Christmas would be much more enjoyable if it didn’t come at Christmastime.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the Yule season just as much as when I was nine years old and was convinced, despite mountains of incriminating evidence, that I’d avoided landing on Santa’s “naughty” list.
The things that I find disagreeable about Christmas are the cold and the dark. I deeply enjoy everything else regarding Yuletide. Large and boisterous family gatherings: check. Mountains of yummy homecooked vittles: I’m there! Eating until your tummy feels like an inflatable Christmas lawn decoration: I practically invented that.
When we were kids, my wife and I were forced to get dressed up on frigid Christmastime evenings (this was so long ago that the glaciers were still retreating; winters were always deathly cold, with snow deep enough to bury entire herds of wooly mammoths) and go to our respective school and/ or church to perform in holiday programs.
That’s not quite true. In my estimation, my wife has never needed to be coerced into getting gussied up. Like many members of the female gender, she actually enjoys being all decked out in festive finery. This is yet another a mystery I will never unravel.
I, on the other hand, think that “dressing up” means wearing my cleanest grungy T-shirt and donning my least tattered blue jeans. You can imagine what I look like when I feel like being a slob.
Compounding my feelings about the misery of Christmas are childhood memories of donning my Sunday duds – clothing made of a special polyester blend designed by NASA to instantly conduct heat away from its wearer – and piling into our family sedan with my siblings. Our car at that time was a 1953 Chevrolet, an old beater which was about as airtight as a screen door. Its heater produced less warmth than a birthday candle.
We would arrive at the venue of our Christmas program and pile out like a bunch of kidsicles exiting a clown car. The program would last just long enough for me to begin feeling warm again. We would then clamber back into our refrigerated car and endure the chilly journey back to our farm.
All of which makes it surprising that I recently agreed to accompany my wife to a nighttime Christmas celebration.
The shindig we attended was the Annual Music and Mistletoe Fundraiser at McCrory Gardens. Since the word “gardens” was involved, I assumed that I could dress casually. Holes in the knees of one’s jeans would not be frowned upon.
I was ready in a matter of minutes whereas my wife spent the majority of the day “getting pretty.” She went through more clothing changes than Cher during one of her concerts.
When my wife was finally ready, she looked me over said, “You’re not going like that, are you?”
“Umm… maybe,” I replied.
I learned that the proper answer was, “Ha! I was just joking! Give me a minute and I’ll put on something more suitable.”
As we walked into the venue, I saw the wisdom of my wife’s clothing choices. All of the ladies in attendance had obviously expended considerable time and effort “getting pretty.” It was not unlike a fashion show, albeit one that featured mostly middle-aged matronly Midwestern models.
A high school string orchestra serenaded us as we noshed on appetizers and chatted pleasantly with our tablemates. The orchestra played several traditional Christmas tunes from my youth. I couldn’t help but get misty-eyed when I recalled how my elementary school buddies and I had concocted alternative lyrics to “We Three Kings.”
Following an elegant supper, we were treated to the Grand Lighting of the Garden Glow. As we peered out the soaring windows, the grounds of the garden erupted in a bonfire of colors. The lights from dozens of Christmas trees, reindeer, lollipops and other ornaments flooded the night, transforming the inky blackness into a riot of twinkling Technicolor.
We were encouraged to walk the grounds of the garden for a more intimate view of the decorations. My wife and I bundled up and strolled the garden paths, marveling at the glittery prettiness of it all.
Arriving back at the venue, we were greeted by a sextet of carolers who were wearing traditional Dickensian garb and were crooning traditional Christmas songs. We listened to them until the cold drove us back indoors.
I could empathize with the carolers, who had to dress up in special clothing and endure substantial discomfort. It reminded me of someone else from long ago.
Motoring homeward in our toasty, non-drafty car, my wife asked, “So, what did you think?”
“God bless us, everyone!” I replied.