Monday, December 21, 2009
Stop me if you've heard this one before: having a child changes everything. This is especially so during the holiday season. For instance, I have lots of memories from lots of Christmases, but only three of 'em remain crystal-clear right down to the year:
1982 – Atari 2600
1987 – The original Nintendo Entertainment System
1991 – The first time I was able to buy decent gifts with my own paycheck, instead of whatever I could afford on my meager teenager allowance.
Honorable mention: drinking a beer with my dad in the backyard on a warm Christmas morning. Unfortunately, I can't remember if it was 1995 or 1996.
That's not to say I haven't enjoyed every other Christmas of my life (well, maybe not in 1981…everyone should experience at least one "poor, forced to do without" Christmas…if that doesn't motivate you to NOT be poor, nothing will).
It's just that, after awhile, there's a formulaic sameness to the proceedings causing the memories to melt together.
And, then my son Jalen was born.
This will be his sixth Christmas and each one hasn't been nearly as much fun for him as it was for me. There was his first one in 2004, when Mrs. Bootleg took the boy to get his picture taken with Mall Santa. Defying all laws of human physiology, Jalen screamed so loud and so long that – for a moment – his mouth was bigger than his head.
In 2007-08, J was really into Disney-Pixar's Cars movie. I scoured every Wal-Mart, Target and toy store within a 20-mile radius in search of every die-cast replica of every character in the movie. Here is a short film depicting my reaction after an especially obscure find.
That's not to say I've enjoyed every aspect of Christmas since Jalen arrived. I've maintained a lifelong loathing for some of these things, while others are more recent arrivals to my personal bah humbug collection. These are eight things I hate about the holiday season:
Shopping on Christmas Eve - Every year I say I'm NOT going to be among the cavalcade of procrastinators out and about on December 24 and every year – this one included – I can be found recklessly killing off my credit cards in a one-day all-out assault to save commercialism in this country. I've even outdone myself this year as, for the most part, I've covered everyone on my list – except my wife. Why can she get away with giving me a picture of Jalen as a gift, but if I even dared to do the same thing…
Candy Canes - I don't like mint. Whether it's peppermint or Pep-O-Mint™, it all tastes like toothpaste to me.
Egg Nog - Once upon a time, the taste of egg nog was not unlike creamy melted angels mixed with nutmeg. My mom couldn't keep it in the house. Every year around this time, she reminds me that I once poured it over cereal – and ate the whole bowl. Today, my body has changed. Even blended with a surplus drum full of rum, a few drops of nog would keep me tied to an entirely different "bowl".
The Unnamed Defense Contractor - At the beginning of every year, my company establishes goals tied to revenues, cash receipts, etc. Around September or October, like clockwork, the company announces that we're on track to meet said goals. Somewhere between Halloween and Thanksgiving, everything changes. On or around December 1, we're in dire straits and the Contracts Department (me) is tasked with panhandling to the Federal Government for an advance on the following year's funds so our shareholders can have a very Merry Christmas.
Robbing the future to pay for the present? Sounds an awful lot like the origins of a certain worldwide economic catastrophe I've been reading about.
Ham - Weird. I love sausage, bacon (Canadian and domestic), pork chops, baby back ribs, pulled pork, pork roast, tenderloin…pretty much every part of the pig except for chitlins, pig's feet and head cheese. Ham just doesn't do it for me. Never has. This year, Mrs. Bootleg is throwing ribeyes on the grill. Last year, she made her phenomenal three-meat meatloaf. Christmas should be a red meat holiday. The Bootlegs aim to keep it that way.
12 Days of Christmas - What is it about this interminable ditty that makes it SO easy to memorize for children? It's a crap shoot for Jalen to remember to wash his hands after using the bathroom, but he knew every word of this auditory ordeal when he was three. It's like the holiday version of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird", where you have to sit through 10 minutes of uphill singing to get to the final 12 days countdown/no-vocals guitar part.
Gingerbread Cookies - Cookies should be sweet. Each one should be a decadent, guilty pleasure that gets you closer and closer to the doorstep of diabetes. Ginger is such an overpowering spice that it ends up cancelling out the brown sugar, corn syrup and cinnamon in most recipes. Unfortunately, my grass-roots campaign to replace gingerbread men with "oatmeal-raisin-walnut cookie men" hasn't caught on. Yet.
Summer on Christmas Day - Full disclosure: it was in the high 70s all weekend here in San Diego. I'm not asking for the east coast's recent Arctic conditions, but Christmas Day should feel like…well, Christmas Day. In 2006, we reached 80 degrees on Christmas. I could barely enjoy our grilled-outdoors dinner of bacon-wrapped filet mignon and bourbon. This year, I'd gladly trade in my usual holiday ensemble – shorts, t-shirt, no shoes – for a scarf and a scratchy sweater. A quick check of our city's extended forecast predicts a Christmas Day temperature of…64 degrees! Now, THAT'S Christmas climate!