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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

This morning I was about to put a CD in the car stereo when a song came on the radio that made me pause and grin. It was Bruce Springsteen singing “Santa Clause is Coming to Town,” and I smiled because the song reminded me of Lora.

Lora was a humor editor at the old Gibson Greetings when I worked there as a writer. She was a few years older than me (mid-40s at the time, I think), short and pleasantly round, with a face like a Scandinavian Christmas elf.

Lora was a character in a lot of ways, but what I loved in particular was her annual Christmas tradition. Lora listened to WEBN, one of our local rock stations, on headphones at her desk as she read humor card submissions. There came a time each November or December when Lara heard Springsteen’s Santa song for the first time that year. At that point she would don a braided, stuffed fabric door wreath like a turban and go dancing through the editorial department, announcing to everyone that the Christmas season had officially begun!

The thick, padded wreath made her look like one of the magi in a headdress, which wasn’t such a bad holiday image, either. Once, we were going down to the cafeteria for something, and Lora decided to wear her wreath. It was disconcerting how few people saw any humor in it. In fact, dour souls in the hallways actually scowled at her. Lora didn’t really seem to care.

Lora passed away about ten years ago. She’d been let go in one of the massive layoffs that struck Gibson in the 90s, and she never really recovered. She stagnated at home, smoking and eating too much of all the wrong foods (she had severe diabetes). She succumbed on the operating table during heart surgery. She’d been gone from Gibson a few years by that time, but the loss was felt and lamented.

I’m not certain, but I think she didn’t take her stuffed Christmas wreath with her when she was let go. I always wondered what became of it. It doesn’t matter. Whenever I hear The Boss’s gritty version of “Santa Clause is Coming to Town,” I see Lora dancing again. She’s still short and plump, but she’s lighter on her feet than she ever was as she strutted through the maze of cubicles. Her crown is still the wreath of stuffed, braided calico, but she shimmers as if she were crowned with The Star and the gold and jewels of the Wise Men who followed it.

Hey, Lora! I guess the Christmas season officially began this morning.

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Warm 98, one of the local radio stations, is playing Christmas music. I listen for awhile, then I put in a CD of non-holiday tunes. I’m just not quite there yet. As it is, I’ve heard several of my favorite songs already and Thanksgiving’s still a week off.

They play Warm 98 in the mailroom at work. I was a little taken aback when I walked in there on Monday and Yoko Ono was trilling away on “War Is Over.” Later that week I heard “Jingle Bell Rock,” and yesterday when I was packing up a huge carton of craft projects to return to an author, my taping and weighing and labeling was accompanied by a prolonged holiday medley. Someone from another department walked in, did what I’d have to call the equivalent of an auditory double-take, and said, “Christmas music! I don’t want to hear Christmas music!” For all I know maybe she NEVER wants to hear Christmas music, but I suspect she feels the way I do: It’s not quite the most wonderful time of the year yet, and I’m not ready to sing about it. Not until the fat man appears in the Macy’s parade and I’ve begun to digest my first round of Thanksgiving Day gluttony.

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In this post I elaborated on my deep dislike of the song “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” I actually get a twitch as the Christmas season approaches knowing that Diamondqueen will be playing this song endlessly in the van and the Hooligans will sing it at me at full blast, over and over. Last year the angst deepened when we discovered a Hallmark ornament of a hippo that played a snatch of that awful ditty at a touch of a button. The kids had great fun thrusting that ornament in my face every time I walked into the house. I got a bit of a reprieve when J.Hooligan somehow misplaced the ornament. It was missing in action for the last week or so of the holiday season, but it turned up safely when Diamondqueen was taking down the tree.

Tonight I went along with Diamondqueen and S.Hooligan to Target, where we explored all the ornaments and trims for the 2009 season. I guess I’ve become hypersensitive to hippos and Christmas, because one ornament jumped out at me immediately: the figure of a female hippo with a come-hither look, her ample hide spilling over the sides of a string bikini. Despite my hippophobia, I grabbed the ornament and ran to Diamondqueen, laughing. Of course she bought it! (There was a less flamboyant ornament of a hippo skiiing, but that one didn’t appeal to her.)

We figured J.Hooligan would be quite amused by this latest acquisition; but when I pulled the ornament out of the bag, he lurched backward and said, “I wasn’t expecting that!” J. then went on to remind us that the hippo in the song is a BOY, while the ornament is obviously female. “Unless…” Diamondqueen began.

That set both of them off singing “The Lumberjack Song” from Monty Python. The idea of a transvestite hippo amused them so much that no one remembered to sing “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” which suited me just fine. If I thought the Christmas morning hippo would appear dressed in a red bikini and high heels, I might get more of a chuckle out of that blasted song.

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We had a warm, dry weekend here in Southwestern Ohio. And everywhere we went, there were people out in their yards with ladders and strings of lights. Puddles of plastic on the grass indicate where whimsical characters wait to be inflated and illuminated. Icicle lights fringe the gutters on houses and garages, easy to see even though they’re unlit and it’s daytime. On some of the pear trees that line certain subdivision streets near my mother’s house, glinting bits of glass among the bare branches show that it won’t be long until magical, twinkling tunnels transform the even strolls of neighbors and their pooches.

And already, every so often, there’s a home already bright in the autumn dusk with festoons of hard candy colors.

I love fall, and I really don’t like to see it rushed. I prefer pumpkins and Indian corn to remain on doors and mailboxes until Thanksgiving, a holiday wreathed with rust-colored leaves and acorns. But I appreciate the wisdom of taking advantage of great weather to get the decorations up and ready. It’s only a matter of days now, after all.

The Christmas season is coming.

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My sister, Diamondqueen, is nuts about 60s/70s kitsch: those flat daisy-like flowers that were on the “Have a good day!” posters and the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine; housewares in clashing hues of burnt orange, gold, and avocado green; David Cassidy and Bobby Sherman. And Volkswagen Beetles, which I didn’t know about until recently.

So when I saw an ad for Pier 1 in the Thanksgiving Day newspaper with a multicolored blown glass Christmas ornament shaped like a VW bug and decorated with flowers, I had to point it out to her. Of course, she went into ecstasy at the sight. Later that day I saw a Pier 1 commercial in which the ornament falls of the tree and drag races through the presents underneath. “Hey, I wonder if they’re selling a real ornament that looks like that?” I mused.

By now we ought to know how these things work. I guess we’re just naive. That Friday evening we went shopping, and we stopped in at the local Pier 1. Diamondqueen also wanted to enter a contest they were having for a real VW Beetle, but I said if they had an ornament, I’d buy one for her. There wasn’t a single one. Well, that’s lousy marketing, I thought. Wouldn’t people buy up those ornaments like crazy?

Later I had a hunch to look on eBay. People had bought those ornaments like crazy, all right — to sell on eBay. They had become as hot and rare as Hannah Montana concert tickets, and astonishingly pricey. That night, close to a dozen ornaments were posted, and the bidding ranged from $35 to $69 (the lower bidding reflected the fact that the auction wasn’t up for a few more days).

I e-mailed Diamondqueen about this. She was livid. I’d promised her that ornament; did she want me to bid on one? “NO!” she stormed in her reply. “I’m so f*cking sick of people doing this. I refuse to encourage them by putting one cent in their pockets!”

She has a good point. The speculation on collectibles, even something as innocent as a Christmas ornament, has gone into orbit. A decade ago I had a favorite gift shop that sold a whole range of things, including Beanie Babies. As I was purchasing some Mary Engelbreit treasure for my mother, the shop owner complained about the people who sat in their cars when they knew she had new shipments of Beanies coming in; she’d barely get the toys on the shelves before these folks would sweep in and clean her out. Even though it was good for her financially, she resented the feeling of being preyed upon, and she couldn’t build a faithful clientele because she couldn’t offer the solid range of stock she wanted to.

Throughout the Christmas season I checked back on the ornaments on eBay. I’d consistently see bidding in the $90+ range. I didn’t understand it. The economy was tanking, people were out of work. Even high-paying jobs were shutting down because of the financial and real estate crises. And yet someone — many someones, actually — were willing to overpay drastically for a Christmas ornament. Yes, there were still people in the world with wholly disposable income, who didn’t blink at paying $90 for an ornament they should have been able to buy for a fraction of that simply by walking into a Pier 1 store.

I wondered if the frenzy would die down once the holiday season was past. Tonight I entered “Pier 1 ornament” in the search at eBay (text and description option) and brought up a single VW Beetle ornament. With slightly more than four days left in the auction, the bidding is at $67 (11 bids). Want to bet it goes even higher?

Obviously there are people who have money to spare. Or they’re resolutely optimistic about their job futures and the recovery of the economy. Or they have the same stupid financial practices that got the country into the mess it’s in.

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I described here how I was giving the Hooligan children hippos for Christmas in response to their love of the song “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” In the end, I also decided to gift Diamondqueen with a set of swank clothes and a gift card so she build her own creature of her own choosing at the Build-A-Bear store.

The gifts were a success all around, and the day after Christmas saw us fighting the mall crowds to return to Build-A-Bear for some shopping. Here and above, the Hooligans show off outfits they selected for their respective hippos, Harold and Nancy. (Their hippos had come with $10 gift cards, and they added funds from their own piggy banks.) J.Hooligan selected hippos_clothes2-small-web-view.jpga dinosaur t-shirt and denim shorts, Skechers, roller skates, and a helmet and knee pad set. He also chose dinosaur pajamas, and bunny slippers that resemble the ones he himself received for St. Nicholas. (All this sartorial shopping by a kid who removed his hippo’s Cub Scout shirt on Christmas Eve as soon as he opened his gift because he thought his hippo “looked better without it.”)

S.Hooligan went straight for a pair of red sparkly shoes (like ruby slippers from her beloved Wizard of Oz), then decided on an outfit that featured scotties — perhaps in tribute to her grandma’s affection for scottie collectibles. S. also picked out a pink fabric purse and sparkly pink purse (S.Hooligan is a pink and sparkles kind of gal). When she saw J.Hooligan’s dino pajamas, she decided her hippo needed these items as well.

Diamondqueen selected a cheetah2.gifcheetah to “build” and named her “Dooney” in tribute to Diamondqueen’s obsession with Dooney & Bourke purses. The clothes I’d picked out for Christmas were a pink top with black polka dots and a coat, hat, and purse in pink trimmed with leopard skin (faux, naturally). Diamondqueen thinks it’s the height of chic for a cheetah to be dressed in leopard skin. Judge here for yourselves.

She also chose a flouncy gown trimmed in gold and a pair of “glass” slippers for Dooney to wear on New Year’s Eve at the Hooligan manse. I personally was dressed in jeans and a sweater, but I was surrounded by happy hippos (and a cheetah) dressed to the nines!

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 Wishing you

all the awe and wonder

the holiday season

can bring!

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