Please, Not Another Pottersville Story…

Well, ‘tis the season again. The yearly ritual of collecting gifts, stringing coloured lights, and erecting artificial pine trees has begun. Wreaths are being hung, and cards are being mailed. Cookies are being baked, and turkeys are gettin’ stuffed. Kids are showcasing the best of their good-natured worth to Santa, and adults are Xeroxing their asses at office parties. Good times.

The frantic nature of this time of year can easily put undue stress upon the lives of people struggling through the muck of Western culture. If you happen to be short on greenback to purchase whatever the TV machine has the kiddies all hyped about, it’s easy to slip into the funk of a trivially oriented, materialistic society. Commercialism has tainted many a candy-cane, leaving a less than pepperminty taste in lot of people’s mouths.

It’s sad to hear the “I hate the holidays” line as many times as I do each year, but it’s understandable. To me though, the sadder thing to witness is the lack of effort holiday-haters make to reimagine their frustrations in a more joyous way. Much easier for them to accept the status quo in fury, and bitch about it to anyone who’ll listen, rather than seek a greater perspective to navigate life’s snow-covered walkways.

That used to be me. I grumbled for decades during the holiday season. (I still bitch a lot, but that’s a different tale) Ironically enough, years of rampant consumerism taught me an important lesson when it came to sorting out gift lists for people. Instead of prioritizing expenses and expectations, worrying about who got the biggest piece of my wallet, I learned to embrace the essence of the people on my mind – the family and friends who used to be “have-to-buy-for’s,” and became “want-to-give-to’s.”

Connections are what matter. Most of the year we forget that, too often taking our peeps for granted. As formulaic and monetized as the Christmas season has become, it’s always a great reminder to me of the favourite people in my life. This of course goes both ways – the best gifts I’ve ever received were the 95 cent trinkets purchased at the local Esso some weirdo friend picked up because it reminded them of me. Cool.

So instead of ranting about how much I fucking hate Google, let me share a sappy Xmas story with you today. We’ll deal with internet overlords soon enough…

Not too far from the mighty town of Aylmer, ON, my mother and I visited a small strip of shops selling a variety of baubles, knick-knacks, paintings, and crafts. It was a fun few hours of aimless wandering, and we found a quaint teashop to wet our whistles amidst the explorations.

While there, enjoying a cozied teapot of warming goodness, the lady serving us mentioned that the establishment served high tea. I’ve enjoyed high tea in the past, but my version was quite different from the fancy little sandwich and dessert trays they serve to the public. My mother decided to begin a new Christmas tradition by making reservations for her, myself, and my brother to attend this ritual the following week.

As we sat down together next Friday, my mother and brother began their usual venting session regarding whatever quirks life was currently jamming down their throats. I played my usual role of smiling empathizer. Before long, the story turned to my brother’s youngest kid, Sammy. He had recently been pulled aside to hear the “Santa Clause isn’t real” talk from his dad. Sammy was crushed. Hearing those words affected me far more than I would have imagined, and, truthfully, I struggled to hold back a tear. Not because I had some disillusioning Santa moment of my own to relate to, but because for that very second I saw the world through Sam’s eyes.

I felt shattered as well. Parents play the Santa game because their parents did it, and their parents before them, and they think of it as harmless fantasy fun for the kiddies, but I’m not sure many have stopped to consider the ramifications of fractured trust issues that might result from coming clean about the Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Jesus dupings.

As my brother continued with the story, he mentioned later how they were sitting around the table discussing putting up the Christmas tree, when Sammy remarked, “Why bother?”

That made me ever sadder. Perhaps the reason so many adults become cynical and overly serious about life is because of just such a moment – having the magic of wondrous, infinite possibility unceremoniously ripped from their inner core and revealed to be childish folly.

That feeling stuck with me the rest of the day. Later in the evening, a crazy notion struck me – what if I were to use my writing abilities to effect some kind of good in the world for a change? Instead of spending the night contemplating philosophical quotes involving genitalia puns, perhaps I could craft an inspirational note or story to change Sammy’s perspective on the Christmas fraud. The challenge was noble. Despite my pressing agenda to compile 15 words that best rhyme with snatch, I began Operation Inspiration.

After several hours of playing competent writer, I think I came up with something workable. It wasn’t condescending, and it wasn’t over-the-top, made for TV schlocky bullshit. Well maybe a little. My secret present just needed a small token gift to act as an occasional reminder to never give up on the wonder and surprises life will always have in store. I envisioned a keychain of some kind, maybe with a Star Wars lego guy attached, I dunno, but something that at least had some practical value to use or carry around. I asked my brother what novelties Sam was currently enthralled by, and he mentioned a game called Overwatch, favourite character named Genji.

Great. Not much hope finding obscure stuff like that around here.

The next day, wandering the streets of this tiny town, not quite sure what I was looking for, I passed by a dainty shop that had this sign affixed to the door:

“Come in, we’re awesome!”

How could I pass that up?

And awesome they were. The rectangular room was full of locally crafted items being sold on consignment. From soaps and pendants to…

Dozens and dozens of unique keychains, including full rows of Star Wars lego guys. On an obscure shelf at the back sat a lone character from the Overwatch troupe. Is the Universe cool or what? I guess the boneheads from The Secret forgot to mention that injecting a little selfless love into a manifestation practice would be far more effective than vision boards of sports cars.

I bought Sam a few other items he can open in front of everyone else, but his Secret Santa story and keychain go into a small box that I’ll hide somewhere in his room. He’ll find it whenever. The message in the story has nothing to do with pretending Santa’s real. I wouldn’t fuck with his head like that at this point. It’s an anonymous surprise gift that I hope picks up his spirits and doesn’t jade him to the inevitable disappointments we all endure in life. I have no clue if it’ll be of any value to him, but all I can hope for is a smile on his face.

Which reminds me of a visit to see a friend a few days ago. Discussing the tribulations of a screwy world filled with some seriously miserable, spiteful wastes of skin, he made a comment about seeing the smiles on his family’s faces that made it all worth while. When I met his 3-year-old daughter, bursting with energy, wonder, uninhibited enthusiasm, and a genuine radiance you rarely find in adults these days, I had no choice but to agree with him. If we could hold on to that youthful magic as we navigated the trenches of our stupid jobs and emotional sink holes, the world would be a much merrier place.

Joyeux Noel, mofos.

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