Ohhh. That last Christmas ale wasn’t the best idea. What’s that horrible taste in my mouth? Oh yeah. I smoked a cigarette last night like a moron.
*Looks at clock*
Well. This is it. Christmas. Sweet.
*Responds to blog comments*
I should get out of bed and do something productive.
*Plays Tetris for 45 minutes*
*Gets out of bed, walks downstairs*
Shit. I still have to wrap my son’s presents.
I’m a little hungry. I want to go out to breakfast. Nothing is open. Swell.
*Eats brownies and drinks coffee*
*Lays on couch, stares out window*
My first “Merry Christmas” text. From one of my best friends who got a little irritated with me the night before after I called him a negative scrooge for disliking It’s a Wonderful Life.
I can either go to church in a half hour, or at 11:30…
*Plays Tetris for an hour with the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas playing in the background*
The jewelry store girl texted me a Merry Christmas note. She doesn’t write me very often, so it was unexpected.
That was nice.
*Pacing around my house I notice footprints in the snow on the deck behind my house*
*Texts two friends who might have left them*
The first one says it wasn’t him.
The second one says: “Merry Christmas! Must have been Santa!”
“Footprints back there. Makes me nervous, actually,” I typed back.
He confirmed it was him.
(That was the second-most-exciting thing that happened all day.)
I started thinking about getting ready for church. In my experience, the church gets REALLY busy on Christmas Day because of all the people who only show up on Christmas and Easter. My ex-wife calls them “Chreasters,” which is a pretty cool name. With mass beginning at 11:30 a.m., I figured a bunch of families will be there after opening gifts in the morning. I wanted to get there 45 minutes early to find a parking spot.
I pulled into the church parking lot. There were, literally, only two other cars there.
I’m sure all the other cars will start pulling in any second.
Three more cars showed up. I saw an attractive twenty-something blonde frantically typing onto her phone, muttering to herself, and looking as if she had been crying. She was walking down the sidewalk toward where I was parked.
She was wearing pajama pants. She wasn’t there for church.
I was having the internal debate about whether to offer help when a gold Ford Edge with a dented rear-driver’s-side quarter panel, pulled up behind me. The blonde got in and they took off.
(That was the third-most-exciting thing that happened all day.)
I walked into church. I was shocked at how empty it was. Glad I got here 45 minutes early! But it’s not like I had anything to do anyway.
Everyone must go to Christmas Eve mass, or the earlier one, because I had never seen it like this. Really sparse. A little sad.
I knelt down in my favorite pew, next to my favorite stained-glass window. It’s the one that reads “Fortitude.”
I spot a couple I’ve been seeing at church for as long as I’ve been attending (more than seven years)—but hadn’t seen for at least a year or more. They’re Indian. They often sat behind us on Sundays past. My ex-wife and I always talked about trying to be friends with them, but both of us were always too shy to say anything to them.
They have a little girl now. She’s beautiful. I don’t know any of their names. But seeing them—seeing that little girl, who I hadn’t seen since she was a tiny infant—made me almost tear up, similar to when I walked into my former brother-in-law’s place a couple days after Thanksgiving and spotted my niece I hadn’t seen all year.
Mass began. And I tried so hard to be in the moment. To keep my mind focused on the spiritual significance of the holiday. But it was virtually impossible.
The opening hymn was “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” It’s one of the most-magnificent songs ever written. It was one of the songs played at my wedding as guests arrived and were being seated. One of my few contributions to the ceremony. It was impossible for me to not think about that even though we weren’t married in the church I now attend.
One of the ushers came by and asked if I could be one of the guys who helps with the collection baskets. Some churches pass around baskets. Ours uses long-handled baskets. I was nervous that I might mess up somehow, but there’s really not a lot to it. I did a good job and even managed to smile at everyone as I passed each row.
(That was the fourth-most-exciting thing that happened all day.)
I started Googling different variations of “What’s open on Christmas?”
There’s a Denny’s-like place called Eat’n Park that’s generally open 24 hours per day. I checked their Facebook page to see if they were open on Christmas. They weren’t.
I altered my Google search query.
Hallelujah! My local Chinese joint was open. I laughed to myself as I thought about the Chinese restaurant scene in A Christmas Story. Fa ra ra ra ra, ra ra ra ra!
I spotted the gold Ford Edge with the dented quarter panel on my short drive to the Chinese restaurant. Weird.
I ordered sweet and sour chicken with white rice because that’s what I always order when I’m not craving anything in particular.
The Chinese ladies behind the counter were grumpy and no-nonsense as they always are. They never smile. One of them is super-hot, too. There was one old lady waiting for food before me. They handed her her food. The grumpy Chinese lady said “Merry Christmas.” That surprised me. The old lady said nothing.
The song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” started playing. The entire situation was hilarious. I wish I’d been happy enough to laugh.
A few minutes later, they called my order, handed me my food, wished me a smile-less “Merry Christmas,” which I returned, but with a smile, and headed home.
I turned on Home Alone 2, because I couldn’t think of anything better to do.
I ate all of the sweet and sour chicken and rice. There was a lot of it. It gave me a stomachache.
I opened the fortune cookie.
I was hoping for the most-profound fortune cookie message of all time…
“A focused mind is one of the most powerful forces in the universe.” (In bed.)
I called my father. I talked to him, my stepmom and my 15-year-old step-niece for an hour and 12 minutes.
*Wraps son’s gifts. Poorly.*
I should go volunteer. Seriously.
I’m such a fraud sometimes. Honestly.
My ex-wife texted that she’d be bringing our son over after dinner so he could open all the gifts at my house.
I spruced up the kitchen and cleaned off the bar from the night before.
My son and ex-wife arrive.
Within a few minutes, he’s opening all the gifts under my tree. My ex-wife, for the third-consecutive visit to my house, sits on an old chair rather than the new couches, making me wonder for the third time whether she does that because I once wrote on this blog: “Don’t even think about sitting on my new couches.”
I kind of feel bad about that now, but didn’t want to bring it up on Christmas.
The boy mowed through the presents because he’s five years old.
Toy snakes, because he’s really into reptiles right now.
Beyblade and Pokemon items, because he’s really into the Japanese stuff for reasons I don’t understand.
A Nintendo 3DS and a few games.
And other odds and ends.
Then we all sat around playing with his stuff for a while. Just the three of us.
The family that isn’t.
But it wasn’t as bad as I expected. When my ex decided to leave, I hugged her. Kissed her cheek. Said “Merry Christmas.” And meant it.
I felt sorry for her heading home to be by herself, if that’s what she even did. I wouldn’t know. We don’t know what one another does anymore.
Because I’m a dad, I’m going to miss a lot of parties over the next week. One on Saturday, and at least two New Year’s parties.
I wonder if that will be as depressing as Christmas was?
I put my son to bed. I laid with him for a while. He assured me he had a nice Christmas. That he was happy. I hoped he was telling me the truth. He’s old enough now to fib a little while trying to be sensitive to our feelings.
(That was the most-exciting thing that happened all day.)
He fell asleep a little after 9 p.m.
I walked downstairs. Looked around.
So this is Christmas.
I ate a little of the cranberry-jalapeño-cilantro dip I’d made the night before. My stomach still hurt, but the dip is so good, I didn’t care.
I played a little Mario Kart 7 on my son’s new 3DS hand-held video game system. Fun game.
Then I went to bed around 10 p.m. I arbitrarily decided to watch Groundhog Day and laugh at Bill Murray.
I fell asleep during his third time reliving Groundhog Day.
I didn’t cry, though I felt like it.
And I didn’t die.
With every opportunity to make today better than yesterday.
And next year, better than this one.
Watch out for that first step. It’s a doozy.