I’ve hunkered down for the holidays.

Just put my arms over my head and taken cover.

It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s and I’m just doing my best to keep my head down in order to get out of the holidays alive …and in one piece.

There’s just no stopping the holiday season. Just as I get through paying for the last Christmas, another Christmas rolls around. The whole thing is relentless…like an asteroid on a collision path with the Earth.

Along with the holidays comes all of that mindless shopping and after-thought cologne and necktie gift giving that you’re required to do in order to be thought of as a true American. I don’t get it. I never have and given the outcome of the November Elections, you’d think that Obama would have sense enough to just cancel the holidays. All that profligate holiday spending doesn’t really seem to be stimulating the economy anyway. Just cancel the holidays and instead have people send the unspent cash directly to the government. We’d pay off the deficit in no time. (The first entitlement program to be cut: Christmas. That’ would show those Tea Party people.) But I digress…

Don’t get me wrong, I generally like the idea of Christmas: peace on Earth, good will towards men and all. I do. I especially like the idea of the true meaning of Christmas: gifts. Getting gifts. For some time now, I’ve had my eye on some new golf irons (the Callaway X-22’s with the graphite shafts). Unfortunately, while I have done my part by clobbering a few people over the head with hints, not one of them has gotten the message yet. Not even my best friend, Booger Wadsworth. You’d think that a guy, whose been your best friend (and blood brother) since three o’clock of the third day of the third week of the third month of the third grade would know you by now. You’d think…but you’d be wrong. (Of course, when we met, it was also very likely Booger’s third year in the third grade, so maybe it just takes him awhile to “get” things. I am now hoping for the golf clubs “next year.”)

Just add water

What I did get this year for Christmas was somewhat startling. As almost everyone knows, I am an unabashed fan of President Obama. Maybe it’s because we have so much in common. He  loves golf, plays it badly, and is known to hang out with Democrats. Me too. Also like me, he was raised by a single parent mother. However, despite my gratitude for getting any gift at all and despite my admiration of the current POTUS, the Obama Chia Pet as a Christmas gift was, methinks, a bit ‘over the top’.

The darn thing doesn’t even look like the President. It has green hair, for god sakes! (Or “will have” anyway, after I add water.) If the real Obama suddenly showed up somewhere with green hair, those Tea Party people would really get upset…saying that they now had primie facie evidence that Obama was not born in this country. “Green hair!”, they’d say ” is clear evidence that this  sumbitch is a space alien and not even born on Earth.”

Another problem with the Obama Chia Pet is that this is very likley something else that I will have to take care of. It’s been my personal experience that anytime you get any gift to which “…all you have to do is just add water”, it’s a problem. Back in my economically good years –- those in which I was gainfully employed — I once get a swimming pool for Christmas. Another year, I receive a bass boat. I’m told, “Will all you have to do is add the water.” I’m not  told that I also have to add liability insurance as well as the major part of the contents of my wallet for the next ten years. You get the picture.

You can see why I am wary about getting anything to which you have to ‘just add water even if its a Chia Pet. (With my luck, Barack’s Chia ‘hair’ will be some kind of counterfeit contraband  made in China. The green stuff might even  be kudzu that will end up taking over the entire neighborhood.)

Of course, the golf clubs not being under the tree again this year is just another example of why Christmas has not been “…my most wonderful time of the year.” (I don’t care what that Andy Williams says.) My first Christmas season setback occurs in 1957. This is the year that I assist Sister Mary Animus of the St. Kennedy Frontier Catholic School in west Atlanta in inventing water-boarding. (Yet another ‘gift’ to me from the universe in which all that has to be done is to ‘just add water’.)

Like many of the great discoveries such as penicillin, Viagra, and Chicago-style deep dish pizza, the nun invents waterboarding by accident — i.e. while doing something else entirely. At the time, she was urging Booger and myself to confess to the theft of the Baby Jesus from the Nativity Scene in front of St. Kennedy’s Frontier Catholic Church. (Yeah, we were the ones.)

We had an early winter that year (at least that’s what everyone older than eight years old was saying) and Booger thought that the Baby Jesus would be warmer in the Wadsworth basement lair over on Mims Street than He would be in some dumb manger. This was especially when someone else (probably one of those godless communists that lived over on Beckwith Street, whom we’re always beating in touch football) had already stolen the ‘swaddling’ clothes in which the Baby Jesus had previously been wrapped.1(To his credit, Booger  helped Sister Mary Animus invent the enhanced version of waterboarding — i.e. with soap. The enhanced version of waterboarding included having one’s mouth washed out with a bar of Ivory. This brand of bar soap floats and thus, is easy for “administrators” to find during the proceedings. This enhanced version of the practice was the result of Booger inventing a couple of never before heard cuss words while the old nun was …er, “coaxing” the confession out of him.)2

As a result of the 1957 Christmas episode (my first ‘just add water’ scenario), I can’t tell you if waterboarding is torture or not but it sure is annoying as hell. I can relate that its effectiveness as an interrogation tool is suspect, however. Not only do Booger and I confess to the abduction of the Baby Jesus but in order to get some relief, we two third graders also confess to the Lincoln Assassination.

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

For quite a few years after the Baby Jesus Caper, Christmas passes by pretty much uneventfully. Booger and I judge the success of each holiday, more or less by how much loot we collect. After an relatively uneventful twenty five years– after being lulled into a false sense of security — all hell breaks loose. This occurs around Jimmy Carter’s  last year in office and just before insurance companies start putting the kybosh on serving liquor at company Christmas parties. It’s in this year that Booger and I attend the same Christmas party at my then employer, one of the leading banking establishments in the Southeast.

Beneath those gruff exteriors that bankers typically display lurk the hearts and minds of real party animals. Not only is this Christmas party attended by me and Booger, but it is also attended by several strippers from a local …er, gentleman’s club. To make a long story short, at this same party, Booger and I receive ‘great tidings from ‘Comfort’ and ‘Joy’, the names of two women, who were very friendly to all of the male bank employees — and as I remember, two or three bank associates of the female persuasion. Who knows at the time that Christmas cards featuring pictures of myself, Meriweather (Booger) Wadsworth and the two friendly strippers will be seen by our then first wives? Ever since, I have steered clear of Christmas parties as well as anyone who name is ‘Comfort’ or ‘Joy’.

One Holiday Down, One to Go

Of course, New Year’s is a problem unto itself.

In any run-up to a new calendar year comes a time for taking stock and setting new goals. Reflection, in some cases can be a wonderful thing. It is also an inexpensive form of entertainment, something certainly to be considered in recessionary times. The problem with reflection, at least in my experience, is that the people generally engaged in reflection are reflecting and taking stock of me — Will Cantrell –….thinking up new and different ways for me to improve….thinking up things that “I gotta do.” This has been been going on for quite awhile. Once, in my twenties, I was even told “Stop drinking, stop cussin, go to church’ and you need stop chasing hot women of questionable character.” In a more recent year, I was handed what was supposed to be a list New Year’s Resolutions that had been drawn up by other people on my behalf. The list had one item: “Grow up!”

You can see why I’ve taken cover.

Of course no matter how much I try to the contrary, I always come out of the holiday season weighing more, owing more… and both Comfort and Joy are scarce.

(By the way, if you happen to run into Booger, please tell him about the golf clubs…the Callaway X-22’s.)

© Copyright 2010 Will Cantrell

1Neither Booger nor I knew what swaddling clothes were—we figured they were something roughly akin to a three piece, pin stripe suit — but we knew that they existed. Sister Mary Animus, our third grade teacher had said as much whenever she read the story of the real Nativity to our class.

2 No matter who told them to you, all of the horror stories that you’ve heard about the nuns of the 1950’s are true. Hardly any of these people even looked like Audrey Hepburn in that movie, The Nun’s Story let alone acted like her.

Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell (a pseudonym) is a writer, storyteller, and explorer of the milieu of everyday life. An aging Baby Boomer, a Georgia Tech grad, and a retired banker, Cantrell regularly chronicles what he swears are 'mostly true'  'everyman' adventures. Of late, he's written about haircuts, computer viruses, Polar Vortexes, identity theft, ketchup, doppelgangers, bifocals, ‘Streetification’, cursive handwriting, planning his own funeral and other gnarly things that caused him to scratch his head in an increasingly more and more crazy-ass world.   As for Will himself, the legend is at an early age he wandered South, got lost, and like most other self-respecting males, was loathe to ask for directions. The best solution, young Will mused, “was just to stay put”. All these years later, he still hasn't found his way but remains  a son of the New South. He was recently sighted somewhere close to I-285, lost, bumfuzzled and mumbling something about “...writing' his way home.” Of course, there are a lot of folks who think that “Cantrell ain't wrapped too tight” but hope that he keeps writing about his adventures as he finds his way back to the main highway.

  1. Frank Povah

    Doncha just love Ch-ch-ch-chesus, not another Chia. My favorite is the kitty grass model for only sixteen bucks. I can buy a 50 lb bag of wheat for that and, with the addition of a few paper towels and a bit of potting mix, grow enough wheat grass to provide lifetime greens for every cat in Stamping Ground and most of the health-food freaks in Lexington (rumor has it that there are a lot of them there).

  2. Jack deJarnette

    Thanks Will for a most enlightening piece on the vagaries of Christmas. I have now had a Chia pet for the past 57 years and he/she/it has brought me many hours of loyal, tender, loving care. Just a bit of water and there’s the hair. I too enjoy the gifting that Christmas always brings. The ties and socks that always show up in my pile are just what I need when I need them. Since retiring, however, I never wear a tie so I re-gift them next year. My son-in-law still has to wear ties so he picks out really cool ones knowing they will be his the following year.

    1. Will Cantrell

      Thanks Jack. I’m glad that you enjoyed the article. On the other hand — 57 years?! This is a highly disturbing piece of information. According to my…er, calculations, this means that the half-life of your typical, garden variety Chia Pet is about 758 years!!!!!! The darn thing might as well be non-biodegradebale, which also means that it can’t be buried, dorwned, or thrown away. A real revoltin’ development. Thanks …Jack.

  3. Trevor Stone Irvin

    I need the location of this “Christmas Party” which is being staffed by women with “Missing Moral Compasses” and why wasn’t I invited!!!???


  4. Aww stop ya belly achin’. Try being born on Christmas like me. Talk about not getting what you want. Everyone thinks they can get over by giving us 2 for 1 gifts. “Merry Birthday! Happy Christmas!” Bah! I want to get two gifts just like everyone else. When I was little I wanted a Barbie Dream House and car. I had Barbie and all her clothes and accessories but she needed a place to live and reliable transportation so she could go to work at the mall which I already had also. (Sounds like a modern day recession story doesn’t it?) Anyway, on Christmas morn I hopped out of bed and ran downstairs to discover there was a car but no Dream House. I was crushed. Barbie could get to work but she’d have to live in her car. And then to make matters worse one of my cousins remarked that maybe I’ll get the house for my birthday! The nerve!

    Mr. Will Cantrell you still have another opportunity to receive your golf clubs so quit your boo hooing!

    Happy New Year!

  5. WOW …WOW, WOW!!!
    This is Hilarious…..Keep up the writing Will Cantrell…
    I am definitely a “BIG FAN”

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