Man, the life of a fifth grader. Do you remember what that was like? For me it was hellish. All sorts of things were going on. No matter how much I wiped, my forehead was perpetually greasy and densely scattered with acne. No blotting papers or Proactiv back then. You slathered on a little Oxy 10 and prayed for the best. I had braces and glasses, and a haircut like Tootie’s from The Facts of Life. That was actually one of my more hurtful nicknames in elementary school. There were several others and thanks to technology, I’ve been able to find my name callers on Facebook, then friend and defriend them over and over. Petty but effective.
For the most part, this story was true, though I took my liberties as a writer. (I never tire of saying that; it’s my lawyer’s “I take the fifth” or my journalist’s “I’ll never reveal my sources!”) To start, the entire classroom scene is fiction. We had the usual dime-store decorations like any other classroom. I actually don’t recall there being a baby Jesus, oddly enough. I love wreaths personally, and really only added it to the story as it supported my corny wordplay in the story title. My mom was the Entenmann’s mom. She didn’t have time to bake, nor did most families. We did do gift swaps and I was pissed one year that my $40-$50 item didn’t get bought, screw the limits (usually about $10). I got a scarf pin. Of course, this was a tasteful gift, but at age 10, I wanted the Knight Rider KITT car with remote control. I was very specific with Michael, my Kris Kringle. VERY SPECIFIC.
Want peace this holiday season? Spend them alone.
Of course, I’ll explain.
For the past few years, I’ve had pretty awful holidays. Daylight savings time would immediately drive me into a deep hibernation. I’d cancel plans with friends. I’d want to go to bed at 6 pm. I’d avoid answering my phone or e-mails, and you’d more than likely find me on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, watching TV in the dark and going at a pint of Haagen-Dazs like a shipwreck survivor with a first meal after nine days at sea.
This year has been markedly different. Although I procrastinated too long to hang Christmas decorations, I’ve otherwise enjoyed the season in an unexpected way that’s been hard to quantify. Sunset before 5 pm is still a drag, but my world doesn’t shut down at 5:01. I’ve met friends for dinner, done errands for my mom, seen movies and concerts, and generally braved the cold 90% more than usual. So what’s changed?
To be blunt, I was working for five years, and now I’m not.
There’s something freeing about unemployment, something more substantial than having time for coffee, a walk around the park, excessive blogging or endless harassment of your friends to publicize your blog (weren’t these the same people who urged me to start one?).
For me, being unemployed has meant celebrating the holidays on my own terms. Not schlepping into the city every day has been a major part. I didn’t realize until recently—after more than 15 years of working full time—just how much of the city seeps into everyday life, often without my knowing it. Particularly around the holidays. I worked near several hotels and Central Park, which meant I was constantly dodging tourist groups of four or more who either 1) walked abreast and not single file or 2) stood at stop lights both red and green, gawking, making those of us on the hustle either stop short to avoid barreling into them, or detour around them like a car around a pothole.
O. M. G.
What the HELL has been going on in here? I go away for a few days, come back, and LOOK at this joint! Clothes on the floor everywhere, dishes in the sink, makeup all over the bathroom, and in–come again? I left it this way? I see… Let me, ah, pick up a few things, ha ha, have a seat.
I hope everyone had a restful, easy holiday. My family of three certainly did. We got a dud turkey (expensive and totally unseasoned), plus undercooked green beans and unsalted, pudding-like gravy. But I spoke to the manager on Saturday and promptly got a second free, yummy turkey. My mom ominously noted, “Remember, [the manager] can get spicy.” I replied, “Have you MET me?!” I didn’t feel I should push as hard for the sides; my mom thought the gravy and greens were just as relevant. As I was the one marching out as Turkey Ambassador, I came down on the side of the main dish. I gave kudos to the manager for clearing up the matter with a quick “Come get a new one on the house at anytime today.” My mom thinks the unspoken part of this exchange was “We always f*ck up on Thanksgiving, so take a turkey and don’t go to Twitter or Facebook calling us out.” And guess what? She was diplomatic, and I didn’t call her out. I am, however, on my sixth day of eating turkey. I ran out of sides two days back and store owners looked at me funny when I asked for stuffing & cranberry sauce post-holiday.