“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” annotated    

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Size of Christmas may vary depending on pre-established numbers in household bubble in addition to rationalizations undertaken to justify additional relatives invited for the holiday get-together, though “invited” is perhaps a misnomer, as they simply took it upon themselves to say they’re coming, and it ultimately boils down to a risk-benefit analysis, the risk being possible infection from/of visiting relatives versus the benefits of not rocking the boat and maintaining civil relations post-pandemic. Nonetheless, public health guidelines encourage as little a Christmas as possible as well as a minuscule Boxing Day. Regardless of size, “merry” is the optimal Christmas mood you should be shooting for.

Let your heart be light
Ten ways to let your heart be light:

  1. Get a good sleep.
  2. Look at old photos in a real album.
  3. Decorate cookies.
  4. Give cookies to isolated members of your community.
  5. Eat cookies.
  6. When our son was in kindergarten, he made a Christmas ornament that was a gingerbread man covered with glued-on macaroni, sesame seeds and kidney beans. Every year, he makes sure to hang that hideous decoration front and centre on the tree. He’s 25. It’s one of the highlights of the season. Find your personal bean man.
  7. Listen to Christmas songs about peace, joy and giving, even those that look sadness square in the eye, like the Judy Garland version of this very song, not the sweetened up lyrics sung by Frank Sinatra et al; also, stuff Mariah Carey in a sack.
  8. Walk, don’t drive, around your neighbourhood and look at the lights.
  9. Remember that Dolly Parton is still alive.
  10. Cat snuggles.

From now on our troubles will be out of sight
Troubles in rear view mirror may be closer than they appear.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Not mandatory but strongly recommended.

Make the yuletide gay
Maybe it’s a small victory—though it sure feels good to celebrate the small victories—but doesn’t it seem we’re making genuine progress on LGBTQ issues?

Next year all our troubles will be miles away
Exact distance of troubles cannot be determined. Troubles may reoccur in close proximity without notice. Degree of troubles may range from minor (face mask clashes with work clothes) to colossal (coming to fruition of biblical prophecies). In the event of future troubles, alert the appropriate authorities. Stay hydrated. Endeavour to keep heart light.

Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Not responsible for misremembered golden days or unverified days of yore, but, you know what? If those incorrect memories make you happy, knock yourself out.

Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us once more
Zooming with faithful friends is a reasonable alternative, even though it’s weird, though less weird than it was 10 months ago because we’re all getting used to it, which is still pretty bad but, like the last 10 months, honestly not as bad as it could have been.

Someday soon we all will be together
Terms are kept purposely vague here for a reason. Not making any promises, folks.

If the fates allow
“Fates” in this instance is defined as “local and regional public health authorities.”

Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow
Symptoms of muddling through include fatigue, shortness of breath, Zoom-induced headaches, brave face, inadvertently revealing your Secret Santa recipient, excessive eggnog with or without rum, pharmacy gift shopping because the malls are terrifying, guilt, loneliness, making do, counting your blessings, moments of euphoria and numbness. Four out of five doctors recommend muddling through as the optimum method for surviving the holidays and, quite frankly, the best we can hope for under the circumstances. Muddling through should be accompanied by cutting some slack because everyone’s doing the best they can, even if they do keep playing Wham’s “Last Christmas” over and over just to bug you (true story).

And have yourself a merry little Christmas now
Yes, please do.

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Celebrating Our 10,950th

I’m writing this on the day of our 30th wedding anniversary. Deb and I were married on December 15, 1990 in Sherbrooke. That wasn’t the original plan.

We were living together in Montreal, engaged, and had been gearing up for an August wedding in Nova Scotia. But then Deb got pregnant. It happens.

You tend to let your guard down when you’re in a state of shock, and before we knew it, we were agreeing to a December wedding with just family in attendance. Strings were pulled. Marriage classes were skipped. (I had to agree to raise our children in the Roman Catholic faith. Sure.) The dress was bought, the tux rented. The saying goes “it was all a blur,” but it really was.

We were married at St. Pat’s Cathedral with both a United Church minister and a Catholic priest officiating. Our reading was the standard, “Love is patient, love is kind…”; if we had put some thought into it, we might have selected something a bit more personally meaningful, say some lyrics from The Eurythmics. But again, we were still a bit stunned.

My brother Andrew was my best man. Deb’s bridesmaid was supposed to be her sister, but a medical emergency prevented her from attending. Her dad pulled double duty as both the giver-awayer and witness.

It’s hard to remember what exactly was going through our heads 30 years ago, other than the terrifying prospect that Deb and I—age 22 and 25 respectively—were going to be parents. PARENTS! Our lives had just swerved off the meandering path of youth onto the autobahn of adult responsibility.

But I can still picture Deb walking down the aisle in her blue velvet dress, a ring of flowers in her hair, beautiful. She was wearing makeup, one of the maybe five times she’s ever worn makeup. But I didn’t feel nervous. Sure, this was a small gathering of family in an unfamiliar church with two more religious faiths represented than we were at that point accustomed to. But a version of this—marriage—was in the offing one way or another. This was fine. It was a stripped-down version of what we wanted: the next phase of our lives together.

It snowed lightly that evening. After the service, we moved to the reception at my in-laws and posed for photos in their living room. Deb, as I said, was stunning (still is). I had swooshy hair and big glasses. We took some photos without glasses too. I should have kept them on.

There was food, there were many beverages. (Me, some; Deb, pregnant.) There was a piano player, and I have a distinct memory of my father sitting in a chair with his eyes closed listening to the music. Did I mention December 15 is also his birthday? He turned 60 that day, so he was probably thinking, “Damn kids stole my thunder.” (Happy 90th birthday, Dad.)

Our wedding night was spent down the road at the Delta Hotel. We watched Die Hard 2 on pay-per-view and Deb fell asleep. We were married.

We never did get a honeymoon. We had no money, and it was a long, long time before we did. (You see, we kept having children…) One of these days, we’ll take that Alaskan cruise.

Over the years, it’s been difficult to celebrate our anniversary because December 15 is just 10 days before this holiday called Christmas, which is kind of a big deal. I don’t want to suggest I’m ungrateful for what our parents pulled off, but that’s one thing I would change.

Ultimately, though, marriage isn’t really about that day. It’s about every day after. And Deb and I have had a lot of days, 30 years of days, 10,950 days and counting. They are not all days of wedded bliss. Marriage is hard. Raising a family is almost impossible to get right. Throw cats and dogs in the mix and you’re asking for trouble. Even the most perfectly paired people won’t always align, nor should they. How boring would that be?

Over the years, that freeway has had some unexpected detours. Some have been dead ends, others have been picturesque backroads. Sure, there have been times when we’ve had to pull over. (“Don’t make me turn this car around!”) But to extend the metaphor, I love my driving companion and can’t wait to see where our journey takes us.

This evening, during our pandemiversary, there won’t be much to do—no movies or restaurants to go to, too cold for an excursion (at least for me). I’ll make a supper, then I plan to hook up the old VCR, pull out the cassette of our wedding and hope the tape doesn’t get mangled in the machinery. (Metaphor alert!)

And who knows, if the mood strikes us, maybe we’ll watch Die Hard.

*

Related:

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Yosemite Samta Addresses the Elves

Quit yer tool janglin’ and listen up, ya pointy-eared galoots. I knows for certain thars a lily-livered rabbit hidin’ among ya, or my name ain’t Yosemite Samta, the rootinest, red-suitinest toy-bearin’ hombre east, west and definitely north of the Pecos!

I didn’t hot-foot it up here to the tarnation North Pole and hog-tie no snow-dashin’ Santy Claus just to have some carrot-chewin’ varmint spoil my plans for global domination, toy-wise. That flea-infested critter keeps slippin’ Acme anvils into my gunny sack! Yesterday, when I were sneakin’ to my hidee-way with my purloined presents, I done crashed right through the ice from the weightiness and bobbed up and down like a rassin’-frassin’ ice cube!

So you ain’t blabbin’, eh? All right, Imma givin’ you curly-toed cobblers the count o’ three to give up the rabbit or I start a-blastin’!

One…

Two…

Don’t make me un-nog yer eggnog, ya short-legged toy-wranglers!

Three!

[Sound of crashing]

Gargle my garlands! Who dropped that Douglas fir on me! I said “three,” not “tree.”

[Another Christmas tree comes crashing down]

Three, three, I said “three!”

[Three Christmas trees come crashing down]

OOOOOOOOO! Now I got dang-blasted tinsel up my Rio Grande!

So, you wanna play rough, eh? Any one a you pea-brained stocking stuffers care to clash candy canes with me, you best be knowin’ that I ain’t afeard a gift-wrappin’ you into a one-way trip down a chimenee! So ya best start a-yappin’! Where ya hidin’ that fur-bearin’ rabbit?

But first I’m gonna mosey my speechin’ over here next to this open window so as to keep from gettin’ beaned by tumblin’ evergreens. Awww, lookit outside…. There ain’t no snow on account of that no-good critter jackin’ up the thermerstat on the North Pole stickin’ out of the ground like a thermomeeter, and the mercury done spurted out the top like a Pensacola pimple! But it ain’t Christmas without snow. So get me snow, ya green-sleeved gift monkeys! Snow, I said. Make it snow! When I says snow, I mean snow!

[An avalanche crashes through the window. Yosemite Samta’s hand pops up through the snow pile holding a sign reading, “HO-HO-HELP!” He shakes the snow pile off in a fit of fury and blazing six-guns.]

Next elf who tries to fast-one me, I’ll plug ’im right in the nutcracker! But I knows it were that varmint done it. No more pussy-footin’! Hand him over or I’ll blow you all to smithereenies.

[“Mrs. Claus” enters carrying a tray of treats. She clearly has a rabbit tail sticking out of the back of her dress.]

Why, Emmy! My plum pudding, I knew you’d come around. Yer ma own candy cane, doll! And look: you done brung me some sweeties. I don’t mind iffin’ I do. Lemme see now, you got yer fruity cake, yer gingerbread hombres and, Jiminy Christmas, my favorite, a yule log cake. I got a hankerin’ for some yule log!

[He picks up the yule log to reveal it has a sizzling wick burning at one end. It explodes.]

Great turkey giblets! I done detonated the desserts!

[“Mrs. Claus” runs away weeping.]

Awww, Emmy. Don’t cry, Emmy. You know I loves yer bakin’ and yer’ Yuletidy confections. C’mon Emmy, don’t be that way, my little jingle belle! That’s better. Oh, what’s that yer a-grippin there above yer saintly white hair? Is you standin’ under the missytoe? Why, Emmy, you steamin’ mug a hot cider, you!

[Yosemite Samta races over to “Mrs. Claus,” grabs the mistletoe from her and holds it over his own head. It turns out to be attached to an Acme rocket.]

Uh-oh: missile-toe.

[The rocket goes shooting out of the workshop window with Yosemite Samta attached, then upwards, exploding into the night sky and raining down tiny Samta particles that look like snow.]

[Bugs removes Mrs. Claus wig, turns to the camera and says:]

Ain’t I the naughtiest?

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Not a Blue Christmas: A Zoom Reading

Hi friends. A quick plug here for an event I’m participating in this Sunday at 2:30 pm ET. It’s Not A Blue Christmas, a series of readings via Zoom, organized by Shoreline Press. I’ll be reading a selection of short pieces of humour that, as it turns out, highlight all the things we won’t be able to do this season. Who knew we’d miss wet socks at Christmas parties? Email me for details and the link: rossgrantmurray@gmail.com.

Posted in It Really Did Happen!, Writing | 6 Comments

Worst of the Best of 2020 Lists

Best Albums 2020
End-of-year music lists are certainly common enough, but it’s hard to fathom what provoked the inclusion of such a list in Guns and Eggroll magazine. Moreover, the list is clearly tailored to enthusiasts of both military-grade assault rifles and Chinese takeout. Worst-case scenario, this is an obscure list of not very good music. Best-case, where else are you going to hear about Moo Shu Shotgun’s album Duck Blind Duck Sauce?

Best Books With Stains 2020
It’s astounding the abuses our books take. From Dorito smudges to crime-scene-calibre blood splatters, this list certainly features a diversity of bookish blemishes. Some of the images are intriguing (a coffee stain that’s a remarkable likeness of Geena Davis in her prime), and you might be drawn in by some of the accompanying origin stories (Jelly! A Jehovah’s Witness! Kangaroos!). But don’t let down your guard; once you read what the stain consists of in that copy of Sally Rooney’s Normal People and how it got there and how many people were involved and what the police did and what they found there and, even worse, over there, you may never borrow a book from the public library again.

Top Muffins 2020
They all contain raisins. Continue reading

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