Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Blogmas Carol

CHRISTMAS: Noun, pronounced \ˈkris-məs\. Attributive. Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus. The English term Christmas (“mass on Christ’s day”) is of fairly recent origin.Since the early 20th century, Christmas has also been a secular family holiday, observed by Christians and non-Christians alike, devoid of Christian elements, and marked by an increasingly elaborate exchange of gifts. In this secular Christmas celebration, a mythical figure named Santa Claus plays the pivotal role.
Attributed quotes:
~ The Disneyfication of Christianity (Don Cupitt)
~ The one time of year when people of all religions come together to worship Jesus Christ. (Bart Simpson)
~ From a commercial point of view, if Christmas did not exist it would be necessary to invent it. (Katherine Whitehorn)
~ The season when you buy this year's gifts with next year's money. (Author unknown)
~ Roses are reddish, Violets are bluish, If it weren't for Christmas, We'd all be Jewish.(Benny Hill)
~ Have yourself a merry little Christmas (Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane)
~ We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (Traditional)
~ I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, Just like the ones I used to know (Irving Berlin)
Have you ever noticed how it's the Concepts, the Characters, the Conversations, the Communications and the Creations that begin with the letter C that are best? All good things come in threes, C is third in the alphabet. The majority of your favourite indulgences begin with it. Comforts. Cake. Compassion. Chocolate. Concerts. Celebrities. Compliments. California. Candles. Charlie Brown. Coffee. Cinema. Cash. Comedy. Christmas. Carols. Cocktails. Cabarets. Candy. Cookies. Cards. Casablanca. Caresses. Cartoons. Campari. Carnal desires. Culture. The Carpenters. Cacophony. Christ. Caravaggio. Jim Carrey. Cadillacs. The Cure. For the Irish, the Commitments, Christy Moore, the Corrs, Cork. It's why I, of the 27 of us, is telling this story. It's probably why though third in, I was first out.

Christmas. This didn't start at Christmas. It was earlier when we were bought, the value of the late 1980s being in the twenty-easy-payments option. Nestled in cardboard we sat side by side, retaining the smell, storing the knowledge. We spoke of distant lands, far off places, new technologies, past victories. Our coverage unrivalled, our colours vibrant. We were more than just a purchase, we were an investment. Unmatched, unequalled, understandably, reassuringly expensive.

We sat in our comfort, confident in our impending release. We were to be pride of place, the crowning glory. We were for Christmas. We knew this. We knew of everything. Everything. Every American president, every population size, every breed of mammal, every work of Shakespeare, every part of a steam engine, one of use would tell you. We whispered together of what was to come. A family gathered. Children educated. Information imparted. We argued sometimes, crticising the others' pessimism, Deriding the others' optimism, belittling others faith but deferring to the index we waited. We learned and waited.

We would hear them outside at times, passing our place in the hall cupboard. Chats. Conversations. Arguments. We heard it all. We were unsure of how many there were to begin with. Sometimes two, sometimes more. Children seemed to be a permanent fixture though some would go to school (S, page 362) while some would come to play (P, page 617). We thought there'd be at least two. When they spoke of something we were unsure of we would consult the relevant text and inform the others. We were to be a gift (G, page 279) for Christmas (me, page 348) and we were to be delivered by Santa Claus (S, page 534, see also F for Father Christmas)
Santa Claus: Legendary figure who is the traditional patron of Christmas in the United States and other countries, bringing gifts to children. His popular image is based on traditions associated with Saint Nicholas, a 4th-century Christian saint. Father Christmas fills the role in many European countries.
~ Aren't we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas? You know… the birth of Santa. (Bart Simpson)
~ I once bought my kids a set of batteries for Christmas with a note on it saying, toys not included. (Bernard Manning)
~ Santa Claus has the right idea: visit people once a year (Victor Borge, Danish born American Comedian and Pianist, 1909-, see B, page 629)
~ Dyslexic demonologists often end up selling their soul to santa. (Author unknown)
~ The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live. (George Carlin)
and so we waited. We listened and waited.

The door slammed when he came in. It was slamming more and more this school semester (S: American (p.864), Term (T:UK and Republic of Ireland) (page 436)) at this time. Sometimes late, sometimes much later. We listened when he lost his shoe (See F, footwear, page 723) to the bullies (B, page 867). We heard the questions about his uniform (U, page 516) being torn, his belongings stolen. We heard the accusations and denials, the scepticism at his explanations, the emotion in his voice as he endeavoured to explain. His quietness his handicap, his shyness her excuse.

There's something wrong with you, she told him. You're not right.

After coffee (me, page 682) with neighbours sometimes she would ask jokingly if she could give him back. His sister wasn't this much trouble. It seemed she owned him and he owed her. She didn't seem satisfied with her purchase, comparing him to other versions, to previous expectations, to those she saw, with better veneer, presentation and style. There was something wrong with him. Though inanimate we somehow drew tighter listening, afraid the same accusation would be levelled at us. What if we became obsolete, weren't wanted, didn't fulfill the criteria? What if there was to be no place for us?

He who had bought us would try reason with her sometimes. He's young, He would say. It's that age. It's hard for him. He'll grow out of it. He'll be grand. He would come and look at us sometimes, removing the cover, running his hand along the spines, pride in his decision emanating from him. Not long now, he'd whisper. She threatened to burn us, to sell us, to convince him he wasn't worth it, he'd have no use, no interest, no respect. He'd ruin it us like he ruined everything. Sure wasn't everything he had broke or thrown out or given away or wrote on? What did he have to show for it? Sure it was no wonder he didn't have friends, look at the state of his room, the state of his hair. Who knew what he got up to. He doesn't think we can see.

People, she told him, are talking about us. Because of him.

We would hear from the Television (T, page 314) about the other toys, the possible alternatives. Something called the Atari (not in me said A, mustn't exist), the Action Men, the Transformers, the Meccano (M, page 243) the Casio keyboard, the Castle Grayskull. From time to time He would suggest one of them. She said no. The boy never asked, though enthused with friends about the commodore, the Ghostbusters, the board game called Operation. The girl in the house wanted Barbie and My Little Pony and Baby New Born and Pound Puppies and a surprise. We knew she was younger. We could tell.

The door slammed. The boy came in, hanging up his coat, kicking off his shoes, turning for the stairs. So come on, tell me then. Why haven't you asked for stuff from Santa? she said, not greeting him. Is it cos you know you don't deserve it?

We couldn't hear his response. Mumbling again she said, Just speak. Why can't you speak? What's wrong with you?

I know there's no Santa he said louder. I know it's you and dad. I don't need anything.

What did you say? she screamed at him. You little bastard. You ungrateful brat. Coming in here with your lies. You think you're so clever. So smart. One up on your parents. Don't ever forget where you're from. What we did for you. Don't you dare say anything to your sister. You'll ruin it on her like you ruin everything else. I see what you're doing. Get out. Get out of this house.

He left without food, without his jacket. We heard. He almost rang. She lifted the telephone (T, page 344). Dialled the number, we heard the dial turning. She spoke to Eileen, the woman down the road. She spoke to Carol, to Laura. Telling him of his cheek, his screaming, his slamming of doors, his swearing, his running when she tried to console him. When He came home she told him that he'd come in shouting, threatening to tell the young one, going to cause a fight if he didn't get what he wanted. We won't be blackmailed by him she said. We won't be held to ransom. Don't you be blind to what he's up to.

He went out.

Several hours later - we counted the ticks from the wall clock - he came back with him. Quietly entering, he sounded weary, sounded sad. Sounded disappointed. Look, I'm not saying you're a liar, I'm just saying you must have said something to get her so worked up with you. No, I don't know, you'll have to think about it. Just calm down a bit. Try and be good. Say nothing to your sister. Just try, will you? Here, give me a hug and go to bed. The boy's footsteps up the stairs bore no youthful bounding or happy creeping sound. Just a dull thud as he threw one foot on the other, the noise of his walk across his bedroom floor, the sigh at collapse on the bed. We maintained our objectivity, our independent perspective. We recognised his despair. (D, referenced as definition, page 232).

They didn't speak for a while.

Time moved closer to Christmas. Songs on the radio. Late Late Toy Show ("I'd give it a five out of ten, Gay, because the doors fell off"), new Star Wars film on the TV. The door to where we sat opened more frequently for coats, wrapping paper, decorations, hiding. The young one was excited. She was ready for Christmas, for presents. She was brought to see Santa. She was bought new clothes for Christmas. She was in a school play. She got to write a list. You're a great girl her mother said, you can have whatever you want. Her father asked her not to be greedy, to think of others. She ran like a whirlwind (see T, tornado, page 965). The boy watched what he had never had. He wrapped her presents without complaint. He had not asked for anything. He wouldn't get it.

'Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Except the boy. She had wanted to go out. Wasn't it enough they got their presents she said? Don't we deserve to go out? Does it always have to be about them? You never bring me anywhere. You don't care. You're so boring. She got her way. Look after your sister, son, He said. We'll try be back early.

What about the stuff, da. the boy said quietly, not wanting his mother to hear.

What stuff, son? He said.

You know, the Santa stuff? The milk and carrots and the letter?

Ah we don't need that, do we? He said, almost running out the door as She started beeping the car horn. We'll do it later.

Footsteps into the kitchen. Footsteps out. Footsteps in. Brush and hoover heard. Christmas tree plugged in for the first time - Leave it off so we won't have a bigger bill than the one you put on us, she had told him, tinny music playing as they flashed. Light off. Footsteps up stairs. Soft knocking. "But I can't. Mammy said go to bed. Santy won't come if I go down. He'll think I'm being bold!" came the young voice. "Just come down for a minute. It'll only take a minute." he pleaded. Running downstairs. Now, see, he said. Milk and biscuits for Santa. Carrots for the reindeer. The fireplace is clean. Everything's good. You go up to bed and when you wake you'll have loads of presents.

Ah that's great, isn't it? she said. Mammy and Daddy are really great to do this. They said they would.

She ran up the stairs as if her young life depended on it.

He turned off lights, closed the door, went to his room. Radio on low, Band Aid's second single. He sat on the bed. We could hear the creak.

Hours later parents returned. She pushed her way past him at the door, telling him he shouldn't have been worried about coming home, sure it was only a day. She went into the front room. What's this shite? she said, Did he put this mess here? Did he? Is he trying to be better than us? To tell her I didn't do it? To turn her against me? The words stumbled out, blurred by alcohol (A, page 344), while he, placating her, hoping she wouldn't wake the children said No, no. I did it before we went out. It wasn't him. I'll get the presents out of the press. You go to bed.

You better not have got anything for him. d'ye hear me? He doesn't deserve it.

I didn't. Now you go on.

Front door opened again. He returned from the car with packages. He opened the door to where we were and removed more packages from behind big boxes and under old coats. We felt him lift us, but put us down again, removing something from behind us. All this for one girl he said almost under his breath. All under one tree.

Light footsteps down the stairs.

Are you okay da?

I'm grand son, what are you doing up?

I waited for you to come back. I wanted to see if you needed a hand with Emer's presents. Do you want me to do them?

No, you're grand, son. I have them all done. Look, they're under the tree. She'll be delighted that Santa came. Thanks again for wrapping them.

No problem, dad. I hope tomorrow will be a good day. I hope Emer enjoys it.

You're a good boy, you know that?

Footsteps up the stairs.
You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I'm telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town.
(J. Fred Coots, 1934)

She bounded out of bed. Out of her room. Into the boy's room. Come on, let's see what we've gotten, Come on, come on. Footsteps down the stairs. What do you think you got she asked. Do you think I got roller skates? What did you get? Did you get anything? Did you get nothing because you're bold? I don't think you're bold but mammy says you are.

Words rushed from her mouth as they crept downstairs. Experience had taught them that too much noise this early wasn't tolerated. Sitting room door opened. She screamed and ran for the tree. Footsteps down the stairs.

Look what I got, look what I got! She exclaimed, the sound of ripping paper making some of our lesser used volumes nervous. Father and son reunited in the doorway, watching.

Oh look! she said. Oh look! she said again. Look at it. I'm going to show mammy.

Tiny footsteps up the stairs again.

Well that's it, the boy, said quietly.

Well, what about the box? his father said

What box? That big cardboard one? Isn't that the box from her toys? Sure She told me I'm not getting anything.

Well why don't you look and see?

We could imagine him peering at the box, looking at where we'd been carried to the night before, looking at where his father had scribbled his name hurriedly in the dark.

Is this mine? What is it? his youthful excitement apparent in his breaking voice.

Open it up.

Light. More light than we'd seen since we were taken from the salesman's car that day. Light and a room and a boy. Looking. Not believing. Not daring to touch. Not wanting to believe.

Oh wow. Are these mine? Really? All for me? he asked. Really, all mine?

I was the first book he opened. I was the first one he saw. I was the third encyclopaedia but the one that could show him Canada and Caterpillars and Caius Claudius Nero and China and the Caddis fly and Cadmium and Cairo and Caesar and CS Lewis and, of course, Christmas. Just like his dad just had.
~ The only real blind person at Christmas-time is he who has not Christmas in his heart. (Helen Keller)

~ They err who thinks Santa Claus comes down through the chimney; he really enters through the heart. (Mrs. Paul M. Ell)

~ Remember, if Christmas isn't found in your heart, you won't find it under a tree. (Charlotte Carpenter)

~ Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more."
(Dr. Seuss (1904-), American author of children's books. From 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas')

Happy Christmas.

T, page 342. : Teddy Bear: an enduring, traditional form of a stuffed animal, often serving the purpose of comforting children. Name originating in 1902. In recent times, some teddy bears have become expensive collector's items.


  1. Excellent quotes! I especially loved the gaybo one cos its doors were broke :)

    I loved reading this most of all.

    So... do you have a definition of Cromulent? Is it a word yet?

  2. God that's even sadder than K8s teddy bear story :(
    I loved reading it, if you can say you 'enjoy' readng something so sad!

    Very well written though Darragh :)

  3. K8

    Thanks. I think I missed that sort of thing most of all from this year's show. As for Cromulent, I found you this.




    Thank you. I'm on my way to read K8's now. Happy Christmas!

  4. Well done Darragh! And Merry Chrimbo-lita!

  5. Brilliant story. You do bitter sweet so well.

  6. Best one so far Darragh, I hope it wasn't autobiographical!

  7. Dude!

    Just reading this now. That's wonderful. Really really great. Well done!