It hit early this year, the nausea that comes yearly, slowly tugging at my conscious in late October, becoming a fair-sized notion that all is not cheery at Thanksgiving, and, usually, I'm able to stave off the full feeling of the emotional version of day-after-Thanksgiving-ate-too-much-pie illness until the day before Christmas Eve. This year, though, it hit early, and hard. I had a full-blown case of 'the holiday season is just too much' before Thanksgiving hit. Oh I did the day fine, turkey for the family, football game, that was fine. It was BLACK FRIDAY that did me in. The talk about the day, and what it meant to retailers, to retailers? What about Grandma? But this is what Christmas is about, appeasing our gods, the old traditional ones like Sears Roebuck and Macy's as well as the newer, more powerful ones of Amazon.com and Best Buy. These retailers, our priests and priestesses, the apostles of American Consumerism, were getting a little concerned that their worshippers weren't giving their all to their gods. Oh the punishment they threaten us casually, if we do not comply! We must show our gods we are loyal consumers else, convinced of our straying hearts, they will increase our heating costs, raise our interest rates, make homes even less affordable to the average working American and forbid this, take jobs away. All unless we do our godly duty, and shop.
Don't be fooled, either, by the distracting arguments of Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays. It has nothing to do with Religion. No, it's all about 'How do we get more people to shop.' If you say, Merry Christmas, you leave out all the non-Christian denominations. They are less likely to be swayed into excessive consumerism by a holiday they care nothing about. No, our gods are open-minded. If you say Happy Holidays, well, then, EVERYONE spends, regardless of denominations. It's a smaller, more subtle version of how the Romans successfully conquered so many cultures, for a while. They said 'worship who you want, but pay your taxes to us.' I do believe America is the reincarnation of that Roman Empire, for do we not say, 'worship who you want, but shop here' and where they conquered with armies, we conquer with economics, and 'stuff.'
Well, I'm a heathen, partly, for it's impossible to muster the willpower needed to fully resist American Consumerism. I only worship with half a heart, though, for I didn't buy as much as I normally do, mainly due to a feeling of disgust with how a holiday season about family and friends and giving has become nothing more than a two month shopping event. My toddlers got a couple of toys each, because after nine years experience with their elder sister, I know all too well how little they care about a lot of toys. I bought them four toys in all, quality toys, a set of nice wooden alphabet blocks because they love building, a wooden stacking toy, and two little people sets. Hubby Man is going to buy them a few stocking stuffers. That's it. They are two. Best not start them off greedy.
My daughter? Well, we got her illustory, so she can 'write her own book,' an art set consisting of an art pad, paints and colored pencils since thats her new 'thing', four soft-covered books since we desperately want her to read more ha ha, a fleece blanket that is more a need, but it's Christmas so hey, why not wrap it, a high chair for her doll, and a movie, classic, National Velvet. Her stocking stuffers are a cd and some jewelry, and aside from a few presents from three sets of grandparents *divorce extends families as well as divides* and a bead set left over from her birthday presents *I forgot I didn't give it to her on her birthday, it's in November* that is it, and it's more than enough, and sadly, more than most kids get.
For the kids that don't get anything? One night at Bunco, we were talking about how Toys for Tots was very short this year. Exceptionally short. They didn't have enough to go around. I, feeling righteously nauseated at all the excessive commercialism prompting everyone to buy good tidings of comfort and joy with gift cards, the 'hot' gifts can we say X-box, and so on and so forth at the never-ending sales, realized that for all my nausea, for all my 'what about the others,' I'd done nothing for the others. Remembering a Christmas as a child where all I got was a coat, and a VCR for the whole family, and a reminder from my parents that as little as we had, we needed to treasue it, because there were those with less, I took myself back to the store and purchased a few toys for Toys for Joy, something similar to Toys for Tots. Tomorrow, I am packing my nine year old daughter in the truck and we're going to drive to the fire station, where she is going to take the toys and place them in the Toys for Joy drop-off bag, as I explain exactly why we are giving these toys away to strangers rather than to her and her brothers.
I am already forming a New Year's Resolution based loosely on the idea that it is no longer enough to be glad that I have the things I most cherished as a child, because I didn't have them: a house, a real house with stairs even! in a nice neighborhood! With clothes that aren't hand-me-downs or from the 70s equivalent of Walmart! I saw the lives on television as a dream I wanted desperately in on, but could never have. I, as a child, cherished my family the most, because they were the only thing I could be sure of. Everything else was material and material was fickle, sometimes, we had things, and oftentimes, we did not, and we just dreamt of them, or forgot we didn't have them But family was always there, and being kind, and giving, and caring and making do with what we had, was ingrained in us. I think it is time to work on passing those values on and drifting away from the mall-cult. But I want it to go beyond Christmas.
Everyone can be charitable around the holidays. My resolution is to work on the rest of the year, and try to show my daughter that there is another side to our world, another darker place where little girls and little boys see this magical time of Christmas as a dream. Do people really live like that? Do they really have such big homes and such happy, large families, and everything is so wonderful? Yes, our gods lie, people really live like that, happiness every day, joy in buckets, but you not for you, you aren't faithful enough, you haven't made enough, because you have angered us.
Our gods lie to us, it is their way. They mock our lives. They show us when we approach the alters placed reverantly in so many rooms of our homes what we could have if only we lived by their code. No matter how little or how much we have, we can have more and we can buy happiness and sunshine and those buckets of joy. But the American gods have no time for those who do not prostrate themselves before retailers, for those who do not spend themselves into a fury trying for the heaven of the American Dream. If we do not keep up we are swept away and just try to sell a home with laminate counters.
So we worshippers try harder, as we take holy latte, grande or venti please? the ambrosia the gods so kindly share with their faithful, and drag our progeny into the temples, showing them the secrets of our faith. What though, are they promising?
And that is what I am nauseous about. It is not real. We know it, we all do, it's not real, it's an illusion, the heaven they show us. Most of us today say we buy too much, we shop too much, we own too much, but when do we say it? When we are shopping. We condemn excessive consumerism even as we partake in it. It is the trap of our lives, and there seems to be no escape, try as we might, too many of us are too weak to just stop. There are truly things of value, yes, but so much of it is just plain excess. And honestly, I don't think I'd be so nauseated, I don't think I'd mind so much, if so many people didn't have to go without, if there weren't inner cities teeming with poverty and resentment that can only be contained so long, if there wasn't an entire state, one full state of the union, dislocated and barely remembered a mere month after it's tragic fall, if there wasn't a nation where voting was one of the bravest things you could do in your life, if an entire people wasn't being eradicated before the world's very eyes with no intervention, and so much more.... If the world was such a place that the only thing to truly worry about was parking? Well then, I wouldn't really mind.
Tis the Season.
Perhaps the next year will be better for America, better for the world. Perhaps not. But hey, what can we do? We have Christmas cards to relatives we haven't seen in decades to mail...