Christmas, the whole pre-Christmas season, gives me alcoholic thoughts. No one quite knows the reason. While all the Whos down in Whoville get pushed along the festive fast track from October to Dec. 25 by department store displays and media mayhem and the universal pressure to re-create a fantasy that only exists in the movies and magazines, I think Grinchy, Scroogelike thoughts.
But from Christmas to New Year's, once all the decorating, wrapping, baking, surprise and disappointment are done, I relax and reflect. Dec. 26, with snow gently falling, creating a winter wonderland outside, I reclined in the living room by the glow of the Christmas tree and digested all that had happened for me to finally arrive at this inner peace on Earth.
A moment later the Christmas tree collapsed under the stress of holding up through the holidays, scattering ornaments into the mess Santa had made and snatching light strands from every bough.
"What did you do?" I asked my husband.
"I got out of the way," he said.
When he and our oldest son resurrected the tree to a leaning position in the corner, the angel dangled upside down, the top third of the tree was as dark as my Dec. 1 mood and two large branches bent at 90-degree angles to the floor.
As tradition would have it, no matter what orchestrations we go through to secure our tree, it always comes crashing down during the 12 days of Christmas. As tradition would have it, no matter how many times my mother calls for moments of silence to redirect wayward Christmas dinner discussions, someone still ends up passing around an iPhone with a screenshot of a headless Everglades python, its greedy gut exploded from trying to swallow an alligator.
Inspired by that, my sister, her husband and my brother urged me to share with you their Top 10 List of Worst Christmas Dinner Conversations ... Ever. No. 10, naturally, is the python busting a gut.
9. The Christmas tree smelling like pot, accompanied by the phrase, "The lights on it are really groovy this year."
8. The Victoria's Secret lingerie special.
7. Any dialogue that refers to getting drunk, getting divorced, getting thrown in jail or some combination of those. My mother can tolerate savage nature and thinly veiled sex better than this line of talk.
6. The question, "What would you do for a million dollars," followed by answers generated around the table. My brother says this is the grandfather of the worst Christmas dinner conversations and that I started it. I say all I did was get out of the way.
5. Chicken diarrhea. Enough said.
4. The story, billed as hilarious, about the Christmas Day that someone's daddy got drunk, got mad, got up and threw the Christmas tree into the front yard.
3. Raccoons bursting into the kitchen and stealing the watermelon off the table. This one seems benign, but there's plenty of room for misunderstanding.
2. A business proposal for Snackreligious Foods featuring manger cake.
1. The 12 Hates of Christmas. I don't remember this particularly noxious theme, but my sister says her in-laws do.
Alcoholic thoughts and Christmas dinner don't mix well. We all collapse under the stress of holding up through the holidays. But on Dec. 26 my mother doesn't have to prompt, "Let's all be quiet for a minute." Everyone just is. May you and yours also experience this inner peace on Earth.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer and author of Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run. She lives in Thomson. E-mail Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org.)