Sweeter Than Eggnog and More Intoxicating

The Little Drummer Boy is hammering away in the coffee shop. He’ll be rat-a-tat-tatting till December 26, the little twit.

The TV announcers gush about this most wonderful time of the year, which inevitably seems to involve a Lexus in your driveway or something sparkly around your neck. (Unless, of course, nobody loves you enough to go deeply in debt on your behalf.)

The music is syrupy, the mood manicky, the expectations are mountainous, and it’s still November. Given all the recent bad news, you begin to suspect that every other Goodwill Santa Claus is probably an aspiring child molestor. You also swear you will strangle the next organization nut who asks you about the status of your shopping list, since you haven’t bought a Christmas present since 2003 and yes, you know, you are ruining the economy by being such a contrarian.

Oh, yeah. Nonstop holiday bludgeoning happens to all of us, driving most of us so bonkers that pretty soon we’re guzzling eggnog and claiming we love it. It happens to me every year. I start getting a little cranky the minute the jingle bells are revved up. I like the holidays just fine; it’s just the season of untrammeled greed and mandatory good cheer business I could do without.

But! This year, I found an antidote.

My husband and son and I went to the airport two days before Thanksgiving to pick up our daughter and her boyfriend. As usual, the plane was early or we were late, or both, and we ended up standing at the foot of the escalators waiting for them.

We were in a small knot of people on the bottom floor. Two families had made handwritten welcome signs. Grandchildren jumped up and down. Three women clutched one another, screeching, “Look! There she is!” and pointing to an older woman who slowly descended on the escalator. They mobbed her when she stepped off, gripping her in tight hugs, all of them crying and laughing. A mother and college-age daughter lunged at each other and wouldn’t let go.

By then, I was already semi-weepy, warmed, my heart thumping like a rabbit’s, with a big, silly grin on my face. We still stood guard at the end of the escalator, looking up and waiting.

Our son noted that we had never shown up at the airport when he was coming home. I reminded him that that was because he’d always had a mob of friends to pick him up and we hadn’t been allowed to come to the airport (although he did usually stop by our house for a few minutes to drop off his suitcase and dirty clothes).

“There they are!” our son said, pointing. And there they were. Our daughter and her boyfriend waved and smiled and floated downward toward us, looking young and gorgeous and happy.

Maybe they were playing The Little Drummer Boy on the sound system. Maybe, somewhere, TV announcers were gushing and jingle bells ringing and somebody was tying a red bow around a luxury car in the front yard.

There was still a lot I objected to in this holiday frenzy, which made it all the more important to laugh and cry when I got a glimpse of people I love. Maybe you have to refuse to be distracted by the flotsam and glitz and schmalz — and look a little harder for something real.

(Copyright 2011 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Check out a story from the storefront: The Year the Bagels Turned Red and Green

10 comments… add one
  • I love eggnog! But lately, the stores seem to run out of it well before the holidays end. Could it be that eggnog sales begin, nowadays, right after Hallowe’en, yet “the-powers-that-be” have failed to adjust production run quantities for a seasonal-edition product?

    Ebeneezer Scrooge said, “bah, humbug!”
    Methinks his remark was made well ahead of his time.
    Pa-rump-a-bump-dum! Happy Tinsel & Glitz To You!

  • Steve Link

    Since my son-in-law sells Lexus automobiles for a living, I whole-heartedly encourage your readers to tie a red bow around a new Lexus in the front yard this Christmas!

  • Glad I’m not the only one going numb at the elevator version of every holiday song that’s now blaring in each store (and even from the speakers at the gas station). Perhaps we need some Festivus songs? But you’re right–being with your family is definitely the antidote.

  • Awh. You make me teary with the airport pickup. My eldest is heading off to college in January, and I’m already missing him. Love that your family was able to be together, Ruth!

  • @Steve:

    Toyota Motors Corporation is, no doubt, looking for you!

  • Cindy A Link

    At one time, Christmas was probably a pretty good idea, and then someone decided it was a great way to sell stuff.

  • The beginning of the Hugh Grant/Colin Firth movie “Love Actually” has an opening scene at Heathrow Airport where Hugh Grant narrates about when he gets down at the holidays, he just remembers what the arrivals gate at the airport is like during the holidays. The hugs, tears, and excitement offsetting the craziness of the holidays. I love that scene, I love the movie. Hate Eggnog. Happy Holidays!! 🙂

  • Sheryl Link

    I’m with you on the whole holiday thing. The minute the houses start to sparkle with lights, I get annoyed. But I could easily smile and be so happy while fetching someone I love at the airport, and overlook all the holiday decorations. Love trumps all, doesn’t it?

  • ah well, Ruth, you know to come over to Music Road when you want ideas for holiday music that’s a bit more interesting . as the Austin airport features music from Austin artists, I’ve found that for me it usually comes off better than most in the music category, though.

  • I’m with chlost, above, re Love Actually. Total sucker for the airport arrival scene. I know, I know, it’s a cliche but it totally tugs at my heart to see all those happy people reconnecting with their loved ones. There used to be a phone ad that had families from around the world reaching out that made me teary eyed too. Ah, the holidays.

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