Thursday, December 24 2020

milk and cookies, presents, and our festivus tradition

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Dear Journal,

Good evening, everyone. Something feels different about this Thursday night, doesn't it? Old movies have been playing in the living room all day. The play corner is littered with shiny new Paw Patrol gear. There's a stack of cardboard boxes and bagged up wrapping paper in the dining room that is leaning to one side like Mount Crumpit. And the weirdest thing just happened - while on my way to the dining room computer to write my journal entry, I passed by a special snack plate that Rodney prepared for me before bed. A plate of cookies, two carrots, and a giant class of milk was sitting by our Christmas tree. Kind of an odd combination of snacks, isn't it?

I'm not a complainer. I took the plate of snacks over to the computer. Underneath the cookies was a greeting card signed with Rodney's name. Marissa, quietly giggling in the corner explained.

"I asked Rodney what he wanted to put in the card for Santa, and he just said 'Cookies!', so that's what I wrote," she explained.

"What else is there to say," I laughed, shoving one into my mouth. "He's Santa. It's Christmas Eve. The points are already tallied, and all that's left to do is dole out presents and coal.

"Make sure you leave some crumbs on the plate," said Marissa.

"Oh I'll leave some crumbs," I said, already biting into my second cookie. "Maybe I'll leave a cigarette butt some lottery ticket stubs too - just to throw him."

OK, I think that's enough milk for me. There must be an entire pint of milk in this glass. The rest of this is going in Rodney's sippie cup in the fridge, and the carrots are going into the bag of frozen vegetables in the freezer for stock. Santa is going to switch back to wine, but I think I'll have another few cookies while I'm up.

Sip. Happy Christmas Eve! How is everyone feeling tonight? I have to say I was very touched by all the kind words I got yesterday after admitting how much virtual Christmas was making me feel depressed. It helps knowing that you're not alone and that people care. We've had two more virtual Christmas sessions since, and we came prepared. I set up my laptop on the couch so we could gather around the tree. We propped up baby Miles in his silly bouncy saucer (I call it his satellite office), and this time we let Rodney open all of his presents right out of the gate so he'd have something to distract him.

Virtual Christmas isn't as good as the real thing, but it's better than nothing. And now that we've completed the rounds across both of our sides, I'm feeling satisfied. Like we carved out a little piece of time with family in Chicago, Minnesota, and New England all in the span of just a day.

I got a very classy thin leather wallet to replace my hilariously ineffective money clip. "I was in the market for a new wallet," I explained. "My little metal clip actually destroys bills if I keep them folded up in there for too long." I also unboxed a spiffy Bears polo and some Amazon gift cards. After Rodney went down for a nap, I happily trotted over to the computer to purchase a heavy duty 24 port rack mounted switch that I've had my eye on.

But by far one of my favorite holiday traditions that takes place around Christmas week is our annual Festivus celebration. What started as a silly small gathering in our college dorm has blossomed into an exciting outlet for both casual and avid fans of Seinfeld within our social circle. We had a virtual Festivus this year. I followed Marissa down into the basement to dig out our metal Festivus pole.

The Festivus pole - for those who aren't familiar, it's kind of an "anti-Christmas tree". The whole point of the plain metal Festivus pole is to contradict the gaudy, attention seeking Christmas tree. A Festivus pole should be bare, without lights or tinsel. Because, in the words of the great Frank Costanza, "I find tinsel distracting."

I worried that we had thrown out the Festivus pole. It seems like something that I would have tossed this year, especially after gutting our basement while our floors were redone. Marissa reminded me that she defended it, and hid it in the very back corner of our highest junk pile - probably to protect me from getting to it. At any rate, I'm glad she saved it. After dusting it off and setting it up behind my chair on webcam, she looked as majestic as the day I bought her.

2020 12 24 festivus pole

"Where did you get the pole originally?" asked Marissa. Friends began to trickle into our open zoom room.

"I got it on the Internet from a place that said they made official replicas," I laughed. "It wasn't cheap. I think I paid like sixty bucks for it after shipping."

"But it's a metal pole," chided Marissa. "Why didn't you just go to Home Depot and have them cut one for you."

"You knew me in college," I said. "I was a bit of a space head, and I didn't know how to do stuff like that."

So I paid the idiot's price for a humble aluminum pole, and that happened to be sixty dollars.

My college friends reminded me of all the other places the Festivus pole had been. I was reluctant to take it with me moving into our shared house Senior year, and so it remained in the storage closet of our freshman dorm. Chief reminded me that one night while opening the closet to get something, it fell and hit him in the face. The week we were graduation, I think Ben found the pole and hastily talked his soon to be in laws into storing it at their place. Eventually, it found its way back to us here in Madison Wisconsin.

We kicked things off opening Secret Santa presents. I got some nice sourdough bread equipment and reading material, and Marissa opened what is now her new favorite beanie.

"And now as is tradition," I announced, "we'll proceed to the airing of grievances." It is Festivus tradition that a portion of the evening is dedicated to sharing who or what has disappointed you in the past year. Confrontations and call-outs are encouraged. The zoom room snickered while I read pithy, snarky messages from an anonymous online poll.

After our virtual gathering, Ben reminded us that this was our tenth Festivus. This silly tradition of ours is officially a decade old.

"Did you read what Ben said?" I asked Marissa. "Ten years. That's a real tradition now."

Festivus really is our heritage. Thanks for stopping by today. Have a wonderful day. Festivus. Hannakuh. Christmas. Whatever you celebrate, have a good one and be safe, everyone.

2020 12 24 festivus party