Saturday, November 24, 2012

Early Christmas

Funny, isn't it, how the quirks of the yearly calendar can throw off the rhythms of the year?  

Right now, everything is ahead of schedule because the rule that Thanksgiving must be the 3rd Thursday of November pushed that over-stuffed day to its earliest possible date.  And so those of us with the dual threads of history and conspiracy found ourselves "celebrating" (as in, remembering) the 49th anniversary of JFK's assassination at the same time that we were hauling out turkeys and all of the requisite sides as symbols of thanks for the bounty of this great land, for God's place in our founding, even though we are not meant to be an overtly religious nation, even though our festive gatherings carried with them that awful reminder that even as civilized as we think we are, a single bullet can alter what we think we have become.

I started thinking about this when I found a recipe on Pinterest that looked good--a combination of a pecan pie topped with a cheesecake, two desserts that combine remarkably well together.  The woman who posted the recipe is a military wife whose husband was shipping out, and so she had to get Thanksgiving together much earlier than its scheduled date.  We forget those little things about our soldiers.

But from there, everything was out of whack, it seemed.  My little jaunt to see Bruce Springsteen in Kansas City used up a good bit of my monthly salary much earlier in the month than when I'm usually hitting the wall, and so I've spent days budgeting and calculating how I would pay for all of those Thanksgiving groceries and "Black Friday."

That's right.  I'm an outright fan of Black Friday.  I'm the driving force behind whatever members of my family are in town getting up early on Friday morning and driving down to Dawsonville, GA to the mega-outlet mall there to mix and mingle with the crowds of shoppers.  I don't know what it is--I don't have any agenda when I drive down there, and I only went into 4 stores the whole time I was down there.  Some of the time, I just hung out in the car reading a book while the women shopped.  But that wasn't boring.  That was fun.

I like the mass of people on that day.  I like commiserating with the sales people who have been working since midnight.  I like the road trip, the stopping for breakfast along the way and how we travel at least one direction of the trip through Georgia's apple country, stopping at one of the stands for apples and fried pies and a sample of this or that.  I like how it's Christmas at the outlet mall, but it's still autumn in the hilly country of northern Georgia, where that last of the crops of apples, potatoes, squashes, and onions still fill the bins and travelers like us buy the last of it wistfully, even as our cars are loaded with Christmas gifts.

This year, oddly, Black Friday was over before it should have even been Thanksgiving.  That's the kind of year we're in.  Those of us who are school-types will be back teaching before Thanksgiving day even normally occurs.

I know there's not really a way to make Christmas any earlier, but it certainly feels like it's racing towards us anyway.  To some, that may seem counter-intuitive.  In fact, Christmas is farther away than it normally is when we return from these days off, but that reality ignores the overriding reality that Christmas season starts the day after Thanksgiving, and so all of its sights and smells and sounds will overwhelm us all that much earlier.  

My daughter told us today that everyone she knew already had their Christmas trees up and that they knew how to keep their trees alive until Christmas.  Well, sorry, honey, but we've still got almost a week of November left, and I know damn well that I can't keep a tree "alive" that long.  So we'll wait another week to get a tree.  

At the same time, though, in my semi-ironic attempt to embrace Christmas down in my "man cave" (where I write this), I have already decked out the place as the "Room of Misfit Christmas Decorations," where the unwanted ornaments, candles, school projects, candies, and unofficially-unsanctioned Christmas CDs reside, creating a kitschy, but nostalgic and satisfying homage to any year's greatest intersection of the sacred and the profane.  This is, by far, the earliest we've ever had a Christmas decoration up in our house.

Thanksgiving may be for overstuffing with food, but brains can be overstuffed, too.  The last seven days, for me, are so full of Springsteen, turkey, JFK, Led Zeppelin, James Bond, money, shopping, the stuffed and the starving, the many people who get ill around holidays, and the need to be ready--for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, for visitors, for eventualities, whatever--that I get the feeling that moving everything up, as the calendar has, is only making for a longer, faster race.  

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