Children abide (or don’t) in this week’s new movie releases, including The Florida Project and Goodbye Christopher Robin
Matthew Lickona 3 p.m., Oct. 20
Once I get that stupid jerk careening down Highway 805 in his stupid, oversized red truck, the one that cut me off not once but twice in his “oh, I am so damn important that your safety means absolutely squat to me” hurry out of my head – YEAH, YOU, YOU MORON! – I will feel better. There. Okay, deep breath. I am going to go out on a limb here – I hate this time of year.
I do not begrudge all the over-doers who be-deck their houses with lights and decorations. As a matter of fact, I live just a couple blocks from Garrison Street, one of the most decorated streets in the county. Tour buses come to see it. I myself walk there every year at least a few times to take in the vast display of holiday cheer. You can see it from space. Some of the neighbors have a hot chocolate stand, which I think is really cool. Bring a flask of whiskey, and now we are talking holiday cheer. Just kidding. I don’t need to drink to have fun. I need to drink to SURVIVE THE HOLIDAYS. But seriously, the amount of energy required to light this monstrosity up from the day after Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day has to be staggering, not to mention the cost of staging it, because special companies have to be hired so that grandma does not fall out of the tree. I just can’t help but think that money could be better spent sponsoring a family or donating to a shelter rather than on a tacky display that, in all honesty, has nothing what-so-ever to do with the birth of Christ.
Take the mall. Please. I am a strange female, in that I detest shopping. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I purchase something I need online, because I feel like the internet was custom made just for me. A typical visit to the mall for me goes something like this: navigate backed-up freeway, creep into parking lot at snail’s pace, vie for single parking spot with one thousand other shoppers, find spot that Mercedes owner has decided to park halfway on lest someone ding his door, say f*ck it and squeeze in, have to get out passenger side door because I cannot open my driver’s side door, barely escape being hit by SUV going thirty MPH in a parking structure, get to store of choice lured by discount card received in mail only to find they are out of the one thing I wanted, jostle way out of store only to have person ahead of me not hold the door, arrive back at car sweating to find Mercedes passenger has dinged MY door, creep out of parking structure after being honked at by person wanting my spot before my door was even shut, almost hit pedestrian who doesn’t know what a crosswalk is for, give finger back to pedestrian, and crawl my way back to the freeway. Now who wouldn’t want to do that? I have friends that say “let’s go shopping!” as if that is the single most purposeful way to spend my time on this earth. Now, if they said “let’s go drinking!” I would pay the cab fare.
Yes, the mall is pretty and Santa is there and music is playing. I get it. Actually, I don’t get. I do not get it one bit. What is Black Friday?!?! I have NEVER participated in the barbaric practice of getting up in the middle of the night, or even worse, camping out in the parking lot, to be the first person to burst through the doors of some big-box store to save a couple of dollars. Sure, I hear about the “great deals”. I DON’T NEED ANYTHING THAT BADLY. I mean, people get trampled to death on this day. I have seen videos of people fist-fighting in stores over some product, all in the name of the spirit of the holiday. It encourages mob mentality. It teaches our children that material goods are first and foremost and are to be acquired at whatever cost. It caters to the lowest common denominator. No thanks.
I remember when the switch flipped for me. My mother has always been big on Christmas. When I first moved to San Diego in my twenties, every year I would schlep a suitcase of presents to San Jose during the holiday travel crush, then spend my few precious vacation days rushing to the mall to buy presents for all the people that would be coming over who I had not anticipated being there because I was afraid of disappointing people. On one of these trips, as I sat and watched the mound of refuse grow and the kids opening gift after plastic gift and throwing them aside the minute the batteries wore out, I became disillusioned. All I could think was “is this really ALL that it’s about?” The crass consumerism, the waste, the UNBELIEVABLE WASTE, the expense, the disappointment when one did not receive the latest, most expensive gadget, and the sheer artificialness of the whole think struck me like a ton of bricks. I went home from that trip lugging my new acquisitions that I neither wanted nor had room for, gave most of them away, and vowed NEVER to do it again. And I have pretty much kept my word. At first it was difficult – my mother could not understand why we would not want to keep this tradition going, and her disappointment in us was not withheld, but wielded like a sword, the guilt working on my one sister for at least another couple years until she too drove her heels in and said “no more”. I told my mother “don’t buy me any more gifts. I have everything I could possibly need. Donate what you would have spent to the San Jose Humane Society”, which she has done now for the last 15 years. This is a solution that works well for us, because I feel like I have done something good, and she can’t guilt me into thinking this is somehow being done to inflict pain from some long-buried resentments held against her. Which I have, but I learned a long time ago it is best to let go of these as they will only drive you nuts. Just ask my therapist.
I think we would all be better off if we just spent this time of year being with our close friends and family. And when I say family, make them travel to see you for once! We are not beholden to travel to our parent’s house every year. Ever been to the airport and seen some wan mother and father trying to cram strollers and ten tons of crap into the airport scanner while trying to get undressed and calm their three screaming kids? Don’t do this to your kids! Pack up the dog and go visit them. I am not a scrooge. Actually, I am very generous and love to do things for people. I just don’t think it should be crammed into a few expensive, stressful weeks every year. I take this time of year to step back and look at my life and all that I have. I want for nothing. I have my health, a home to call my own, a loving husband and a wonderful albeit somewhat dysfunctional family, to whom I own a debt of gratitude, because they are absolutely the best fodder for writing.
This is a good time to clean your emotional house, fix your relationships and patch any tiny cracks in the foundation of your marriages. In real estate, a few fissures can be fixed, but a cracked slab is a deal breaker. Spend your energy on those closest to you, not at the mall. Perhaps we really do need to count our blessings rather than how many dollars we have left to spend on things we don’t really need. People are important, not things. Give your time to people and causes that really need it. Same with your money. I guarantee you will feel better, and you won’t have another holiday season end with that empty, letdown feeling. Hold the door open for people. Smile. Cook for your friends. Don’t overeat or overspend. Let people in on the freeway. Have a happy holiday season, San Diego, and stay classy.