For many years I had the best room mate ever. Let’s call her Buffy. We met while we were both working at a cute, little dive called New York George’s. It served tacky New York Diner food and was a very popular place, especially considering it was tiny and had no real designer ambience to it. What was fun about the place was that everybody was a wise guy and the customers really delighted in being harrassed by the waitresses. Which of course, was right up our respective alleys.
Now Buffy is a very cute girl, who is very tall, has big feet and a laugh that can split your eardrum if you get too close to her when she lets one rip. She also has a heart of gold and I love her like a sister. Truly family in all the really great sense that that word can conjure.
We became fast friends and I convinced her to become my room mate and share the house I was renting from a friend (henceforth known as the Psycho-Lady). The house was cute and pretty comfortable but it was basically in the ghetto section of Pasadena. Which may not exist now but did then. We were the only non-ethnic folk in the neighborhood and I guess were regarded as a sort of oddity although no one ever hassled us, nor did we feel unsafe – it just was what it was.
Both Buffy and I are Christmas nuts. We would die happy if we could permanently live in a Hallmark card. Buffy has her own collection of glass reigndeer ornaments which she has been collecting since she was a child. These are like gold to her. And they are amazingly beautiful – the first time I saw them I think I let out a little orgasmic Christmas gasp. Even today they sparkle in my mind.
Needless to say, like every other year before it we were excitedly anticipating Christmas. Our favorite time of year – an excuse to act like a couple of big dopes, eat lots of great food that is bad for you and your thighs and santa hats, reindeer ears and lightable Christmas ornament earrings – what could be better?
Well, this year was a bit different. For reasons I can’t remember, we decided to work retail sales at shopping malls over the holiday season. We’d both done it before and for some reason we thought it’d be different this year. Dreams of big commission checks and taking a couple weeks off at the beginning of the year spurred us on. Also, Zelda got in on the act. So, the three of us signed on with Gold Exchange.
Oh yes, you read it right – Gold Exchange. Now can you imagine the tacky shit we were hawking from a place with a name like that? I know, I know – we were adding to the evil propagation of commercialism, but hey we needed the money and wanted presents, so….
Either our memories were really selective, we were out of our minds or we were just getting too old for this shit but man, it kicked our asses. For that six or seven weeks we just worked and slept and barely had any fun at all. With the schedule we had there was no time or energy to tend to things like trees, decorating, Christmas movies or anything. Luckily we were working in shopping malls, so buying gifts wasn’t an issue.
Anyway, Buffy and I were kind of glum because we weren’t being able to dramatize our insane love for Christmas and we knew we’d be way too beat to try to put a Christmas dinner together. And at the time, I guess we didn’t have any Martha Stewart type friends so we were pretty much on our own. But Zelda piped up and said her roomie was a Martha Stewart type and did all that Christmas junk every year and we had only to arrive on time and we too could have a big Christmas dinner and enjoy and admire the whole Christmas ambience created by another.
Well that kept us going all the way through the selling season – which was hideous and exhausting. And through til Christmas morning. We got up and had coffee and toast and exchanged gifts and chatted. But then we noticed the time was ticking away, tick, tick, tick. Still no word from Zelda. Hmmmm. We started getting those knots in our stomachs. As if the Grinch had been by the night before and we just hadn’t noticed that it was really December 26th. I called Zelda a couple times but no answer.
Our stomachs were growling and we were starting to get really bummed out. Finally, the phone rang and it was indeed Zelda. Yay! Christmas was saved! Except…Well I guess Martha Stewart roomie decided she wasn’t into it that year (and hadn’t mentioned it to Zelda) and they decided they were going to order some deli samiches and did we want to come over and do that.
Well no fucking way did we want to do that. So then there we were sitting in the living room completely bummed out, with no tree, no food, no hope. We were sad – big time. Then I said, ‘screw this shit.’ There was no way we just weren’t going to have Christmas. So, we jumped in the car and went to the local grocery store.
Of course it was slim pickings, no turkeys to be sure – but they had chicken, and instant mashed potatoes, and stuffing mix and corn. No pumpkin pie but I think we got twinkies or chocolate cupcakes or something. So, we paid for our stuff and went home.
While I started dinner, I told Buffy to get out the ornaments and lights. She squealed with delight. She strung lights on the walls, put ornaments out on every flat surface – now we were having fun. But we didn’t have a tree. We HAD to have a tree. Oddly enough about a week before we’d had some pretty bad wind storms – so bad in fact that a huge branch got snapped off the Wisteria tree in the front yard. I told Buffy to get the Christmas tree stand ready then went outside. After some looking and thinking and finding a hacksaw I found a branch that had some shape and might fit in the stand.
I brought it inside and we managed to get it to stay upright with some jury-rigging, spit, chewing gum and prayers. We strung it with lights and hung a few ornaments, plugged everything in and turned off the lights. “Ah….” it was Christmas after all.
Dinner was ready and though chicken isn’t turkey and the potatoes were kind of soupy and our tree was really just a branch I fished out of the yard, it was grand. Just as we sat down to eat, “It’s a Wonderful Life” came on television and we both let out a hoot. It was the finishing touch to our chia pet Christmas.
Ironically, of all the many Christmases I have celebrated in my life, this is truly my favorite. Because it was our spirit and spirit alone that made it happen – despite all the many pitfalls. And the utter spirit of play of Buffy who was with me all the way in making Christmas happen. And I really loved that little tree more than any other because it proved that even a lowly stick could be something beautiful. In fact, I loved it so much that this year I found an even bigger stick and made another ‘unique’ Christmas tree – it’s pictured above.
For me, Christmas isn’t what other people make it for you, it’s what you make it for yourself.
Thanks for reading (putting up with) this series of memorable Christmases. Much of it was probably too warm and fuzzy or just plain boring – but hey, that’s my life.
Merry Christmas everybody.