All you need to celebrate the season is your own still and a nice downpour.
"Can you help me . . ." she starts to ask.
"YESSSSSSS!" I say, and race to the car to carry in 25 Macy’s bags and the spare tire.
A long time ago, my wife told me that the only thing she really wanted for Christmas was for me to always look at her the way I did when she was 20.
By the way, her birthday is today — the 12th day of the 12th month, like Sinatra. Apparently, December is a big month for deities.
It always sneaks up on me, December does. I still have to run out to buy that special birthday gift she requested: a new stainless-steel still (Kenmore now makes them).
She brews her own moonshine, you know, a tradition for us around the holidays. she adds it to her holiday stash of dark chocolate, Clooney posters and Trader Joe’s Merlot.
Be judgmental if you like, but I can only admire her for it. Some moms make cookies, other moms make moonshine. There’s no right and wrong there.
Moonshine also contributes to the rosy glow of an American Christmas. I remember in the old days, we mostly just drank store-bought booze. We were always pacing ourselves. We wouldn’t drink till after noon, for example. Or sometimes, just on weekends.
Now, with my wife making her own hooch, we’re drinking virtually all the time.
I call it Becky-weiser. And we always leave a little out for Santa.
"Why do you love me?" the little guy asks.
I search for reasons. Hmmmmm. Finally:
"Because you’re nice to people," I say.
"Other people too," I say.
"OK," he says, convinced that my feelings for him are well-grounded.
The little guy turned 7 the other day, another December birthday. We celebrated quietly. He’s like Jesus, in that he was born amid unsteady circumstances, surrounded by animals (dogs, hamsters, a brother and two older sisters).
"Eat!" I say.
"OK," he says.
He is a good little sidekick. If I bend to tie a shoe, he pushes me over. When I pause to watch TV, he throws himself over me like a tarp.
"What do you want to watch?" he says.
Note that I have not watched a nonsports event on television since "The Mod Squad." Sure, I love my television, who doesn’t? Ballgames aside, I haven’t been sure what’s on since Gleason retired.
"How about this?" the little guy says, flipping to Disney.
"Or this?" he says, flipping to Nick.
"How about this?" I say, pulling out a board game.
For his birthday, I teach him chess. He is 7. Twice, I let him win.
Holiday stress and all, this might be a good time to review tips for how to curse around children. Because I don’t care how saintly you are or claim to be, sooner or later we all lose it. We’re parents, not popes.
TIPS FOR CURSING AROUND CHILDREN
1) Pretend it was a sneeze.
2) Pretend it was your spouse.
3) Apologize and return to quietly electrocuting yourself with cheap, Communist-made Christmas tree lights.
Me, I like the way the holidays strain a marriage — rattle it to its core — then make it stronger. Like Army boot camp.
My wife, after all, once fell into her own purse. By explanation, she is a petite woman who favors very large handbags. It has more to do with proportion than bad balance.
So during the holidays, our marriage is like a sleigh ride off a very steep roof.
Him: What do you mean I’m "not exactly the father"?!!
Her: We can talk about this at the hotel.
Him: What hotel?
Her: You didn’t get us a hotel?
Two-thousand years later, not much has changed. We fight. We laugh. The holidays are holy. The holidays are nuts.
Christmas is candlelight against French horns. It’s penguins in scarves.
Christmas is Chevy Chase falling off ladders. It’s Donna Reed on the phone.
Till it’s over, you can catch me at cocktail parties secretly arranging Nativity scenes in various football formations: the power-I, the pro set.
I mean, it’s not really Christmas till you’ve seen Joseph run the wildcat.