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Christmastime in Hell
by Michele Christopher
Sometimes around this time of year I get nostalgic for when my kids were little and Christmas had this magic about it. But there's something I definitely don't miss from the little kid days. The firehouse Christmas party.
Up until about two years ago, I was dragged, kicking and screaming, every December to this party. I attended this thing since I was a baby, stopped when I was about 14, and then was forced to start going again when I had kids. Every year, I'd say no. And every year I'd get the lecture about the family traditions and how the kids look soooo forward to it. My ass. They're crying to go home five minutes after we get there. And with good reason.
When I was little, the party was ok. There were food and games and prizes and songs and they did their best to make it something we actually had fun at. Somewhere along the line, the party deteriorated into a 4 hour, mind numbing trip to hell. And nothing was as hellish as the last year I showed my face at the firehouse.
Satan's minions must have been out in full force that day. Hell was never hotter nor more terrifying. The party started at 1:00, and we were left to our own accord until a little after two. The kids ran around like crazy for over an hour, fortified only by burnt Bagel Bites and gallons of soda. We gave them handfuls of quarters and sent them to the room with the video games, only to have someone kick them out ten minutes later.
It should be noted that save for my family, I do not like most of these people. Hell, I don't even like my family sometimes. But these people are so low-class, so low on the totem pole of life, that the only analogy I can really offer you is this: Think Clark Griswald's family in Christmas Vacation. I kept waiting for someone to tell me the shitter's full.
So there we sat, waiting for some form of entertainment, watching the clock for the time Santa is supposed to arrive so the kids can get the presents that I bought for them and we can get home and get on with our lives. It's a Sunday in Decemebr. There's football to be watched. I'm sitting there minding my own business, trying extra hard not to look like I might want to talk to one of these cretins. But they have these radars. Like a homing system that lets them know a captive audience is just waiting for some incredibly boring conversation.
I was cornered. The woman I least wanted to talk to honed in on me and, being that I was surrounded by folding chairs that were acting at tables for cups of soda and plates of half eaten burned bagel bites, there was no escape without making a messy scene. This woman's kid was in my son's class, so she automatically assumed I wanted to talk to her - I needed to talk to her, I lived only to hear her drone on and on about how wonderful her child is. Especially compared to mine. Whatever. She pulled up a chair next to me and rambled on about the field trip and the class bully and then repeats verbatim her monologue from last year when she described in full detail how wonderful her son, her neighbors, her whole block is. As my eyes started to roll in back of my head and my brain began to short-circuit, she told me this story:
So I was taking Adam and his friends to play mini-golf and one of the friends, Brendan, starting talking about how there is no Santa Claus and the other kids were yelling at him and he was insisting that Santa is just fake. Fake! The nerve of him telling my kid that! So after I dropped Brendan off I asked the other boys how they felt about what Brendan said and they were all so sad and shocked so I acted quickly and figured out what to tell them. I said 'guys, Brendan is a different religion than us. He's Jewish (emphasis hers). They get so jealous of you this time of year, so they act out by being mean and telling you there's no Santa. Of coures he's lying. It's just because he's Jewish.'
She then smiled at me. This grin that made me think she was really proud of herself for coming up with that winner. She waited for me to tell her how ingenous it was. Instead I looked at her and muttered, "You really are as stupid as they say!" I didn't wait around for a response.
The day then descended into the fourth level of hell, the one where you are surrounded by costumed characters that look nothing like the who they are supposed to be representing. There was a blue dragon, a 7 foot tall Elmo, my brother-in-law dressed as Clifford the Big Red Dog (and pinching my ass the whole time), and this big brown walking piece of dirty fur that was supposed to be Scooby Doo but looked more like just the Doo. At one point he bent down to say hello to a little girl and his head fell off. Much crying and screaming of little children ensued. I hate to say it, but that was quality entertainment right there. Hey, I had to find amusement somewhere.
Then there was the face-painting lady in the green and purple Jester's hat whose hair was such a hideous shade of orange I thought it was fake at first. When she walked in, she spotted my son DJ and a friend laying on the floor by the door, lulled into a coma by the dull festivities. She walked over to them and kicked the friend on the edge of his foot. This conversation followed:
Lady: Hey, I'm gonna paint some faces now. Come on, get up.
She turned around and saw me standing there and it dawned on her that I must have heard the whole conversation.
Lady: These kids are rude!
After what seemed like days, Santa finally came. The kids got their presents and I was scrambling to get the us out of there as fast as possible. As I was dragging the kids out the door I was thinking that no one could have possibly enjoyed the party less than me. Then I saw a father talking to the big brown Scooby Doo. The dad was handing him baby wipes as they talked.
"I'm sorry," the father said to Scooby. "I didn't know when I put her on your lap that she had diarreah."
Ok, so there was someone who had a worse time than me.
Michele would like it if no one told her son that she used his picture for this column.