The other day I was puttering along in my car and found myself having a moment of holiday Zen in heavy traffic. As I rolled towards the red light I got caught up contemplating the meaning of giving in the holiday season. Are the best gifts bought? What do I have that’s really worth giving? What are Thanksgiving and Christmas really about?
The clouds began to clear and angels began their sweet refrain. In my mind’s eye I could see the dew of enlightenment trickling down wisdom’s leaf to fall into my parched, questioning mouth.
Somehow in this moment I remembered I was driving and glanced in the rear view mirror. Looming behind me was a gigantic white van, its fist-clenched driver so far up my ass a butterball turkey couldn’t have fit between our bumpers.
In the first moment traffic allowed, he stomped his pedal and growled around me, just in time to brake hard for a jolting arrival at the red light I was coasting towards. It turned out that it was a commercial van; the man was delivering flowers. Flowers! Cupid’s messenger, the deliverer of roses and chocolates; the guy who’ll be delivering holiday bouquets and poinsettias to the weary and aged all through the holidays, riding my ass to go nowhere fast, the champion of cheerfulness and romance freaking out in traffic.
In a way enlightenment came anyways as I sat stupefied at the traffic light. The holidays are coming with all of their sugar, spice and everything, ummm, nice? The flower man’s seething energy made him my pre-holiday example of all things opposite holiday cheer. Tis the season of races toward the last parking stall; pressure cooker family gatherings and giving gifts that don’t quite meet expectations.
Meet me under the mistletoe, I’ll be there debating between my scrambling to fulfill my bankrupt gift ideas and drinking away the holiday pressures in a snow bank on the side of a rural road in North Dakota.
Remember the Walmart employee that got trampled to death by the bargain crazy crowd on Black Friday? I wonder what the “tramplers” had said the day before as they sat around their tables eating turkey and cranberries. “I’m thankful for this capitalist economy where I have the chance to stampede and bully my way towards the best bargains. Wall of people be damned, I will get that copy of Call of Duty for little Freddy!”
It’s all too much. We are overrun by commercialized expectations to give it all, to everyone, and to do it cheerfully. Maybe I’m saying it just for myself, but read along if you’ve ever been caught up in the holiday bustle. The effort required to meet the media’s message of holiday fulfillment is impossible. Trying will get you killed. Okay, maybe not killed, but at least driven to that cold cave called insanity and the ruin of what were to be your treasured moments of holiday togetherness.
I don’t hate the holidays; I’m an idealist. I’m simply issuing a reminder to all that the best part of the holidays is each other, not the hype that you have to shell out your dollars for. I want people to get together with those they love (my definition of family) and hold hands around some symbol of celebration (like a Christmas tree, a manger, your Buddha statue, or some steely symbol of atheism) and sing the praises of time together. And if that’s death metal, just make sure it doesn’t kill you.