I can remember it like it was yesterday. In the first place I really didn’t even like Christmas. I guess I liked it well enough when I was a young child. Christmas wasn’t like it is today. I mean you got a present like a doll or a truck and maybe a nice new coat for winter or a pair of Stride-Rite’s.
Christmas just wasn’t the gluttony that we see today. I really was OK with it until I had my own kids. I mean I worked like a dog all year plus raising three kids on my own.
Can you believe it, I would work Christmas Eve back then at the diner and make it home just in time for dinner. My sister lived with us for a while when the kids were small, which really helped. Those were some hard ass days and Christmas became a real chore. I mean the kids looked forward to what little I was able to get for them and eventually things got better for us, more money, more things. But I tell you the more I could get them the more they wanted.
Shit I would have piles of wrapped presents waiting for them on Christmas morning almost like that scene in Home Alone 2 with that enormous tree and five feet of presents. The little brats would tear into that Santa paper, pulling out presents left and right and then just throw stuff on the floor, grab another bundle of loot and rip into that one.
A couple of years like that and I put a stop to that bullshit. It was one present only and that was almost considered child abuse. But that was a long time ago. The kids finally stopped all that Christmas nonsense, got jobs and bought their own Christmas gifts with their own money.
I only asked for homemade presents, which went over all right although some of the stuff they made was, you know, promises like I’ll make you breakfast in bed one Sunday a month, stuff that was sweet and much better for me.
BY this time I was relieved the pressure of presents was let up. We still had a traditional Christmas dinner for everyone. We had a family tradition of taking turns hosting, my sister, my brother’s wife, my step-father’s ever changing girlfriends, a couple of close friends and that made it easy. Each of us had special areas of expertise that we bought to the table and everyone over the age of ten had to add something. So those were some good years until the kids were grown and had families of their own and their own traditions.
I finally felt I could do my own thing at Christmas: no presents, no huge dinners, no presents. But that year was different. MY kids were doing very well and the grand kids were growing up just fine. That year they decided that I deserved to get something special from them and I should think of something I really wanted for Christmas.
They told me it had to be something very special, extravagant even. They were prepared to buy me anything from a new car they said or a downtown condo or a little farmstead or a mink coat just like Tippi Hendren’s in The Bird’s. Money they said was no object, a Caribbean cruise or a trip to the moon.
I had a whole year to ponder this grand gesture and ponder I did. I took the offer seriously. I wasn’t getting any younger and I figured I deserved the luxury they were offering me.
I was almost retired from my city job. I had a comfortable pension coming, a nice apartment. I didn’t have a car living downtown close to work. I was comfortable and saw a comfortable future for myself. I was content at soon to be sixty-five but I took the challenge seriously.
I researched cars. Hell I could get a Tesla or one of those self-parking cars I saw on TV. I thought seriously about that blond full-length mink coat and went so far as to look on line. I actually found one that would only cost about ten grand. But what the hell would I do with that much coat. It was never really cold enough to wear in Seattle more than five days every three years or so. Plus I was liable to get blood thrown on me by some PETA radicals or some outraged vegan might kidnap me and force me to eat kale and quinoa until I promised to rid myself of that abomination.
I thought about jewelry, emeralds and rubies. I just happened to see a movie on TV with Ava Gardner wearing a full set of her very own emeralds. I was just unable to see any use for a huge necklace just to wear to the Queen Anne QFC. I could buy a huge gold chain like the rappers wear and pull my neck out of joint. Hell, I could get a gold grill and look like a total idiot.
I went so far as to hire a real estate agent to show me property: condo’s in Belltown and West Seattle, ferried to Vashon and the San Juan’s to see little farmsteads. I was in shock at the sticker prices, which made my obsession with mink and emeralds look positively puny.
I was feeling too old to change my ways too much. I liked not having a mortgage hanging around my neck. My apartment was small and easy to live in, no garden and I liked my neighbors. They were my kind of people, nosy to a point but we all respected each other’s privacy enough.
It was coming up fall and I had to get my head out of my ass if I wanted to please my family. I thought about traveling, something I hadn’t done very much of. The world was a mighty big place ad seeing so much on the TV in movies and documentaries and on Rick Steves who goes everywhere and has such a good time. His feet never hurt, he never gets ripped off or gets the trots. Everyone welcomes him into their homes like he’s the Sheik of Araby.
Cruises seemed too square like the Love Boat times a hundred. I couldn’t ever set foot in such fakery, smiling and groveling, clean and fresh everyday, eating buffet food, dancing the Wobble every night fending off old, middle-aged, short, bald, heavily perfumed men attempting to have me perform some fellatio before he lost his flaccid erection. No, no no, I had to find a really good present for myself.
It was after Thanksgiving dinner with Dennis, my next-door neighbor. We were having a smoke form his bong. He and I had discussed this question for many months now, with no solution insight. “Hey look what I found on EBay today.”
He pulled out an old thick comic book encased in plastic from a USPS shipping box. “Look, remember this one from 1958. I think I read it in about 1960 and was totally enchanted by it.”
He pulled out a not so perfect copy of “Dennis The Menace Goes To Hawaii.”
Finally, that year the only thing I wanted for Christmas was to go to Hawaii. Of course, I took my best friend and neighbor Dennis. We had a ball and stayed for almost two months using the tattered old comic as our tour guide.