Friday, December 20, 2013

Curmudgeon a Grinch, Scrooge, or just a grouch? I report -- you decide

"It's that time of year," the song goes, "when the world falls in love. Every song you hear seems to say, 'Merry Christmas,' may your New Year's dreams come true."

But I'm not waltzing through the Christmas season.

Oh, I like the lights and the carols well enough.

But my Long Suffering Spouse and I are going to have to go shopping tomorrow.

I am not looking forward to spending money we don't have, on people we don't particularly like, to buy things they won't need and don't want.

"What can we do about it?" my wife tries to reason with me. "They're family."

I have suggested that we buy everyone -- including our own kids, for that matter -- an orange and a pair of socks. That's traditional, isn't it? And we won't significantly increase our credit card debt in the process.

I have, in fact, suggested this once too often, at least, for my own good. Recently, as my wife brought up the subject of Christmas shopping, I had just opened my mouth when she told me to knock it off.

Do not get me wrong.

My wife is the exact opposite of a spendthrift.

We live frugally, as we must, and Long Suffering Spouse gamely muddles along with practical restrictions I don't think either of our daughters would possibly accept.

It's just that, at Christmas, my wife feels the need to buy stuff for her sister Josephine and her sister's kids and even her sister's still fairly-new husband, Ferdinand. "We didn't buy any birthday presents," she reminds me, "or graduation gifts" (two of Josephine's kids graduated this yea, one from college, the other from grammar school). "And they'll buy us stuff," she says, playing her best card last.

"We could agree not to buy each other anything, you know," I pointed out -- but Long Suffering Spouse would actually have to speak with her sister to negotiate such an arrangement. She doesn't want to do that. "Besides," she said, "Abuela wouldn't like it."

Game, set, and match to Long Suffering Spouse.

Still I find myself agreeing with Sir Michael Caine, who portrayed Ebeneezer Scrooge in The Muppet Christmas Carol (one of my wife's favorite holiday movies). Caine snarls at Bob Cratchit (Kermit), "Christmas is a very busy time for us, Mr. Cratchit. People preparing feasts, giving parties, spending the mortgage money on frivolities. One might say that December is the foreclosure season. Harvest time for the money-lenders."

Just because ol' Ebeneezer is a bad guy doesn't mean he's wrong, does it?

And what's wrong with an orange and a pair of socks anyway? Our TV died last month. We had to replace it. The DVD/VCR died two nights ago. That's something we'll presumably come home with tomorrow. We'll have buckets out in the den to catch the leaks from the roof tonight (we're having a bit of a thaw at the moment here in Chicago -- good news, mostly, except for the leaky roof). I'd love to replace the computer in the den -- it's eight years old now and the CD drive stopped working six months ago (there's still one viable URL port). Our kitchen is falling apart -- in fact, we've deferred so much maintenance for so long (it was suggested that we replace the furnace when we moved in -- 17 years ago -- and we never have), that it's hard to say where we should start to fix things. If we could start.

My law practice stinks -- it takes a lot of time and returns little. I will make more than my Catholic school teacher wife this year -- I think -- but not much more. Things are actually better now than they've been for awhile. I just moved a huge balance from one credit card to another, taking advantage of an interest free offer -- saving myself $250 a month just in interest payments on that one account.

I have reason to hope things will continue to get better.

But why do I have to have this annual reminder of just how far I've fallen -- and how far I must climb to get back up?

I don't think that makes me the Grinch. I don't think it even makes me Scrooge -- the three demons that torture my dreams aren't the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future but rather MasterCard, Visa and American Express.

But, you know, it's hard not to say "Bah Humbug."

I will adjust my attitude, I hope, before heading out on the morrow with Long Suffering Spouse.

But, seriously, what is wrong with an orange and a pair of socks?


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

why not pick names for the family, each getting one gift? i remember doing that when the family got so large and money was so tight. it was fun really.

merry christmas curmy.

smiles, bee

The Curmudgeon said...

If my wife wanted to set up a grab-bag, she'd have to talk to her sister about that. So there's that....

But Merry Christmas to you, too, Bee.

Steve Skinner said...

I think that socks are a great gift; everyone needs them!