This past week, we moved into our new house. As you can see on my to-do list: unpack every box in the world. This is my basement where I’ll display all the toys I collect. Right now, forward progress on the room has ceased until I can get to an IKEA. Because next on my to-do list is to do shelves.
But first, I have to do snow.
Hello, snow shoveling. At least that’s something I can understand. Not like gutters, a new concept in my life. That was another thing on my to-do list: put a flex-drain on the downspout so that rainwater stopped pooling at the foundation of the house.
Sticking a piece of plastic on the gutter shouldn’t have been complicated, but somehow I managed to utterly struggle with it for thirty minutes. I don’t want to talk about it, but it ultimately involved scissors, a second trip to Lowes, and me getting covered in mud. And in my first week as a home owner, I learned the answer to one of the mysteries of the world. You see, I always wondered about those people who went to home improvement stores like Lowes covered in mud. How does it happen? Why didn’t they change first? And now I know why. Because it’s a fight. A battle. A twelve round boxing match.
And this is me, still standing, covered in mud. This is my win, my victory. This is my mud.
I’ve had my hands full with shit to do. But it’s also December 17th, which means I still need to do something very important. I need to do Christmas. And I need to get ON IT. I need to put up the tree, put out the decorations, buy candy in decorative foil, and do Christmas shopping, which I haven’t even started yet. And yes, I’ve heard of online shopping. I always hear people bragging about how they get all their shopping done online, as though they’re tech-savvy and smarter than the rest of us slobs who still schlep out to the malls. I’m not impressed with your tech-savvy. It’s no longer 1998.
But maybe they are smarter. They don’t have to fight over parking spaces, wait in lines, or try to avoid the coughing person in the Hallmark store, standing there in the same card section for the last ten minutes like a card section hog. How long are you going to stand there in front of the inspirational cards? And are you going to look at every last card? Must it be the culminating-of-a-life perfect card? Is it Grandma’s last year? And seriously, what’s with the cough? Do you have the white plague?
And so this is Christmas.
I’ve put up the tree.
I’ve put out the foiled candy.
I’ve set up the Playmobil Nativity.
And I’ve bought generic cake.
What is Cake? What is life? What is Christmas without generic, dusty packages of baked goods found at K-Mart in the food section? K-Mart. How does it still exist? Why does it smell like a nursing home? Why don’t they replace the flickering fluorescent bulbs? These are mysteries of the universe I am not meant to know the answers to yet. But if they have been revealed to you, please share.
One of my favorite aspects of the holiday season is all the strange baked goods that flood the shelves this time of year, the stuff you never see. I imagine somewhere there is an old woman for whom this generic loaf of cake is part of her holiday tradition. Every year, she sits this cake out among a banquet of other desserts when the family comes over, and she’s always the only one who eats it. Cake has feelings, too. This makes Cake sad.
One of Cake’s primary ingredients is rape oil. I’m not sure what that is, but I think it violates the digestive system. Cake is stamped on the package with a date that claims it must be consumed by March of 2012. However, I am very skeptical that Cake could last this long. The package is greasy and sweating, which says to me that Cake wants out now. All in good time, Cake.
Yum, sweaty beads of rape oil.
And so finally on my to-do list, I’m taking a moment to breathe. To have a slice of Cake and do Christmas. I’m doing this alone because the girlfriend refused to eat Cake, and a shame for her, because it wasn’t half bad. I sat at my dining room table, unpacked boxes surrounding me, and gazed out the window where I watched the snow gently fall and glisten.
I imagined myself with that old woman, sitting together, talking over a slice of Cake. She spoke of the old days, back when she got an apple and an orange in her Christmas stocking. And boy, what a treat that was. And then her father, smiling, reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a handful of nickels, one for each of the children. They walked to the store and got a pickle and a pretzel each, for only a nickel. Today, everything costs so much more.
I love the bustle of the Christmas season. The malls, the coughing, the tree, and gorging myself on miniature Reese cups wrapped in green foil. But I also enjoy the quiet moments, eating generic cake and having imaginary conversations with faceless old women. Everyone else was going for a slice of pumpkin pie or trendy-ass Snickerdoodle cookies, but Cake was our secret.
If you haven’t yet, take a moment to do Christmas.