My twin brother, Dave, and I used to pantomime whacking off while listening to Sleigh Ride. That little, jingly rhythm worked perfectly. “Just hear those sleigh bells ringle and ting ting tingling too.” And then, at the end, when the brass section came in, was when we really broke out and suddenly our pantomime little pricks were five feet long and thick as a coffee can. Then the final whinny. And the final crack of the whip. Ah! Merry Christmas!
There was one song, Joy to the World that I liked. When they sang,
And wonders of his love
And wonders of his love
And wonders of his love,
I always imagined someone walking around wondering about his love. Like, “I wonder if I love this person or that person”. And I could relate to that because my mother told Dave and me at a very early age (like, I mean two years of age (I'd say old mom jumped the gun a little bit)) that if we were ever to have sex with a woman (whatever that was), we’d need to make sure we LOVED her. And we always wondered how we’d know.
My parents played the shit out of their Handel’s Messiah album, which was a single album, sort of a highlight reel of The Messiah. And there was that one part that went, “Wonderful, counselor, the mighty god, the everlasting father, the prince of peace,” which I thought was pretty cool because it was like a superhero who would kick anyone’s ass. But then they kept bringing up some guy named Emanuel. And I didn’t know who that was. I thought about Charlie Manuel, who was with the Twins then.
Dave and I were deeply conflicted around Christmas time. We wanted to be holy. “Oh holy night. The stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear savior’s birth.” All that music moved us emotionally and we wanted to believe something passionately. But we didn’t. Our parents would cart us off to Midnight Mass and we’d light candles and pray to God, thanking him for sending his son down here to earth, where it sucked so bad compared to heaven. But still, heaven didn’t seem all that enticing to us. Clouds and shit. What fun was that? And if Jesus liked it so much in heaven, why did he come down? What good did it do? In the end, he lost. He got killed. And that was a good thing why? Why, exactly, was that a good thing?
One time, Dave was in some kind of holy passion play in church and he had to ask Peter, who was Father Green’s son, why he was kicking against the pricks, and his nostrils flared and his face turned all red and he couldn’t say the line because he was laughing so hard. Peter was laughing his ass off too. It was horrible. Everyone was aghast. Which is a joke in itself. I mean, who wouldn’t laugh?
Little Drummer Boy was a good one for dirty-minded little bastards like my brother and me. “Come they told him, parumpapumpum!” That was a good part. And we’d always crack up when “The ox and ass kept time parumpapaumpum!”
Christmas was funny because it was supposed to be so wholesome and holy. Otherwise, our irreverence wouldn’t be so funny. To be irreverent on, say, Halloween isn’t so funny. If you defile a holiday where people dress up like vampires or an insane clowns or a demons from hell, it’s a bit redundant. Christmas was our favorite holiday because we got presents. Also, it was fun to have dad home. And to listen to the same old music again and laugh about the same old shit we always laughed about. And the sticky rolls were good. And it was fun to get ten bucks from our parents and then go buy presents for them. One year, we pitched in and got dad an orange, Black and Decker drill, which was variable speed and also reversible. (He still owns this drill.) One year we got him a thing that heated up his shaving cream. (He never used this gift. Not even once.) One year we got him a big brush that was supposed to brush hair and shit off his suit coats, and my sister gave it away by giving him the following hint on Christmas Eve, “You know what we got you dad? I’ll give you a hint! You brush with it!” Dave and I were so pissed off, we couldn’t sleep. Pissed off and excited because we were on the verge of getting a bunch of presents. When my father opened up the suit coat brush, he didn’t seem all that stoked about it. But by then, we didn’t give a shit because it was Christmas morning and all the song lyrics weren’t so hysterical. In fact, we were ready to turn the page on the whole music thing. Bob Seger over Bing Crosby. “Here I am / on the road again/ there I am / up on the stage / here I go / playing star again/ there I go / turn the page.”
I don’t remember anything I got for Christmas back then. I guess it’s not important. That’s what everyone says. It’s not important, the gifts you get. I do remember, however, what I didn’t get. I didn’t get a mini bike. Never got one. But that’s not supposed to be important either. It’s not what you get, right? It’s what you give. Right? And we’re supposed to give stuff on Christmas because. . .well because of the Wise Men. Right? Giving gifts. Right? Which always seemed a bit of a stretch to me. Three supporting roles if there ever were supporting roles. Three walk-ons. An adjunct story. And everyone is supposed to buy everyone else presents because of the gold (which we understood), and frankincense (which made us think of Frankenstein), and the myrrh (whatever the fuck that was). Of course, gifts aren’t important. Not the ones you get anyway. It’s what you give. Like I said before.
Dave and I were jaded little fuckers. Like most kids. We refused to be reverent. Life didn’t seem to warrant reverence. What was there to be reverential about? Why was everyone so quiet all the time? Everyone was always telling us to be quiet, when all we wanted to do was shout. “Make a joyful noise.” “Let the sea roar. And the fullness thereof.” “Let the floods clap their hands. Let the hills be joyful together.” We didn’t understand what it was to care for someone more than ourselves. Why would anyone care for someone more than himself? What good would it do? Why would anyone submit to such a thing?
It’s Christmas Eve. But it’s morning. This is, I can guarantee you, a confusion to children all around the world. Children don’t understand metaphor. The eve of Christmas. The winter of discontent. To understand metaphor, you need to recognize two sides of a thing. The season of the year and the season of the soul. The giving and the receiving. Which is, as it turns out, the same thing.
This is so schlocky I can hardly stand it. The child in me derides this sentiment. Pisses all over it. But I’m not a child anymore. I can write schlocky things and actually believe them.
It’s Christmas Eve. Sam is coming back to Iowa from Baton Rouge tomorrow. William has been home from Santa Barbara for a week now. Lucy is home. Michael is home. Deb is home. This is what I have been given by the world. And, at the same time, it’s what I have given to it. They are my family and I am their family. One and the same.
All that is past is still with us. All the silly bullshit. All those dirty song lyrics. And all that is future is also with us. All the family that is to come. All the photographs of children with Santa. “Look how young you were.” “Look how young you were.” Every year. 2012, 13, 14, 15. 22. 32. 42. 52. 62. All the future children who will laugh about the Nutcracker. Or whatever. And be confused about Emanuel. God with us.