Thursday, December 27, 2012

Curmudgeon unloads on Christmas

If there's anything that can bring out my inner Curmudgeon, it's Christmas.

Well, that's not entirely true.

I actually love many things about Christmas -- the lights (other people's displays brighten up the walk home on those dark nights), the songs (you can listen to every musical genre all at once, from opera to pop, from jazz to rap -- although when the iPod shuffles 32 consecutive versions of "Little Drummer Boy" or "White Christmas" that does wear after a time), and the movies (any Santa-scoffer must reconsider after viewing the original Miracle on 34th Street, even if ol' Kris did get the name of John Quincy Adams' Vice President mixed up) -- but you'll notice I've not mentioned trees.

I've complained about Christmas trees here in the past -- but I suppose that what I'm really complaining about is the disruption that Christmas brings to my routine.

The weekend lost to putting up the tree, and the tree itself, are merely symbolic of that disruption. There are other boxes that must be rescued from exile in the garage -- cookie tins and molds and Advent calendars and decorations that must be hung on walls in all the rooms of the house.

And I certainly can't complain about the disruption involving my wife's cookies. First, she does all the work -- even if I may be dragooned into putting the 50lb. bag of flour into or the van at Costco or into the basement at home. Second, I look forward to the cookies -- I even distribute a few tins myself in the hopes of getting business with them. (These cookies can be a powerful inducement.)

But with everything Christmas-y that must be done in December, we still must do all the tasks that we must do in April or July or October. The laundry can't wait until after New Year's. The bills must be paid. Work must be done.

I've learned that men in particular are creatures of routine. I had a law partner once who said that a man chooses his haircut, his shoes, his shirt preference, all by the time he's 18 -- 25 at the latest. And then nothing changes.

That's certainly been my pattern.

When I was a teen and I wanted to ride home on the train with my father after working or goofing off downtown for the day, I didn't need to call his cell phone (which hadn't yet been invented anyway). I just went to a particular car on the 4:42 express train. I could sit down next to him without looking: He not only took the same train every night and sat in the same car; he sat in the same seat.

I can't quite do that on the el -- there are too many other people who will take any seat that's available. But, I have a particular car that I prefer in an eight car train, and a particular seat in that car, and I sit there whenever I can.

Routine is good.

Christmas upsets routine.

Here is a man who needs routine.
Perhaps I've advanced this theory here before: The male's need for routine goes back to the earliest stages of human development. The men would go off to hunt the wooly mammoth or something and they had to be aware of the right time to start the hunt -- the horns of the first half moon after the melting of the snows suggested the migration of the aurochs or something. And maybe our cave-dwelling ancestors did not understand the concept of 'upwind' or 'downwind' but they knew that if they came after the bear this way they could surprise it, but not if they came after it from that way. You might say that the need to develop -- and follow -- routines was more or less bred into the male of the species.

Women, on the other hand, always had to be more flexible. Yes, there'd be the season to pick berries and the season to gather nuts, and that would suggest a routine -- but the cave-women had charge of the cave-kids, too. Kids have never been entirely predictable. And there'd be surprises, as well -- one minute you're chewing deer hide to soften it enough so you can pierce it with your stone awl, and the next minute wolves or saber-tooth tigers are chasing the kids, or a large bear comes back to reclaim the cave that everyone thought he'd abandoned.

Christmas, for the allegedly 'gentler' sex, is just another disruption in the schedule with which they cope. Like their great-great-great (and so on) grandmothers chasing off the bear while the men were out goofing around looking for mastodons, women just cope with Christmas better.

But this year has put even Long Suffering Spouse to the test.

There's all our stuff, of course, but we know where to stash this picture or that one until their Christmas replacements come off the walls. But we have Younger Daughter and Olaf and the Baby-to-be-named-later in residence with us this year. Their stuff from the wedding is still in the basement -- underneath their stuff from the baby shower and the Baptism. And now they have Christmas stuff, too.

Then Older Daughter and her husband Hank and their dog Cork descended upon us -- with all their usual baggage (Cork's travel cage, Hank's suitcase -- which is always left on the living room floor, Older Daughter's hair dryer and her hair curler -- which seems, though I know it can not be so, to simultaneously take up residence in each bathroom in the house) and all of their Christmas stuff besides.

Maybe that's the real reason why we have to put up a tall tree -- so at least the tip of it can be visible above all this stuff.

I had to walk sideways, and serpentine, just to get to the coffeemaker last Friday.

By Christmas, all of this disruption had begun to wear on Long Suffering Spouse as well. It's one thing to have your nut-gathering interrupted by a saber-tooth tiger attack, but at our house it's the modern equivalents of wolves and saber-tooth tigers and bears all at the same time.

My friend Steve called me at the office late yesterday afternoon. "I'm surprised you're at work with everything that must be going on at your house," he said. And when I did not answer immediately he thought a little. "Of course, maybe that's why you're at work, eh?"


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love this post as it made me think of my paternal grandmother. No one had a stricter routine than her. I'm talking about many decades ago and everyday had it's certain job to be done. Monday was laundry day, with her wringer washer, and Tuesdays were baking days and etc.....On top of that she was a clean freak and seriously she washed down the walls of one room everyday of every week. Their house had 7 rooms and every week those walls got washed down regardless of if anyone had even been in some of them rooms. If she were still alive and walked in my house and realized how rarely I wash down any walls she would probably fall dead.

I'm like you though I don't like all the disruption that comes with the holidays.