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By Richard Black of The Unfit Father
I used to enjoy Christmas, and my warm feelings about the holiday lasted all the way up until I was a wizened old soul of about six. 1980 was not a good year for Christmas in the Black household. The events that took place shaped the emotionally twisted man I became and ensured that I would never celebrate Christmas with a modicum of pleasure. The story unfolded, the way these things usually do, on one tragic Christmas day…
My sister and I awoke on December 25th at what was most likely an ungodly hour in the morning. Instead of waking our parents, however, we made our way quietly downstairs to the bounty that lay beneath the tree and took part in what would turn out to be an unspeakable act.
Instead of my parents, I blame the media for what took place next. For years Frit and I had been deluged with movies depicting young children opening gifts in an unbridled display of avarice on Christmas morning while their parents stayed in bed. This, in our minds, is what “normal” families did to celebrate the holiday—a right of passage in which every child should take part, and we partook. It was the happiest three minutes of my life.
Now, it’s entirely possible that our parents had given my sister and I explicit instructions about not opening any presents before they woke. I was only six but, as I’ve mentioned quite a few times in many other places, I was also a heavy drinker, and my memory isn’t what it used to be. My substance abuse issues aside, what occurred next remains crystal clear in my memory.
Three minutes isn’t a lot of time (or so my wife keeps telling me… ZING!), and as a result, my sister and I were only able to open two presents. Frit had just ripped off the wrapping paper to a box of Hungry Hungry Hippos. I was in the middle of putting together a game of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots when our parents, who had just stumbled blearily downstairs, confiscated both gifts. In case you were dozing, I’ll write that last bit again. Because we had the hubris to act like a four and a six-year-old on Christmas morning, my father and mother TOOK OUR PRESENTS AWAY!!!
As traumatic as that experience was, it became even more so. In order to drain the last few dregs of joy from the season, Frit and I we were forced to donate both gifts to Goodwill the next day. To this very day I can’t even look at a game of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots without breaking into sobs and, while I’m not certain that losing her set of Hungry Hungry Hippos contributed to Frit’s drinking problem, it probably didn’t help.
Even now I don’t feel as if the punishment fit the crime. It was Christmas for Christ’s sake. A time of love and sharing and, if memory serves, also one of forgiveness. The least the old man could have done was to give us our toys back after a few days. Forcing us to donate them was…a bit much. Then again, my father was always making up arbitrary and rather pointless rules. During the entire time I lived under his roof, I wasn’t allowed to wear shorts to school. My father considered them to be “disrespectful.” Whether he thought that shorts themselves were inherently insolent or that the act of wearing them was impolite is a point upon which I’ve never been quite clear.
My sister was also forbidden from wearing disrespectful shorts. She was not, however, prohibited from wearing skirts that ended just past, and occasionally just before, both ass cheeks. When I brought up the inconsistency, I was told that I should feel free to wear skirts to school anytime I pleased. It was, I feel comfortable mentioning, a very confusing time for me.
I never really recovered from the UnChristmas of 1980. There were some good years afterward, but they were few and far between. One of the high points was when I received a set of luggage during the holiday season of 1988. Then again, that may have been for my birthday. It really doesn’t matter. I’ve done my best to try to forget the event, and I had been quite successful in doing so until you insensitive assholes had the poor taste to bring it up.
I’d like to say that I’ve come to appreciate Christmas after becoming a father, but that would be a bald-faced lie. Watching my daughter open her presents is one of the few pleasures the day entails, but I can’t really enjoy it. I’d like to. I really would, but the bulk of my physical and emotional reserves are spent trying to stay awake.
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Like most parents, I’ve been up until four in the morning on Christmas day mis-assembling bicycles, dollhouses, lawnmowers or whatever in the hell else we’ve been able to buy for our children at the last possible minute and pass them off as “gifts.”
“Look kids, I built a lawnmower and hooked it up to your tricycle!” or “Most kids would love to have a dollhouse with wheels” are two phrases I see myself saying at some point during the holidays over the next few years. If God intended for man to assemble toys or furniture, He would have made our dicks look like Allen wrenches.
Because we’d like to avoid the ever-present specter of divorce during the holiday season, my wife and I have made two agreements when it comes to preparing for Christmas.
Our first is a concession on my wife’s part and one that precludes me from decorating anything inside of our home. In years past, when trimming the tree, my wife Laura, whom I love and adore, had the charming habit of moving any ornament I’d carefully placed on a limb to another branch.
It might not sound all that irritating, but come over and try it some time. And then do it again. And again. And again and then again until your blood pressure gets high enough to cause an aneurysm. I’ve tried meditation, deep breathing exercises, drinking, not drinking, and medications of both the prescription and the illicit varieties, but nothing works. The only alternative is to remove myself completely from the “festivities” by leaving the house or, barring that, bludgeoning myself in the head with a ballpeen hammer until I find the sweet relief of unconsciousness.
The second agreement my wife and I have come to is that I have consented to decorate the outside of our home in lights, every Christmas, for the perpetuity of our relationship. It might seem like a small concession, and perhaps it is but I, and I want you to pay attention here, would rather sit on my balls until I rupture a testicle than hang a few thousand tangled strings of incandescent lights on my porch. I’m not sure who’s to blame for this tradition, but I sincerely hope he was beaten to death by an unruly mob wielding giant Nutcrackers that were formerly used as dildos.
If you’re looking to truly experience frustration in its purest form and be able to afford years of marriage counseling, I highly encourage you to try hanging fifty or sixty strands of lights around four or five circular columns on a porch. It is an act of futility on par with putting tights on a cat. No matter how carefully one wraps the lights, they inevitably slip, prompting a barrage of curses and a bout of heavy drinking.
Every marriage has its ups and downs, its trials and tribulations, and preparing for the holidays is clearly the cross I and my wife have to bear. The good news is that it is almost over. The bad news is that it’s due to begin again around October next year.
This post was originally published on The Unfit Father.
About Richard Black