Monday, December 23, 2013

In The Midnight Hour, He Cried "HO! HO! HO!"

As a parent, I am hard-wired to protect my offspring.  As such, I attempt to lead them away from sharp objects, insist that they eat a (relatively) healthy diet, and discourage any extreme sporting activities that may or may not get them on "Ridiculousness" one day.*

*Except for dodgeball.  Dodgeball is the sport of kings, my friends.

But despite my half-assed Herculean efforts to shield my short people from the evils of the world, every year I found myself leading them to a quiet stranger, encouraging them to sit in his lap, and begging them to whisper in his ear what they REALLY want, while he calls them a "Ho".  The dichotomy of my "Stranger Danger" OCD and my willingness to thrust my offspring onto a strange man's crotch is almost as ironic as a hooker named Chastity, but hey! 'Tis the season, right?  Thankfully, my shorties have no reached the age where they've called shenanigans on the whole Santa thing, so I no longer need to schlep them to the mall for some quality begging and low-grade pedophilia.*

*Actually, I think my son M. may still believe but is keeping that on the downlow so he doesn't lose playground street cred.  Props to you, Little Man.

I truly thought that my days of mall Santa-ing were as long-gone as disco and MySpace, but like a drug addict or a stripper, I just keep getting pulled back into the lifestyle.

"Why did I agree to this again?"  I asked Gina as she navigated the mall parking lot in quest of an empty space.

"Because," she replied "you adore your precious godson, and you wanted an excuse to go shopping."

I shrugged.  "Well, yeah. . .there's that."  Just then, "Monster" came on the radio.  "Ooh!  Crank it!"  I cried, waving my hands at the speakers in excitement.

Gina regarded me with confusion.  "Wait. . .I thought you HATED Rihanna."

"But I loves me some Eminem, yo."  I grinned.

"I'm surprised you don't like Rihanna more,"  Gina smirked.  "you two have so much in common."

I furrowed my brow in thought.  "Because we're both singers?"

"Nope."  Gina said curtly.

"Because we're both fabulous trendsetters?"  I pondered.

"Not exactly."  she drawled.

I thought for a moment.  "Because we both have colossally shitty taste in men?"

"Aaaaaaand Bingo was it's name-o."  Gina replied, scootching her BMW into an empty parking spot.

While I gathered my belongings, Gina opened the back door and began extricating her 18-month-old son, Milo from his carseat.  As we made our way to the mall entrance I couldn't help but notice the glazed expressions and incoherent mumblings of everyone emerging from the mall doors.

"Mother Mary in a mojito, what's up with these people?"  Gina asked, clutching Milo protectively to her chest. Is there a gas leak?  Or have they been possessed?"  She grabbed my arm, terror in her brown eyes. "They've been possessed, haven't they?  They're pod people!"

I gently extricated my forearm from Gina's viselike grip.  "All right, let's take a deeeeeeep cleansing breath before you go all J. Love Hewitt on me, Ghost Whisperer.  No one has been possessed.  This is typical holiday mall behavior.  Be not afraid."

"Thanks, Jiminy Cricket", Gina muttered.  "But I don't need you to be my voice of reason right now.  Just cover me when I go in."

Gina reached for the door handle and we were immediately slapped in the face with an aura of cinnamon, pine boughs, and desperation.  All around us milled wild-eyed patrons, clutching their newly-acquired possessions and going all Marshawn Lynch on any foolhardy mall-walker who ventured into their path.  The smell of the Cinnabon mingled with the essence of Starbucks eggnog lattes and panic sweat that seemed to surround us in a cloying miasma of capitalism and holiday panic spirit.

"Dude, I'm tripping balls over here."  Gina gasped in terror.  "How are we going to make it to Santa Land?"

I shook my head slowly.  "I really don't think that's the core problem here, Geen."  I concluded.  "I think the greater question is 'How are we going to get out of here alive?'  I haven't seen a mall more jacked up since 'Dawn of the Dead'."

Undaunted, Gina squared her shoulders.  "We can do this.  We just need to call upon The Great One and ask ourselves WWJWD?" 

I stared at Gina in confusion.  

"What would Joss Whedon do?" she explained with gravity. 

"Oh, well that's easy."  I concluded.  "He'd kill off the most beloved person in the mall and then close it right when things were getting good."*

*R.I.P. 'Firefly'.

Huddling together for protection, Gina, Milo and I pushed, shoved, and elbowed our way to the center of the mall where were confronted with a display of such holiday wonder that it took our breath away.  Fake snow surrounded a carefully crafted, colorful cottage with a golden, velvet-lined throne.  A towering pine dripping with decorations towered over the cottage and everywhere you looked there were stars and twinkle lights and ornaments of every shape and size.  As we stood there in awe, a phalanx of brightly-dressed elves began to weave through the crowd, singing and dancing and spreading holiday cheer to the masses.

"This is. . .AMAZING."  Gina gasped incredulously.

"I know,"  I whispered breathlessly.  "It's like Disneyland, only without the latent misogyny and anti-Semitism."

"Although,"  Gina stated with a judicious tilt of her head.  "it really isn't accurate.  According to the Bible, Jesus was actually born in the fall, not the winter.  And the tree?  Totally improbable.  Jesus lived in the Middle East so in reality we should be hanging ornaments on a Jerusalem artichoke or a date palm.  The whole wreath, pine tree, and winter solstice rituals are actually throwbacks to paganism, not Christianity."

I glared at Gina with disgust.  "Well, thanks for that, Betty Buzzkill."  I grumbled.  "What's next?  Gonna tell me the Easter Bunny is a Scientologist?"

"Nope, pagan symbol of fertility."  Gina smirked.

"Oh yeah?"  I cried. "Well, what about Santa Claus, huh?  SAINT Nicholas?"

Gina smiled smugly.  "Based on the pagan god, Odin; a red suited man with a beard that used to leave candy and toys in the shoes of good children."

I frowned sadly.  "Well. . .shit. So, basically, my entire childhood has been a lie?" 

"Pretty much."  Gina sighed with a consoling pat on my shoulder.  "But onward Christian soldier, you still have thousand of years of existential guilt that can never be taken away from you."

Before I could reach over to smack Gina's perfectly coifed head the crowd around us erupted in cheer. We turned and watched as the jolly fat man himself wended his way through the throngs of children to seat himself ceremoniously upon his throne.  Squinting at him carefully, my eyes suddenly flew open in surprise.  "Holy crap,"  I gaped in astonishment.  "Either some of that legalized Mary Jane smoke has drifted over the Washington-Oregon border or that Santa Claus looks exactly like Jeff Bridges."

Gina tilted her head and peered over the shoulder of the man before her.  "I can't see."

I tugged at Gina's sleeve until she had a better vantage point.  "Here!  Look at him from this angle!"

Gina angled her head in the same direction as mine and let out a low gasp.  "Whoa. . .The Dude DOES abide."*

*So much love for my friends.  So.  Much.  Love.

As we wended our way to the entrance of Santa Land our mouths dropped open in shock at the indeterminably long line of visitors already queued up for soem quality lap time with Kris Kringle.

"Oh, for fuck's sake."  Gina muttered.  "That's it.  As of today I am officially an atheist."

"Ha!"  I countered, jabbing her slender arm with my forefinger.  "Santa is PAGAN, remember?  Suck it up and get in line with the rest of the Crazy Train, suckah!"

With a hearty sigh Gina shifted a now sleeping Milo to her hip and we made our way down the Green Mile to the end of the line. And I have to say, aside from a rather Heironymous Bosch-like odyssey through a labyrinth of velvet ropes and arcane direction signage, they kept that line moving at a healthy clip and before long we were walking up to the man himself.  A few paces before approaching the throne, however, Gina stopped in her tracks.

"Oh my God!"  she hissed in my ear. "Can you SMELL that?"

I rolled my eyes.  "Geen, we've been standing in a mall neck-to-nuts with the unwashed masses for the last fifteen minutes.  My olfactory senses are officially maxed out."

"It's HIM!"  Gina whispered frantically, jerking her head in an oh-so-not-subtle gesture toward Father Christmas.  "He REEKS of cigarette smoke!"

I threw my hands in the air.  "So, Santa likes to have a smoke and a couple of shots on his break, so what?  If I had to spend all day in an itchy red suit having children scream in my ear and pee on my leg I'd be doing crystal meth by my lunch hour."

Gina shook her head emphatically, backing slowly away.  "No.  No way.  There is no chance I'm putting my son on Jolly Old Saint Nicotine's lap."

With a huff of frustration I blocked Gina's egress and plucked my affable godson from her arms.  "Don't worry, Milo."  I cooed.  Auntie Jen won't let you double-dip in Mommy's crazysauce."

As we approached Santa, I saw Milo's eyes widen in wonder and he wriggled with excitement in my arms.  In that moment I recaptured those amazing days when my short people were that innocent, that trusting, that believing in fairies, and elves, and the pure magic of Christmas.  Looking at Milo's beaming face I felt my eyes fill with tears knowing that while Gina had many more years with him, in only seven short years mine would be graduating high school. . .then attending college. . .getting married. . .and bringing their own little ones to see Santa.  I suddenly longed to have my babies back; for just one more day to cradle two soft, cooing infants in my arms.

I walked toward Santa, the joy and majesty of Christmas in my heart, and a beloved child in my arms.  I saw magic.  I saw good will.  I saw glory.  I saw Christmas. . .

And I saw The Big Lebowski grinning back at me from his throne with yellowed teeth and a cough like a District 12 coal miner.

My smile wavering, I leaned down, gently kissed Milo's forehead, and before I handed him over I whispered sweetly in his shell-like ear.

"Remember your safe word."





meganator said...

"Remember your safe word."

I died. Totally dead. It's been fun.

mothers little hleper said...

Merry Christmas Jen. and if Christmas is a pagan ritual well that means I can put up a tree and decorate it just cos I like christmas!

Valerie said...

This is me every Xmas in the mall. Every. Fucking. Xmas.



David Rippe said...

You are just too funny! Every blog entry is a gem!