I'm not really one for holidays, anymore. I would have to say that if given a choice, most of the time I would prefer to stay in with a good book, movie, or a video game rather than get dressed up, take a 2-hour drive to someplace I'd rather not be, and then go through all the saccharine nonsense attendant to a Christmas celebration.
I'm not a religious man, so the idea of commemorating a Savior doesn't do anything for me. I imagine my Saviors to be a cross between George S. Patton and The X-Men, anyways. I'd like to put a pickaxe through the face of a good number of my relatives. Not because they're bad people, mind you, but because I find the company of some rather maddeningly annoying, like an inflamed hemorrhoid that alternates between a dull throb and a stabbing pain, but retains the constant itch. (Ed. note: That wing of the family didn't show this year. Whew!)
Why, if it wasn't for "the kids", and an extravagant meal, Christmas would probably be much like any other day for me, only with fucking Candy Canes. I could very easily just enjoy my Christmas dinner, grunt a thing or two at the guests, and then leave. In fact, I'd prefer to do exactly that.
But this year was different.
Three of my nephews are now old enough where Christmas ceases to be a wondrous event. It has simply become one of the annoyances of being a teenager; your parents dragging you off to places you don't want to be in order to give kisses to ancient relatives who smell like mothballs. You'd rather be hanging out at the Mall (which is, I believe, what teenagers around here do, for lack of anything else), and are engrossed by that stupid text-message thingy which has become the Herald of the Anti-Christ; it absorbs most of your time so that you're rotten company, anyway. You can't buy them toys anymore, and if you try to buy them clothes you'll usually get a sullen and begrudging thank you (more like a"Screw you! You expect me to be seen in public wearing this?"), and that's about it.
Which is I why I gave the three oldest cash. I give everyone cash; no one ever returns it, it's always the right size, and no one complains about the color.
But, the Little Guy...now there's a horse of a different color.
My nephew Mark is five. He still believes in Santa Claus. He still gets excited by the prospect of new toys and wrapping paper. He has enthusiasm for a holiday that long ago ceased being a source of excitement, and became one of pure obligation and forced bonhomie. This year, Mark saved Christmas for me. He made it tolerable, at first, and then, even a little fun.
I have to say, he's become my best friend. We do everything together, you know. So, a few weeks ago, when I was dreading the arrival of Christmas I was sort of shocked to discover that I actually wanted to do the shopping and gift-wrapping routine, if only for him. He's into Lego stuff now, and it's pretty much all he wants nowadays, so I went and got him something on his Lego wishlist (come to think of it, almost his entire Wish List was Lego-related. I don't know whether this indicates an affinity for architecture and a creative mindset, or if it's a sign of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
Christmas Eve was pretty good. We had our traditional Feast of the Seven Fish (my favorite meal of the year. Take that, Thanksgiving!), the company seemed less boring, dull, and annoying this year than in the past, because only the cool people were there. I only had one drink all weekend (yay!).
And on Christmas Day, I lay on the floor with a five year old with more energy than I can ever remember having had as a child, and built every Lego set under the tree; the Lego Fire Station, the Lego Airport, the Lego Police Boat, Lego Construction Site, and a few I can't remember (in my time, when you got Legos you simply got a bucket of bricks. Nowadays, the things come in complete sets with a theme. One of these days, we'll probably be going to work in the Lego City Dark Satanic Mill and Stock Exchange Building ). And had fun.
I can't recall the last time I've actually had fun on Christmas.
But, he's getting older, too, and I know that one day the entire thing will be just another day for him, too. There will be no more Santa Claus, no more anticipation of unknown treasures under the tree, no more winter afternoons on the carpet playing with his uncle. If we could have wishes granted, I would ask but for one; just give me one more day like yesterday before he outgrows it all.