to go to school one day and tell everyone there's no such thing as Santa.
TLD: It just dawned on me that there's a striking resemblance between Roz and Dick Cheney.
"Company policy states that if you joined the National Guard, we can send your ass to Iraq to be blown off, even if you're middle-aged with kids. Suck to be you."
Seperated at birth? Hmmm.
Ok, I guess I should be counting joys rather than sorrows in light of the season. Lessee... Ok, here's one: At the guy's poker game last Friday, I saw someone pull a natural straight flush. Never seen that one live before. We had so many guys that we were playing with two decks, and in that same hand, someone got five of a kind. Well, there is no such hand in poker, so the straight flush won. But what a hand.
But then that reminds me of the kurfuffle before the game. We make fliers for our parties, campouts, poker games, what have you. For the ones that are guys only, we have the admittedly juvenile tradition of putting a tasteful nude (typically a 50s pinup girl) somewhere on the poster. (And to demonstrate how tasteful, one of the guy's pastor saw the poster for the guy's campout on his fridge and remarked on how clever it was and how wonderful it was that we have such a close group of buddies.) It's supposed to be a little playful tweak to the wives, but the main in-joke is that nothing of the sort (girls, particularly naked ones) will be in evidence at the bash. In other words, it's supposed to be a backhanded reassurance that while boys will be boys, we'll be good boys where it counts.
Anyway, the one wife on the block who won't let her husband attend any "guy only" thangs got her ruffles in a bunch over this poster because someone from outside the circle of friends saw it. (This poster in question had a topless girl playing cards in keeping with the poker night theme.) Oh, the wailing. Oh, the gnashing of teeth. All the old, hoary cliches were trotted out: Demeaning to women, Pornographic, Tasteless, this should stop immediately, blah de blah. They say that when you talk on the phone, people can somehow tell if you are smiling. When my wife got the call, I'm pretty sure Ms. Underbunch could hear my wife's eyes rolling throughout the call. We've now planned to always produce a second poster now, just for her. It will be entitled something like "Shiny Happy Puppy Time" or some other sticky-sweet engrish concoction. And I'm sure we'll hear about that, too. (Maybe I'll Chuck Jones' old, sneaky trick and get a cartoon characters whose eyes look just like breasts.)
Ok, I'll stop. It's time for shiny happy turkey time. Though its reaffirmation by way of negative expression, I've always loved the line from U2's "Acrobat": Don't let the bastards grind you down.
So, this year, I go into the holidays doggedly reminding myself of all the blessings in my life. I have a wonderful family. I could not ask for a better wife and daughters. Everyone's healthy (knock on wood). Our house has new carpet and tile, so it's looking pretty spiffy. I have gainful employment, of which I'm grateful. And of course, I have God on my side, too.
I hope each and every one of you who reads this can find as many blessings in your life as well. Have a joyous holiday season, why don't you!
(Btw, I used Dooce's "Lovely Glow Effect" for these photos. It's a nifty little trick.)