Sunday, November 26, 2006


Well, that's over! We can stop being thankful now and go back to our normal complaining selves. Thanksgiving boils down to a huge meal and an evening sitting around picking at leftovers, feeling vaguely guilty over chomping down all of those desserts.

Holidays can carry a load of guilt with them, anyway. Look at Christmas. We are burdened with buying gifts for people we frequently have little contact with and have no idea what would please them, or even fit them. Gift-giving always reminds me of a neice of mine. An alcoholic, she struggled for years with one of those overpowering, horrible compulsions. She worked for years as a cocktail waitress and used to take a sip off of every drink she served, which thinking about might cause many of us to become teetotallers.

She finally made it and was on her way to being completely dried out, quit the job as a cocktail waitress and started working in a drug store. At this time, Coca Cola or some such company was running a contest in which one had to collect all of the letters that spell AMERICA.

One day, a gentleman entered the store and complained that he could win the contest, if he could just find the letter M. My neice, always the helpful sort, exclaimed that she did, indeed, have the letter M, and would be happy to give it to him. The gentleman was joyful, to say the least, because he collected a prize up into the thousands of dollars.

One would think that this gentleman would return such generosity with a financial tip, of sorts, but this was not the case. In fact, the only case he presented to my neice was a case of wine, which she had to immediately give away, lest she succumb to the temptation and drink it.

So, gift-giving has its drawbacks. One doesn't want to give a case of wine to a recovering alcoholic. One doesn't want to give a book to a non-reader or a box of candy to the diabetic. The giving of gifts carries certain obligations and these are enough to make one's hair turn prematurely gray.

When my children were little, I remember well the guilt and worry connected to Christmas. I would count the gifts and realize that....oh, grief!...four of my boys had six gifts, while the other had only five. Even though the five cost more than the six, this fact nagged at me until I would put another gift under the tree. Then, because a worry-free Christmas isn't possible, I would begin worrying about the fact that the gifts for one boy totalled far more money than the gifts for the others. I was constantly trying to even things out.

One year, when money was very, very scarce, my husband and I learned how to manage a frugal Christmas. We went to an auction, bought old sleds, and for many evenings, my husband sanded and painted and polished, until those sleds gleamed like rare jewels. Another sale enabled me to find an old fort for one of the boys, which I filled with a cheap package of Indians and Cowboys from the dime store.

It was a good experience, because the boys were just as happy with less as they had been with a shower of presents. One always finds a way to make do and those times make the good times seem just a little bit better. It takes the fear away from poverty when you can say, "I've been there. I've done that. I've survived!"

Our next holiday is Easter, unless one counts Valentine's Day or Sweetheart Day, or any other day some merchandiser has dreamed up. Easter is another feast, minus turkey these days, but add the ham. The turkeys can breathe easier, but the pigs have the worries. It seems a shame in a way when all holidays seem to boil down to an overstuffed stomach.

At this point, some rigid personality is going to point out that not all people overeat on holidays, and if they do, they don't feel guilty about it. I wish them the best. I have never eaten a piece of pie without a healthy dollop of pure guilt.

However, not only do we have the problem of overeating on holidays, but because they all commemorate some occasion or some people, they also carry a burden of responsibility. On Veteran's Day, we must remember our heroes in uniform, past and present. On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Our Lord.

What we need is a Nothing Holiday, a holiday where nothing is celebrated, nothing is commemorated, nothing is traditional. No dinner is planned, no relatives invited, no gifts would just be a day of nothingness, an empty, meaningless day to sit around and stretch and yawn and neglect combing your hair or climbing out of your bathrobe.

This Nothing Holiday would be so restful and so boring that we would all be gleeful at the prospect of going back to work the next day, having to shower, clean up, do dishes, all of the mundane, everyday chores! The Nothing Holiday would be so bad that it would make an ordinary day exciting, and could really qualify as the year's best Holiday.

Until then, I have sworn off desserts for the next few months, planning a diet of celery sticks and radishes with a swig or two of green tea and red wine, both of which I have heard can ward off everything from old age to cancer. I will be the healthiest person on my block, as well as very, very hungry, looking forward to that Easter ham.