I have a bad case of the January blues. I get them every year after Christmas. They do go away within a week or two. The come down from Christmas vacation and parties is a tough blow year after year. Taking down the tree and all the decorations further enhance the blues. The house looks so empty for a day or two until I get used to it again.
This Christmas I learned something about the spirit of Christmas and goodwill towards men. I do sometimes wish that my daily life did not always involve a learning experience and or moral dilemma.
The bottom line is I learned that not everyone lives the way I do. I think that when we get caught up in daily life and we forget that others are not as fortunate as ourselves. I realize it sounds super sappy. However, that is par for the course during the Christmas season. I cannot escape it.
As Christmas eve approached Dad carried on in lectures filled with fatherly tone about how Christmas eve was gonna be STRICTLY family. Several times I was tempted to get up and left the room just so I could roll my eyes in private.
My annoying pain in the hindquarters sister, kept begging to invite her possessed little friends from the junior Chipmunks over for Christmas eve. I did not want to spend Christmas with a bunch of sugar hyped up little gnats.
Luckily Dad firmly declared, "NO CHIMMUNKS! NO RICHIE OR CHUCK'S FRIENDS JUST FAMILY!" I really didn't like the fact that our friends were lumped in with those little monsters.
A few days before Christmas we were all hanging out at Arnolds. I enjoyed it even more because it was all decked out for Christmas and put us in the spirit. It was fun to just relax and hang out with friends and forget about school and other stress until January.
Fonz came in and was overly cheery. Not that he is normally morose. He just seemed in an overly good mood.
I could not really blame him since he has all the young female waitresses eating out of his hand. I don't know how he does it. It is a gift, a mystery or some secret power he possesses.
He came bearing gifts for me Pots and Ralph. I had a gift for him but it was home. Neither one of them had anything. I could tell they felt pretty rotten.
As a goodwill gesture, Pots kindly invited Fonz to his house for Christmas Turkey. It was truly a kind gesture of a friend BUT it scared me to think of his mean ill tempered father when he broke the news that the Fonz of all people was coming. I used to be terrified of him when we were little! In all honesty, I think I still am. That is probably why we spent the majority of the time playing at my house as children. I digress!
Fortunately Fonz declared he had other plans. I let out a huge sigh of relief for Potsie. Fonz told the tale of a lavish party he was invited to at his cousin's in Waukesha.
The way he described it seemed lavish for the Fonz. He described it as a huge house with a nine foot tree and an abundance of food and presents. It did not seem to match the little I knew about his background but who was I to judge.
Early in the day on Christmas Eve, we were all subjected to the last minute annoying Christmas chores. Since it was just the five of us, I don't know why Dad was making such a fuss about everything.
Dad was all bent out of shape because we still had to put up the stupid looking Santa in the yard. Seriously? He expected us to go out in the cold to put up the Santa. However, we knew we could not say no.
Santa was supposed to make a motion with his arm like he was handing out a gift. Dad was in a huff because it was moving too slowly. I really did not care. I just wanted to go inside and drink something warm.
I was told to turn the stupid knob in his back to the right to speed it up. I did exactly as I was told but got yelled at and ridiculed anyway. I think I turned it too hard and it fell off. Santa started going crazy. On top of that Dad was yelling at me to grab him and stop him. I was literally standing in front of him trying to stop him from attacking me.
Yes, I'm 16 and still refer to Santa as "him" A person can't lose ALL the holiday magic just because they are approaching adulthood.
If that was not infuriating enough my brother just stood there with his dumb mouth hanging open. Notice Dad did not ask him to restrain violent Santa. His big instruction was to plug in Santa. Big deal!
I got tired of being beaten up by Santa and yelled to him "WILL YOU HELP ME?!" His response of brotherly love was, "This is funny Richie!" All I could think is if they were handing out parts for animals in the Nativity I know who could play The ASS.
I was helping Dad close up the store Christmas Eve. By the way, notice Chuck was not asked to help I was. Sure Richie will do it! He's responsible and won't argue. It's not worth their effort to ask him because he is a grumbletonian.
Anyway, we realized the car broke down. I knew Fonz was going to Waukesha but I decided to take a chance and see if he was still at the garage. I was in luck and we were able to push the car there.
Something very strange happened after he fixed the car. He generously did not charge us because it was Christmas eve. Dad and I felt badly but he insisted.
I looked at my watch and realized it was ten after four. I felt rotten that we made Fonz miss his bus especially since he did not charge us. He did not seem bothered by it as there was another one at five. Dad offered to take him to a coffee shop until the next bus.
He became extremely defensive, bordering on rude. First he declined the coffee and donuts idea saying he had to save his appetite for the "huge spread" awaiting him. I suggested that since Waukesha is not that far we could give him a ride. Dad was happy to do it after he was so generous with the car.
He in essence told us to back off and go away. I was thinking a lot of bad words I wanted to say to him but I couldn't in front of my Dad!
He did apologize as we are about to leave. However I was still a little peevish. Outside I realized I forgot to give him my Christmas present. Dad told me to run in and give it to him. I was still a tiny bit sore but decided to try and forget it on Christmas eve.
When I got to the window I was shocked at what I saw. He was sitting in the back room heating up ravioli from a can. It turns out, he made up the story about Waukesha. My heart sank. He was too ashamed at having no place to go for Christmas. I could no longer be angry because I understood why he got so upset. I decided to sneak back into the car. I did not want to further embarrass him.
I started to explain things to Dad. However, he immediately went into how excited he was about an "old fashioned family Christmas." A lump formed in my throat all I could do was nod in agreement.
I was having a hard time enjoying myself. The atmosphere was right. We were in a cozy house with a nice tree and awaiting a good meal. However, I felt bad when one of my good friends was all alone eating canned food on Christmas eve.
Dad picked up on my somber mood. I told him I did not think Fonz really went to Waukesha. In fact I was certain of it. He was in denial. He gave me a line that he was with his family and I was with mine. We were both where we should be. I was getting frustrated because I KNEW he was alone and Dad would not listen.
The rest of the household understood but Dad just did not want to ruin his "old fashioned Christmas." We all gave him sad looks to invoke guilt, mom included. It finally worked. He hesitantly declared, "Richie… lets go pick up Fonzie."
Once we arrived at Fonz's apartment, I felt anxious. One cannot be confrontational about it. If he went to painstaking lengths to cover it up, he is ashamed about it. No one wants to be pitied. "Please come over because we know you have absolutely nowhere else to go." would not work. Saying that would definitely get me punched out. A trip to the hospital would really ruin Dad's idea of a fairy tale Christmas.
He continued the charade the entire time. When we came to the door we heard music. I had a feeling he was going to pretend not to be there. I firmly told him that we knew he was there because we heard the music.
He actually came to the door pretending to be leaving and was carrying an empty suitcase. That made me peevish again. I'm an honors student at the top of my class! Did he really expect me to fall for that?
I calmly said that maybe he would rather go in the morning since he was already so late. I told him that I kind of wanted him to see how nice the house looks and the tree. I was grasping at straws. He would not budge.
I tried a different tactic. Fonz always responds when it looks like he is needed whether the need is real or not. If he thinks he can save the day there is no stopping him. We actually made a list of little petty things that needed fixing.
I immediately remembered the stupid Santa. I told him we needed him to come fix him. After all, what is Christmas without Santa. He agreed to come but HAD TO leave right after to "catch the last bus." He took the bait!
We achieved our goal. We kept him busy until it was too late to make the last bus.
It seemed sort of sad to me. When we announced that it was ten after nine and the last bus was at nine, Fonz just stood there helpless. Yes, I said HELPLESS. He managed to quietly say, "I know."
He stared at everyone not knowing what to say. He was completely vulnerable and not the cool,biker dude that we all know and love.
It was the first time I saw him as a real person. He actually has hard times in life. Things don't "always" work out for him. Even his perceived super powers with girls does not protect him from the vulnerabilities of life.
Mom was the first to diffuse the situation. He responded with the realization of, "OH! You missed the last bus to Waukesha." Even Chuck got on board and sincerely told Fonz we would love to have him. MAYBE he really is NOT the ass of the Nativity scene. Dad graciously gave up his idea of the old fashioned family Christmas.
The problem is Fonz means well but he ALWAYS has to be in charge. So, he kept trying to "fix" every situation. Not in a malicious way but he really believes he is making it better and that makes him feel good. I can get nerve wracking at himes.
Dad was innocently popping popcorn in the fireplace. Fonz confidently went up to him and told him that he was not doing it correctly. OH BOY! Apparently, to get really good popcorn you need to get more wrist action. Luckily Dad was a good sport about it. However, I know him and know deep down he was taken aback.
I have to say that the highlight of the evening was when Fonz read "Twas the Night before Christmas." It is an annual family tradition for Dad to read every year. I am forced to admit that because I'm sixteen I have to say it's lame. However the child in me still kind of likes being read to by my Dad. However ONLY on Christmas eve and ONLY that one story.
Dad made this big scene about how he was gonna read it and we all needed to take our place. Fonz jumped up with the excitement of a new puppy and said, "Hey, can I do that? Let me do that. I love reading poetry." I was thinking the poetry on the bathroom wall is not the kind of poetry my father had in mind."
I kind of felt bad sorry for Dad because he lives for this stuff. However, he took a deep breath and let Fonz have a chance.
I must say that Fonz's rendition was radically different from Dad's. His childlike enthusiasm was sweet. I would call it sweet to his face. He started out "Twas the Night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…" He paused to take in the words and followed with "Hey. Can you dig it?" and showed the pictures to everyone. I wish I had had a camera to capture the look on Dad's face. To his credit he did not verbalize his shock.
Dinner was actually rather uneventful. I was not sure what would happen. Thank God Fonz did not offer to carve the turkey. I had visions of him brutalizing the poor turkey with the knife to my parents horror.
Dad did ask him to say the blessing. I became nervous. I envisioned him having street talk with God. "Hey God great meal. Can you dig it?" However, to my relief he kept it quite simple. He simply looked to the heavens with reverence and "Hey God? Thanks!" He did give his thumbs up to God but it was quiet. I'm pretty sure that God dug the prayer.
Chuck and I were saying later we really liked his version of Grace. My Gramma Kelp goes on and on for hours thanking everything from the grass that grows to the gas you put in your car. Meanwhile your good food is getting cold and congealed. I'm sure even God is up there thinking, "NO! Mrs. Kelp again. SHUT UP lady! I get it. You are Thankful. You are welcome!"
I think the best part of my experience is I was able to see that Fonz is human like the rest of us. He is not always winning in life and acting out the content of our mere dreams. I clearly saw that he felt sad and vulnerable about having no family to spend the holidays with.
The good news is I have a feeling he will be with us on Christmas for the foreseeable future. We all want him here even though it does shake up the traditional scene just a bit.