I've decided that the best analogy that describes modern-day Christmas (circa 2006) is like a tsunami. You know when it hits, it's going to hit hard. You don't really want to be in the area, but you absolutely can't resist seeing what the effects will be.
Still, I can think of worse things to be hit by. And we are doing much better this year than we were this time last year, when we had no heat*, not much money coming in, the Trusty Steed sitting moribund in the driveway, the threat of eviction loomed on the horizon, and even Christmas itself was in jeopardy.
This year, thank God, there is abundant heat, the rent is paid up, there's money coming in (at least through the holidays) and -- thanks to the generosity of GIHN, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, some good friends now living sadly out-of-state, and my co-workers -- the kids are going to have a deliriously Merry Christmas. Mt. Zion even helped get the Trusty Steed a badly needed and long overdue tune up (it still grumbles a bit when I go faster than 60, but at least it's not threatening to fly apart altogether).
What a difference a year makes.
The store had adopted my family for Christmas and gave us the presents today. I was absolultely overwhelmed at the amount of gifts my co-workers and managers had collected for us. And after I'd been such a b-----d all year. Thanks, guys, for putting up with all the growls and snarls. There is a Cratchit under all this Scrooge. Somewhere. Really.
Still, there's a part of me that feels...uncomfortable. My kids are taken care of, but it bugs the crap out of me that there are other kids who may not have anyone to adopt them. It really chaps my hids that there are homeless families on Christmas. I know GIHN is helping at least one right now. I can think of few fates more horrible than being homeless during the holidays, and it bugs me that I'm not yet in a position to help out where it counts. Oh, I drop what little money I can into the Salvation Army kettles when I see one, but I'd love to help in a way that really counts. I'd love to win a fat Powerball prize and start funding food banks and emergency utility aid and holiday toy drive efforts. Not for any personal aggrandizement, either. Just so some kid who wants that particular toy at Christmas would get it. Just so a family whose breadwinner won't be working after the New Year could eat and focus on securing that next job. Just so those families whose presents were stolen** could still find a reason to get up on Christmas morning.
Yeah, yeah, I'm a bleeding-heart liberal. Sue me.
Let me finish up what may be my last post of the year with a thought. Just a little one:
This season isn't about Santa Claus, or Rudolph, or Jingle Bells, or Tickle Me Elmo. It's not about Christmas trees or carols or festive displays or pretty lights and tinsel. It's not even about family, or Peace on Earth, or giving gifts or Good Will Toward Men, although those are always a good idea.
It's about that little baby born 2000-some years ago in that manger. And why He was sent here. And what he represented. And even why he later died.
It's all about...love.
And when everything else -- wealth, fame, beauty -- has faded away, love abides.
*The gas had been off for a year due to nonpayment, so we were literally heating a 1200 square foot house with space heaters I'd buy from a nearby discount store with my meager earnings. Four of them kept us from freezing to death, although it still wasn't the most comfortable environment. We still have those heaters, and everytime I get to feeling cocky, I haul one out and take a hard look at it as a reminder.
**We've all heard of families who come home to find that some yahoo has broken in and stolen every present from under their tree. People that do this and ruin someone else's Christmas ought to be taken out back somewhere and shot.
The Fires of Winter
Lemme tell ya, folks, when my family and I lost out home earlier this year, the absolute last thing I wanted to do was go to a homeless shelter. We got lucky and linked up with GIHN, but there are others not as fortunate, and who have to go to Urban Ministry's or the Salvation Army's shelter, despite any reservations they may have. I had my reasons for not wanting to go to as shelter; I'm sure this guy had his reasons as well. Even if it was for the sheer pride of it all.
Of course, at the end of the day, it's a damn shame that he has to be homeless in America at all.
*Yes, this is unusual. Although I'm a news junkie, I often don't get to watch it much anymore because I'm either out running errands in the Trusty Steed or Ness has switched the TV to something she wants to watch and subsequently hidden the remote.
Chestnuts Roasting on a...Oh, Wait. That's Me...
But for now, some updates: Thanksgiving went without a hitch (except for the inevitable refereeing of the kids) and I even got the turkey right (for a change...) It usually comes out very dry. This year I dumped most of a can of chicken broth into the turkey before I closed the oven bag. Succulent and delicious! Leftovers this year weren't the ordeal they normally are.
I forgot to title my last post. I've typed one in, as you can see. Gotta keep consistency, after all.
I seem to be getting used to working in retail, even at Christmas (or maybe I'm just suffering from Stockholm Syndrome). Mixing it up with The Public both smart and stupid is just another walk in the park for me now. Still, I get the most boneheaded questions (like the lady that wanted to know if the Christmas trees on display were the same ones in the boxes right next to them even though there's a picture of the thing on the box) and the weirdest calls from the front registers (like the trainee who wanted to know if the clearance price she was seeing on her register was actually a clearance price. Well, duh, sweetheart...) The thing about work that bothers me the most now is when I don't get to finish cleaning up the department or setting up merchandise due to constant interruptions, and then having to end my shift with half my to-do list undone. Still, my fellow daytime co-workers have learned to have the coffee hot when I hit the door in the morning, and to not annoy "Michael B" too much until he's had a cup. Most days, anyway.
Could be worse; all the managers I had problems with are gone, along with, sadly, some I liked. And the ones I didn't like, I hated with a cold-flame passion. But I like all the current managers, especially my department head (Hi, O4!) She's got the same "get-it-done-however" attitude I have. Scary, no?
The Beast has quieted down some since my last post. I think just staying so busy has kept him off balance. Still, he manages to get in a jab every now and then. His latest tactic involves sowing doubt that I'll ever get back in school, or get my diploma once there.
My mom turned 70 today. Thank God. There were a few times we didn't think she'd make it, but not only is she still quite active, she's become cantankerous in her old age. Gee, can't imagine what that's like...
Took the family to the Greensboro Christmas parade* earlier today. It was actually good this year. The most impressive presentation was by Lawndale Baptist Church, who had people dressed as ancient shepherds, leading an assortment of domestic animals, including honest-to-God camels** and a huge float with the Three Wise Men and the Nativity, although the baby playing Jesus was a bit old I think (had to have been at least a year old).
We seem to have made a friend in the projects. There are numerous feral cats living in the woods nearby; they avoid us, we leave them alone (although a few have fallen prey to some of the cars that travel up and down the street). One calico cat, however, seems to have been someone's pet, once. We feed her whenever she decides to show up, and we can tell she's dying to come in, but as much as we'd like that, our lease (and landlord) say that's a no-no. I've been thinking of having someone come get her before the maintenance people decide to start a anti-cat pogrom but I haven't had much time to work on the idea. Calico*** also shows up on an irregular basis, so it's hard to predict where she'll be at any given time.
We've officially got copies of Ness' Christmas list. Oh, Lord. Suffice it to say it's two pages long, front and back, and composed mostly of items that Daddy will never be able to afford. Short of winning the Powerball, anyway. I asked her to prioritize the top ten items she wanted and there are a few things that I may be able to get, if I don't get kung-fu'ed by little old ladies shopping for their grandkids first.
*It's official name is the Greensboro Jaycees Holiday Parade, but I don't care what anybody says, it's a Christmas parade if it hits in December.
**I have no idea where in the world this place found camels. Pretty docile ones, too.
***I know it's lame, but we couldn't agree on a better name for her.