Tag Archives: holidays

Behind the Tree: Musings on Christmas Madness

Over the years, I’ve developed a blasé attitude toward Christmas. Middle Child has been decorating my house for me for the last few years, else I’d only have my Charlie Brown tree and a few scraggly ornaments hanging.

Christmas presents? Hah. A friend was stressing over buying the perfect gift for everyone on her list and nearly tore my head off when I suggested doing what I normally do – gift cards.

This year I deviated a little from my usual gift card giving tradition. Middle Child told me exactly what she wanted and even went so far as to order it herself. I did wrap it for her and she gets a kick out of wondering what her presents are.

Baby Kid has been “borrowing” bath products from my house for the last month (how do you “borrow” body wash? It’s not like I want the used product back . . .). A quick trip to Target took care of her.

Firstborn was easy, too. She likes smell-good stuff and lotion. Son-in-law got his usual shirts from me and grandchildren got what their parents requested for them (Target to the rescue, once again). Within the space of a few hours I was done.

However, no matter how fast I run, I can’t escape a touch of the Christmas madness. I leave Georgia on Wednesday after a five day visit with Firstborn; it’s a 10-hour ride home. I’m cooking on Thursday for the next day (a Cracker Barrel holiday dinner was unanimously shot down), going to my mother’s for Christmas Eve, serving Christmas dinner on Friday, and juggling several Christmas Day invitations.

All the while, I keep thinking of the mad touch of irony in worshiping the birth of a God alongside the celebration of a red-faced, red-suited old guy breaking into your house to give instead of steal. The more I think about it, the more I love it.

The older I get, the less seriously I take things, including holidays. The celebration of Christmas can’t be pigeon-holed – it has varying degrees of meaning for different people.  If someone embraces commercialism instead of spiritualism, I say, go for it. If the birth of Jesus means more to some then others, I’ll roll with that, too.

To me, Christmas is a time to see and appreciate my real family, and a holiday where I’m destined to gain another ten pounds. It’s the time to look at your blessings, particularly your loved ones. It’s a time to set goals and promise yourself you’ll keep them – resolutions are harder to break when you make them on a sacred day 😉

Get silly, don’t take anything too seriously, bask in together time with those you care about. Try to avoid the holiday stress; embrace your inner elf.

Share about your holiday madness and how you cope with it.

And, above all, have a wonderful Christmas holiday with your loved ones and a prosperous New Year!

J J Dare, author of Joe Daniel’s “False Positive” and “False World,” and numerous short stories
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MERRY CHRISTMAS

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‘Tis The Season…For Remembering

As I sit here writing this, I am reminded of the fact that this is the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. All across the country, there will be remembrances and commemorations of this day, which really puts things into perspective when you stop to think about the fact that we are once again, sixty-plus years later, embroiled in another war. This is a difficult situation any time of the year, but it’s especially heart-rending during the holidays.

Whenever I see a clip of a soldier wishing his family well during this season, something pulls a little harder at my heart and I say an extra prayer for their safe return to their families. And I give thanks for the fact that there are people out there who are willing to give up their time, their holidays – and even their lives – so that I might live in a world that is safer for their efforts. Growing up, I was surrounded by people who served their country in such a way. My own father did tours in both the Army and the Air Force. His brother also served in the Army. My mother and one of her brothers served in the Air Force. My stepfather and two of his sons served in the Army and one served in the Marines. My stepmother’s two sons served in the Army. And that’s just my closest relatives.

Fortunately for me and for my rather large family, all of my relatives came back to us safely, some of them better off than the others. Of the group, my father and one of my mother’s uncles (who served in the Army) probably fared the worst. My uncle came back from World War II a little worse for the wear and spent many of his remaining years (for most of the time I knew him) in a veteran’s hospital. My father, who served during the Korean Conflict, suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, which exacerbated his bipolar disorder. In his later years, he was in and out of veterans’ hospitals and never did get a good handle on his condition.

This brings to mind all of the veterans of our current wars and how they often return home damaged in some way. Whether it’s a traumatic brain injury or post traumatic stress disorder, they come home with a condition they did not have when they went overseas to serve their country in this war. I think we owe it to them to take care of them as they took care of us.

So as you grumble through your every day life or brave the malls to shop for your loved ones this Christmas, don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate our men and women who keep our country safe. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard or National Guard, Police Force or Fire Department, they are all one. They are the people who make our country safe, our world safe. They are the people who make it possible for us to live in relative peace in a country where we still have the freedom to make our own choices and enforce our rights. To all of our soldiers and military personnel, to all of our police officers and firemen – and women! – I say a hearty THANK YOU and I send out into the universe my wish that you all remain safe always but especially in this holiday season. You are never far from my thoughts. And to your families, I also say a hearty THANK YOU for allowing your loved ones to serve us and for taking good care of them when they come home. You are truly special people.

Wishing everyone a joyous holiday season!

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A Day of Thanks

The turkey dinner at the restaurant was surprisingly good. The meat was tender and juicy. The dressing was moist and spiced just right. Peas and sweet potatoes had been cooked to perfection and the fresh cranberry sauce was delicious.

 

Sylvie took another bite of dressing and tried to force it down her throat. She had never eaten alone on Thanksgiving and her emotions were threatening to overwhelm her.

 

Her two children had each thought the other would be at her house for the holiday. They had been taking turns with her on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter since they had moved out on their own.

 

One of them had dropped the ball this year. They never let her know whose turn it was; one or the other just showed up with their spouses and children.

 

Sylvie always cooked a big meal during the holidays. She went all out: three different meats, vegetables galore, a buffet of deserts. Nothing was forgotten.

 

Noon came and went. The dining room table was groaning from the weight of the food. Sylvie sat there and waited.

 

One o’clock and Sylvie felt if she did not move, she would grow into the wooden chair. She got up and started putting the food away. She had no appetite to eat alone.

 

Taking her purse and coat, Sylvie walked to the restaurant down the road to eat her holiday meal. She wanted to dine with the sounds of others – her house was too quiet.

 

Here she was, alone in a restaurant, trying to eat a meal that threatened to turn to dust in her throat. She was still upset that neither of her children had been with her. She felt neglected and alone. She felt a pity party coming on.

 

As Sylvie sat staring at her food with a sad look on her face, a man spoke to her.

 

“Excuse me?” she replied.

 

“May I join you?” the man asked. “I hate to eat alone.”

 

Sylvie nodded her head, as she looked her dinner partner over.

 

He was about her age. In an old-fashioned tribute to the days when one would actually dress for dinner, he was attired in full suit, tie, and shiny shoes. All that was missing was the hat.

 

She spoke too soon. The coat he had draped over his arm was covering a black fedora.

 

“Please,” Sylvie said as she motioned to the chair opposite her.

 

“Mitchell Blackstone,” he said as he reached to shake her hand.

 

“Sylvie Garcia,” she relied.

 

The waitress brought Mitchell’s food from his table. In between bites, Sylvie learned that Mitchell’s only son traveled constantly with his job and had been unable to make it home for the holiday. Instead, he had paid a four-star restaurant to deliver his father a full-course Thanksgiving dinner.

 

“It was nice, what he did, but it is too sad eating alone, no matter how good the food,” Mitchell told Sylvie.

 

Sylvie completely understood. She explained to Mitchell why she was in the restaurant for Thanksgiving instead of at her house. She told him how her children took turns with her on holidays and how it felt like she was just an obligation to them.

 

Mitchell nodded in empathy. He knew all too well that his son felt that same sense of obligation. It made Mitchell feel as though he was a burden to the son he adored.

 

As they shared holiday stories, Sylvie found that her food tasted better and better with each bite. When they had finished their meal, Sylvie surprisingly had room for desert.

 

After slowly eating desert and drinking coffee, Sylvie looked at the time in shock. Three hours had pleasantly passed and she was reluctant to leave her delightful company.

 

Mitchell agreed and told her as much. However, they were the last diners in the restaurant and neither wanted to keep the staff from enjoying what was left of the holiday.

 

Sylvie allowed Mitchell to walk her home. It felt so nice to have a courteous man escort down the sidewalk. It had been a long time since she walked arm-in-arm with a gentleman.

 

As they drew closer to her house, Sylvie saw the lights were blazing and both of her children’s vehicles were parked akimbo in the yard. In the street, a police car sat.

 

“Oh, dear,” Sylvie said. “I forgot to leave a note,” she continued with a grimace.

 

“Would you like me to accompany you inside?” Mitchell asked.

 

“No. I think it would be better if I went in alone. Too many questions,” Sylvie said with a smile.

 

Mitchell kissed her hand and watched as she walked toward her house. He felt blessed that he had met such a wonderful woman. He felt thankful that she and he had spent Thanksgiving Day together.

 

Before she got to the gate in front of her house, Sylvie turned around and walked back toward Mitchell. As he took her outstretched hand, she thanked him for his company, and, with a touch of spirit, she asked, “Let’s meet at the restaurant for Christmas.”

 

With a smile, he nodded. With a smile, she walked into her house.

 

 

 

J J Dare is the author of “False Positive,”

the first novel in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy

 

 

 

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The War at Home

 

The turkey was not the only disaster at the table.

 

The peas had exploded when the microwave was set for twenty minutes instead of two. Somehow, the caramelized carrots had marbleized. The bread had a large sinkhole in the middle where it had imploded on itself.

 

The turkey was the crown jewel of disaster. Over baked and understuffed, the holiday bird was so dry, dust flew out of its arid carcass when it was sliced. All the gravy at the table was not enough to hydrate the arid bird.

 

The food on the table was disastrous, but the people surrounding it were worse. Tensions were high from the start. People who should not be in the same country together were within arm’s length of each other.

 

Mother Dee was close to tears. Paul and Jacob were arguing about everything, Jenny and Susan were trading snide remarks, and Mother Dee’s youngest, Beau, was sulking in the living room.

 

Poor Beau. He was as much an outcast now as an adult as when he was the youngest in the family. Always on the fringe, he was left out of everything and holiday gatherings were no different.

 

Joyous celebrations had always been stressful times, but as her children grew older, their differences became worse. As adults, their opinions clashed and, because they were family, their decency toward each other fell away. In the company of their siblings, Mother Dee’s children became monsters.

 

Paul should have held himself higher. He was a trial judge, for goodness sakes. He sat on a bench, day after day, listening impartially to strangers, yet, he could not give his brother Jacob the same consideration.

 

Jacob was worse, though. As a psychiatrist, he knew the inner working of emotions and the dynamics of human relationships. He knew why he and Paul argued, but he could not stop himself.

 

Mother Dee’s daughters, however, were on a different plane. Their cattiness was vicious. As close as they had been as little girls, they were on different worlds as adults. Jenny was a counselor and Susan was a nurse. Both were caregivers in their professions, but the care stopped at the door when they were together.

 

Mother Dee saw nothing of the family she had loved and nurtured long ago. Had her husband been alive, he would have tossed the strangers sitting at the table out into the snow. He would have been ashamed of the bickering family he had spawned.

 

She was at her wit’s end. She had been listening to the fighting and backbiting since she woke up. Just like when they were children, the fruits of her womb tried to drag her into their battles. She had mistakenly believed her referee days would be over when her children became adults.

 

She could not take it anymore. Slipping into the kitchen, she took the carving knife out of the soapy water in the sink and walked toward the dining room. Dripping water, she raised the knife high, plunged it into the middle of the table, walked through the living room and up the stairs to her bedroom.

 

She sat on the side of her bed and cried.

 

Her startled audience sat in stunned silence at her actions. Their mother was a diminutive woman with a sweet, understanding nature. She had never raised her voice other than to warn her children of snakes in the grass or nests of wasps. Violence was not her way.

 

Quietly, the group gathered the ruins of Thanksgiving and salvaged what they could. The girls made a run to the only grocery store open and managed to snag the last two rotisserie chickens, a small leg of lamb, the last box of stuffing, and the last can of peas and carrots.

 

Back at the house, the boys, Beau included, washed and dried the holiday china, and brought down the everyday plates their mother had kept from their childhood. Digging deeper into the cabinet, Paul found the plastic cups he remembered as a child, each with their names painted on them by a loving mother’s hand.

 

Mother Dee’s cupboard held a trove of foods the boys remembered from their childhood. Paul, Jacob, and Beau worked together to prepare macaroni and cheese, canned green beans with potatoes, and a few other memory foods.

 

By the time the girls came back with their scavenged food, the boys had set the table and put out the food they had prepared. The girls quickly warmed up the chicken and lamb, made the stuffing, and heated the peas and carrots.

 

Mother Dee walked downstairs into her silent house. Her children must have left after her uncharacteristic display. She felt ashamed that she had let their bickering get to her, but something inside her had snapped when she saw what her family had become.

 

Family should be family first, and family should never become strangers. Friends and acquaintances would come and go, but family was the mountain that never moved.

 

As she walked into the dining room, she was taken aback at the sight of her children quietly talking as they waited for her. Jacob came around to pull her chair out for her and Paul held her hand as he asked if she wanted him to lead a prayer of thanksgiving.

 

Beau brought her glass of tea from the kitchen, while Susan placed the first slice of meat on her plate and Jenny lit the candle she had set in the middle of the table.

 

Mother Dee burst into fresh tears, but they were tears of happiness. After so many years, her family had finally come together. She did not know if their feeling of togetherness would last when they left, but, for now, it was like their early days.

 

This disastrous Thanksgiving brought her children back to the family. For that, Mother Dee was thankful.

 

 J J Dare is the author of “False Positive,”
the first novel in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy

 

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