Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Holiday Purgatory

Here we are.  Smack in the middle of the annual holiday period.  The week between Christmas and New Year's Day.  A frequently unsettling period that I either loved or loathed.  

Truth be told, I have always taken this week off.  Ever since grade school when you are automatically free as a bird, I have always made sure to be off from classes and/or work.  It just seems to be the right thing to do.  Why?  No clue.

It's not like I had a huge family to commune with when I was a kid.  Or a big throng of relatives to reconnect with when I was an adult.  But I still would make sure to be off.  To do...I don't know what.

When you're a kid (and, particularly, an only child), you're inundated with toys on Christmas morning as you can see above.   Note the Army tank.   Well, the week between Christmas and New Year's Day was spent getting acquainted with my new haul before it would all go to the bottom of the toy chest or my closet.  

Of course, I couldn't possibly play with everything.   There would be one or two toys or games that would capture my immediate fancy.  And I would ignore the rest.  This would prompt a response from Santa AKA Mom.

"How come you're not playing with such-and-such?"


"You don't like that toy?"


"If you don't like it, we can still take it back."

Talk about instilling guilt feelings on a seven-year-old.  Then I would transfer these emotions to the actual toys I was currently shunning.  I'd imagine voices from those boxes.

"You don't like me."

"I'm a fun toy.  Try me."

"Maybe I can find another boy who wants to play with me."

I didn't say I was normal.

Eventually, all of the toys and games would lose their luster with me and get assigned to prime dust catching spots in my room.   Until they were replaced the very next Christmas.

So, even though I was off from school, I was still tormented.

To make matters worse, this was also the week where I was frequently pulled away from my Christmas loot to go visit relatives or family friends.   Because, back in this day, we had gifts for everybody and they all had gifts for us.   The trip I would dread the most was to my father's aunt in the Bronx.  Tante Emma. While the adults would gab in the kitchen, she'd plop me down in her living room to watch TV.  But she had no clue what a kid my age would want to watch.

"Meet The Press is on."


Of course, the holidays with Tante Emma also meant the bestowing upon me of her Christmas card.   Always with five dollars in it.  This would result in another annual tradition.  The prodding of yours truly to call her on the phone to thank her for the money.

"You better call Tante Emma and thank her."


You see, the reticence to do this was largely fueled by the fact that Tante Emma couldn't hear you on the telephone.  I would dial the phone in absolute fear.

Er, thank you for the card and the money, Tante Emma.


It's me, Lenny.  Thank you for the card and the money.


Yes, I did.


Going back to school on January 2 was starting to look pretty darn good after ten minutes on the phone with Tante Emma.

This week also provided for the roll-up and anticipation of New Year's Eve.  In our family, there were rotating parties.   Different people took turns hosting the soiree.  For several years, we were the hosts in my house when my father and mother would turn over the drafty cellar into a dance hall.  I was usually the lone youngster there.   And stuck for conversation with anybody under 25. I'd frequently wind up sitting aimlessly between my grandmother and Tante Emma, who was still quizzing me.


Over the years into adulthood, that planning for New Year's Eve never got easier.   If we were lucky in college, somebody would throw a house party.  But there would be other years where we all turned into that classic scene from "Marty."

"Whadaya want to do New Year's Eve?"

"I dunno know.  Whadaya want to do?"

"I dunno know."

There were some great endings to the year.   With dates.  Without dates.

Dancing to oldies in a club in Manhattan.

Great meals in some dynamite restaurants in Los Angeles.

But there were also some not-so-great endings to the year.

Fights with friends at parties over nothing at all.

Sitting at home with a fractured rotator cuff in a sling.

Returning home to hear a message from the hospital that my mother had slipped into an irreversible coma.

They all blur together.   As does the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.  Yes, I am always off.

And every year I wonder if this is the year that strange week will be different.

Dinner last night:  Beef chow fun at Wokcano.

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