Most Wonderful Time of the Year

 

 

Thanksgiving Evening – Dave & Sherry

 

“What’s with that face?”

Sherry caught her husband Dave as she was heading toward the bathroom he had just vacated.

“Before you all start calling me a scrooge, let me just say up front that I love our family. No, seriously, I really do. I just love them in small doses. Perhaps very small doses. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving is not a small enough dose.”

Sherry just rolled her eyes. “How long did it take you to think up that speech?”

Dave looked over his shoulder toward the bathroom. “About as long as it took to wipe and wash my hands.”

“Gross.”

“Seriously, though. The day is a gorging of fake family cheer. Everyone outdoes themselves in fake smiles and well wishes at the table. But just listen. You can hear the venom in every word.”

Both husband and wife were silent for a moment as they listened to the conversation coming from the dining room.

“Mary, is it true that you really are pregnant, again? You just must love having children.”

“Oh, don’t worry, April. Some day you’ll find a man who wants to stick with you. I have full confidence.”

A grumble from Mary’s husband that almost no one else hears, “I don’t.”

“What’s that, Mark?”

“Oh nothing, grandma, I just coughed.”

“You need to quit smoking. With that cough, you’ll end up dying from lung cancer like your cousin Jayson.”

“It was Jared who died. Jayson is right there. And it wasn’t lung cancer. That was uncle David. Jared had kidney failure, and he isn’t dead; he’s just not able to join us until he’s recovered.”

Mark grumbles again, “Lucky guy.”

Grandma turns her eye toward him. “And quit your drinking too. If one doesn’t get you, the other one will.”

Sherry sighed and slipped past her husband to take care of her business. Dave (not the older, dead uncle David) returned to his seat and dived back into his plate full of food. Just before his wife returned from the restroom, she sent him a text. TSTB. By the time David had figured it out, she had already returned to her place next to him. The sooner the better.Did she overhear the comment about Mark dying from kidney or lung failure? No. She was thinking along the lines of the drinking. Or rather, getting a little something more to drink. We all probably had a nip or two before coming together for this meal. How else can we survive it?

Before the meal is finished, the kids start disappearing so that they don’t get roped into helping with the cleanup. We men bow out because the first game is about to begin. I know it’s the 21st century, and gender roles are supposed to be a thing of the past, but it is what it is. The holidays are supposed to be about tradition, right? So none of the men feel any guilt at leaving the women to it. At least, no one shows any guilt.

The Bills vs. Cowboys game might be on, but the conversation quickly turns to politics. Steve is a Trump supporter. While most of the rest are not, none is so passionately against him as Gerry is. They’re both older than the hills. Steve went to Vietnam. Gerry went to Woodstock. So this argument… like I said… tradition.

Sherry and Dave managed to bow out a little early this year. It was a three-hour drive back home, and the report said a snowstorm was coming in, so they used the excuse to take off around seven. Eleven to seven. Dave has no problem keeping up with everybody on Facebook and Instagram with an occasional Zoom call thrown in here or there. That is a small enough dose. Eight hours with more than two dozen of them all at once? He had a headache long before the snow started falling during that drive back home.

Once they got to the point they were doing under forty on the highway, and the roads started getting real slick, Dave suggested they actually did go all the way home. Sherry would have none of it.

“Are you kidding me? This is the one chance a year for an opportunity like this.”

Sherry wanted a new big screen. Well, Dave did too. He was willing to pay a reasonable price to get it. Sherry insisted that the 65 inch for 349.99 was an opportunity that just could not wait. Dave couldn’t really argue. It is an excellent deal, but it can wait. He just wanted to get home alive in one piece. Plus, he needed to take a few Tylenol to kill this headache. This road was just… wonderful.

It was about ten-thirty when they pulled into the parking lot of Walmart. The place was packed. Apparently, a blizzard is no deterrent from people getting their Black Friday deals. While Dave was looking for a parking spot, he wondered how many of them also came straight from their Thanksgiving dinners to get here. After going up and down a few different rows, Dave just gave up and parked in the next door Barnes & Noble lot. Even that was more than half full, and you could see a steady stream of people walking from their cars through the snow. They were all making the trek to the Walmart entrance a half-mile away. OK. Maybe not a half-mile, but in this weather, it sure seemed like it.

“You go stake out our TV. I’ll walk around and see what other deals are out there. If I find something and can’t make it back to you by midnight, I’ll text.”

Off Sherry went like a lioness on the hunt. There were already a good twenty people crowded around the area Dave needed to be. He did a quick count and breathed an internal sigh of relief. Even if everyone here was after the same thing, there were four more TVs than people. One of the blue shirt salespeople saw him doing the math. “Don’t worry, there’s plenty more in the back.”

Dave checked his watch. Forty-eight minutes to go. The guy next to him seemed to want to talk.

“I got a forty-eight inch here last year. Had no idea I would be back one year later for an upgrade.”

I responded, “The way technology changes, it makes sense. Mine at home is a 50 inch. It’s a little more than a year and a half old. That one will now end up in our bedroom, and the 36 inch TV we have there will make its way to the basement.”

“For the kids?”

“Nope. No kids yet. We have a workout room down there. It’s got my weights, a treadmill, and some aerobics stuff for the lady.”

“Nice. I’ve got two kids now. A three-year-old girl and a boy just starting to walk.”

“And you can still afford to get a new TV?”

“Not really.”

Dave quickly changed the subject “Your kids must be adorable. They’re all so cute at that age.”

He didn’t really believe that, but it is just one of those things you’re supposed to say. Dave and Sherry planned to eventually get around to having our own kids. Maybe. Work and life seemed more important at the moment. Once you have kids, all the fun ends… or so he thought.

“I’m just glad they’re still young enough that I can shop for me instead of standing in line for some stupid toy that’s trending.”

“Tell me about it.” Another guy jumped into our conversation, “My daughter is asking for a Blume doll. The missus is over there now, checking it out.”

“A bloom?”

“It’s some barbie that lives in a flower pot whose hair looks like a flower. You add water, and it grows and comes out of the pot.”

“Heh. The things they come up with.”

“At least it’s no Tickle-Me-Elmo,” he said. “I don’t think I could survive something that loud and annoying for long.”

The other guy who had jumped in looked back towards the TVs. “I wonder if anyone in this line is buying one of these as a present.”

At least a half dozen heads shook in the negative. Apparently, everyone was listening in on the conversation. A kid in his early twenties said, “I remember a time when Black Friday really was all about getting a jump on the Christmas list.”

Dave just smiled and said, “Nah. You’re just too young to remember it like it is. We live in a me-first world. I can remember when Black Friday actually started on Friday mornings, but it always has been about getting stuff for us first. Then we can get for others once we’ve taken care of number one.”

There were a few frowns at that. Everyone knew it was true, but Dave had just thrown a wet blanket on the mood. You’re not supposed to actually vocalize it. Everyone likes to think of themselves as better than they really are.

The kid replied, “I wonder if it really has to be that way. Is this really what mankind has become?”

“You must be a philosophy major at UC, aren’t you.”

He blushed. “Minor”

They all laughed, and the conversation moved on until the time was almost up and the frenzy could begin. But it really did get Dave wondering. “Is this all there is?” He thought. “Do I really need another TV? Do any of us really need all this stuff? I don’t mean to get religious, but I can’t help but wonder. If God was real, how would He appreciate what we have done to His day? The day after Thanksgiving has always been the semi-official kicking off of the Christmas season. I remember as a kid, my sisters and I would spend the day in our jammies. We would help set up the Christmas Tree and then string popcorn to hang around it. Channel nine would always have a day full of Christmas specials. They would play the classic cartoon kind, not these modern Hallmark ones. The lineup that would always culminate with It’s A Wonderful Life. So much nostalgia. How did that pre-Christmas cheer turn into… this?”

Oh well. One minute to midnight. It’s go time.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you to be of good cheer
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap-happiest season of all

There’ll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of
Christmases long, long ago

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
There’ll be much mistltoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When loved ones are near
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

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