Christmas 2014 (by Jeff Schrembs)

Christmas has always been bittersweet for me.

Seems like all of the “bad” stuff in my life, and I plead guilty to self inflicted bad acts, happens from late September through late December.

Growing up I saw, as was the case the other 364 days of the year, how different my grandparents were on the “sides” of my family. One had animation, full blown christmas decorations, and beauty and the other had “lets all get together as a family”. I enjoyed them both but, for some reason(s), always felt…alone.

As a father I always made an effort for my children to have a great christmas. I have so many memories, still left in my mind and others recorded, of the days before – the day off – and the garbage trash bags being filled with wrapping paper. I watched the christmas video from 2009 but I could only get through 2 minutes as my heart was, is, and god knows if ever it will change…irreparably broken. I mention 2009 because out of all the presents my little girl loved playing with was not the presents but the boxes. With the ribbons and bows. With the wrapping paper. At the time I made this recording, and I was always the one taking the photos and videos rarely being in them, I never imagined how my life would turn within the year.

They say that depression spikes this time of year. Certain statistics bear this out. I don’t really know what is harder; never having a chance to make things right or the role that one played in making things…wrong. I equate it to a one hour QVC special where the host is selling dirt. Yes dirt. For one hour they gush about dirt. Then the next hour dirt is the “todays special” and dirt now is available in 6 easy payments. You get caught up in watching how special they make dirt look and before you know it you regret everything about it and you are mad at yourself for falling for the “manufacturers list price of a pound of dirt being $225.00” then “marked down to $99,95”. It is truly a “lose lose” situation all the way around.

Anyway I was fortunate to have some really good christmas’ spent with those I loved, and still do, the most. It wasn’t all of the animated christmas figures I collected (jealous?) nor the activated matching teddy bears that mesmerized everyone under four foot tall. It was that the mother of my children made it special. She was the reason. She did 99.9% of it. She was the rock. She was…everything.

TIme goes by and those you worried about, raised, loved, gave them baths, put them to sleep, cried over, and loved grow up and before you know it are addicted to screens. Video screens. TV screens. Tablet screens. Every type of screen but a door.

*** Random thought alert *** – I just remembered a christmas when my son was about 10 years old and he got the latest video system and game. He got this game, back when modems where attached to the phone still around 2004, and I remember that it enabled him to join other kids his age. It showed their “screen names” and they were so cute. Such as; I love puppies, daddy’s girl, I like pink, almost 9, etc. And in this game they are parachuting and trying to win a flag. Well, I checked in on my son and he was all in on the game. He yelled out demands for beverages and treats. He LOVED this game. Anyway as he sips on soda, and rips open snacks, he tells me to get out of the way and I try to make “heads or tails” about this game and then (after about 15 minutes) he finds time to show me his character. I almost fell out of the (bottom of the bunk) bed. His character was not “I like kittens”. It wasn’t “I like juice”. It wasn’t G rated. It wasn’t R rated. It was XX rated. And as my eyeballs were trying to fall out of my head I saw that at the bottom of the screen was a live “chat”. It was obvious that the little kids parents had become aware of my sons choice of adjectives. So being 6 foot 1 and around 215 pounds (at the time now I am less than 180) I did what any big man/father figure does…I went and told my wife. She was sitting on a stool and when she laughed her body would move. She spat out her coffee. She thought it was hilarious. Her laugh was unique and it lit up a room. Well, it wasn’t until my son passed out on the bean bag, with crumbs on his face and plastic wrappers in his hands and 2 liter coke bottles to the left and right (by the way how did he get those 2 litres?) that I was able to “rename” his character and put a password on it. I thought he would sleep about 8 hours but in the middle of the night I heard “DAD. DAD. WHAT DID YOU DO”? To prove to him I was in control, and he would listen to his father, I (again) did what anyone in my situation would. We negotiated ending up with me buying him a “cheat code”, which he took full advantage of, in return for a “G rated” character name. Those were the days.

Well, this story would not be complete (oxymoron for this post went way off course) without a “shout out” to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I still have nightmares, not really after all it was funny in hindsight, about the time I loaded up all of our beach vacation suitcases/etc. while the SUV was IN the garage only to have it pointed out to me (again with the laugh) that my SUV now could not back out of the garage because I had 350 pounds of luggage on top.

Christmas. Memories. May you have many many more of them and enjoy them to no end.

WHAT. I wrote this on my Elvis Expert Blog? Come on Jeff. My apologies to those expecting Elvis. Here is a rain check and not from…QVC.

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