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It’s duck and cover till January 2

*** RANT ALERT ***

I am never quite as cynical and surly as I am at this time of year. From now until after New Year’s Day, I will be mostly snarling and resentful, morose and miserable — and will be trying without success to ignore it all by isolating myself even more than usual.

I’ve already been forced into thinking about buying Christmas gifts I can ill afford for people who have already everything they need and almost everything they want. But with the purse strings loosened and the year’s best prices everywhere, I will undoubtedly break down and buy things for myself that I’ve resisted until now. Then I’ll feel guilty for spending on myself while still complaining I can’t afford to spend for others.

There’s some shopping you’d better be doing right now (says my inner voice), if you need these items for yourself or anyone else: jackets, coats, hats, gloves, scarves, and winter bathrobes and sleepwear. Merchants stock up on these things in November if not before, and they won’t order any more until a year from now. I’ve learned that the hard way. Some sizes and colors are already sold out (I’ve been looking for a certain type of jacket in a really smashing color), so the rush has already started. Get what you need now, or you risk not finding it this winter. I lost a glove one winter after Christmas and after checking every store in town for another pair of lined black leather women’s dress gloves, came up empty- (or bare-) handed.

I’ll be raging until Thursday night about the annual attempt to wipe my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, off the calendar and out of our minds. Apparently family gatherings, turkey, and football can’t hold a candle to the glitz and commercialism of Christmas, especially when it starts right after Halloween.

I will get involved only marginally in the effort to find the year’s “must have” toys for the grandchildren. Whatever joy that quest and Christmas in general might have brought will be forever overshadowed by memories of an overbearing mother-in-law. That woman would not rest until she’d bought everything my son, her grandson, could possibly have wanted from either Santa or his dad and me. (So much for my meager contribution.) Not to mention her insistence every year that we be with her (or she with us) on Christmas Day, no matter what else we might have had in mind (like seeing my parents or just spending a quiet Christmas at home). Because every Christmas was more about her than anyone else, and because every year the ex and I fought about where we’d spend the holidays, I came to hate the whole thing. And it’s not over yet. These days it’s the ex who buys the grandkids everything under the sun whether they want it or not. I know it’s not a contest, but still …

Then there was the year we absolutely, positively had to be at the MIL’s house for Christmas Eve and day. The ex’s work schedule meant a late start, so the 200-mile Interstate drive was after dark, through mountains, in an ice storm that had been warned of and that kept everyone but us off the road. I was so terrified I was in tears and almost jumped out of the car, literally, rather than continue. Few things are worth risking your life for, and my mother-in-law’s perfect Christmas certainly wasn’t one of them. I never forgave her or my ex for that experience (nor myself, for not having stood up to the mother-son tyranny).

The holidays are overhyped, overcommercialized, and full of economic pressures and hardship. Families disagree about where and how to celebrate, and blended families have an even bigger problem. Everybody is traveling, overloaded (in more ways than one) and stressed, on tight schedules dictated by an unblinking calendar, at the worst time of year, weatherwise. Argh! Who needs it!?

Routine activities for people like me, who have no interest in the holidays other than just surviving, get totally disrupted as traffic snarls and parking disappears around every retail outlet in town. Everyday shopping is impossible; if you don’t get it done before Thanksgiving, forget it until after New Year’s. Even grocery shopping becomes a chore, because the supermarket anchors a strip mall. My television will become a Christmas monster as regular programming gets replaced with syrupy holiday drivel, most of it reruns from previous years. And between Drivel Part I and Drivel Part II, every ad will feature jingle bells and Christmas carols.

Hard news stories, already an endangered species, will all but disappear behind a wall of human interest fluff about the holidays and Santa and kids and charity. But we can expect at least a few stories about those nasty people who keep trying to take Christ out of Christmas (never mind that commercial interests did that ages ago). It’s an American right, you know, to inflict your religious holiday on the entire nation and then file lawsuits when people ignore its religious roots.

At least I’m retired now. The above chaos used to swirl into and around my job and all its deadlines and production schedules while celebrating and vacationing co-workers and suppliers spent most of December acting as though commerce had come to a complete halt.

It doesn’t help, either, that the days are getting painfully short (dark here at 4:30 now) and the solstice is still a month away. Like a fish out of water, I’m gasping for more daylight, more sunshine, and will continue to do so well into February.

I mentioned New Year’s Day at the top because after Christmas, we have to get through the crush of returns, exchanges, and clearance sales (everyone stocking up for next Christmas!). Then we wrap it all up with parties celebrating the arrival of the new year (or the survival of the old one). Hate those parties. Hours spent, often with total strangers, drinking way too much. To me party and stranger are mutually exclusive terms. And besides, I don’t much care for parties or strangers or excessive alcohol. Gave up that nonsense years ago. I just didn’t see the point.

There. That’s it, I hope. My rant about the holidays. (Bet you didn’t know Grinch is actually an alternate spelling of Granch, a contraction of Grandma Bitch.)

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