Sunday, December 10, 2006

Yes Virginia, Reality IS Often a Pale Imitation of our Fantasies!

Though I’d recently stocked the house with Christmas knick-knacks and swag, I wasn’t feeling the ol’ holiday cheer until yesterday, when we put up our tree. (I was going to say, “erected” the tree, but I didn’t think the baby Jesus would approve.)

Here’s a photo of the end result, although I’m not sure I’m in love with this year's theme of "hodge-podge of totally unrelated items:"

Every year I have visions of decorating the tree while It’s a Wonderful Life glows in schmaltzy black and white glory in the background, or maybe I’m listening to Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas CD--the gold standard for holiday music as far as I’m concerned. As one who worked retail (TOY retail) for seven Christmases past, I know my holiday music, and I have very strong opinions of such. The hippopotamus Christmas song? Akin to having knitting needles plunged repeatedly into my ear canals while being force-fed head cheese in the ninth circle of hell. (I have the same visceral reaction to Elton John’s best-known Christmas ditty—and I like Elton John.)

Back to my decorating fantasy. In these holiday visions, I’m sipping a delectable eggnog or piping hot Tom & Jerry when I take a break from draping lights on the tree. Large, fluffy snowflakes tumble outside the window. A cheerful fire crackles in the fireplace, and J and I share memories, chuckling fondly at tales of Christmases past.

Now let’s look at what really happened. Listless brown snowbanks melted into the gutters outside. My vision of crackling flames will have to wait until we either move to a home that has a fireplace or we decide to burn the kitchen table and chairs. The television was tuned to Comedy Central, which was running back-to-back episodes of Reno 911. It’s no Christmas Carol or Miracle on 34th Street, but it was a step above Christmas 1988, when my brother, sister, and I decorated the tree while watching Deliverance. (Nothing sets sugar plums a-dancing in your head like having “Squeeeeal like a pig!” on a horrific mind-loop before bedtime.)

I did pour myself a glass of eggnog in my futile attempt to capture that elusive craft-magazine Christmas vibe: Southern Comfort “Vanilla Spice,” which tasted like a glutinous, throat-constricting batter of pancake mix, corn syrup, and artificially-flavored vanilla pudding. My taste buds wept inconsolably until I promised to whip up a Tom & Jerry. We’d actually purchased a tub of the frozen drink base earlier in the day, but since I'm kind of cheap, I decided against buying one of the key ingredients (brandy) because, “We have a whole bottle of rum at home. It’ll taste fine with just that.”

So I poured boiling water into a mug containing a tablespoon of frozen Tom & Jerry mix and added some rum. Well, a lot of rum. To make up for the missing brandy. I whisked the mix into a frothy approximation of delight and grated some fresh nutmeg on top.

How did it taste? Hmm. Have you ever tasted sweetened nail polish remover? Neither have I, but I’m pretty sure it would taste like my Tom & Jerry last night. My dear husband, who felt our alliance had been tainted when I admitted to hating the pancake batter eggnog that he just had a religious experience over, could only smile smugly and say, “I knew it would taste like crap.”

Sadly, I drank half of it—stubbornly—before my digestive system raised the white flag.

There’s a show on right now about a guy trying to survive in the wilderness on snakes, beetles and twigs. This is my cue to write out Christmas cards, so I’ve got to run.

May your decorating, shopping, wrapping, card-writing, and baking be merry. If you need help, here’s a cheery picture of Donna Reed to get you in the holiday mood.


  1. Jess, you absolutely SLAY me.
    I am an innocent...what IS a Tom and Jerry?

    Oh, man...I can't stop giggling, looking at darling Ms. Reed. May I say again that you SLAY me???

  2. I'm with Susan, what's a Tom and Jerry? I don't drink so I'm a giant bore whore but I need to know what it is I'm not drinking.

  3. I LIKE your Christmas tree. Coordinated Christmas trees always make me feel like I've accidentally stumbled into a department store.
    Oh Donna Reed looks like she's having a blast! I have a similar story to your Deliverance Christmas, but instead it was a Christmas Eve viewing of Silence Of The Lambs. How sweetly festive...
    Was the outdoor bug-eating show Survivorman? Survivorman - true story - was the videographer at a mutual friend's wedding.

  4. I think Tom and Jerry's are a uniquely Northern Beverage. I've never heard of anyone here drinking them. You need to make a gallon of Brandy slush, my dear. Then all you have to do is scoop it out of the container into a highball glass, top with a maraschino cherry, and voila!! My aunt has made Brandy slush every holiday since the beginning of time.

    You are so right about eggnog. It really *is* like drinking pancake batter. Yerk.

  5. Beautiful tree... looks like Donna Reed could have decorated it! ~ jb///

  6. If it's at all consoling, when we put up our tree last night, my husband asked if he could listen to his audio book about zombies on my iPod (he has appropriated it), or did I want to talk to him while we trimmed the tree? Needless to say, the audio book was shelved for the moment. I did put A Charlie Brown Christmas on, but my beloved went out before it was even done playing so he could go rent Pirates of the Caribbean II. We have a fireplace; it went unused, and no festive drinks were consumed. Sigh.

    I think your tree is cute! We also have a bizarre hodgepodge of stuff, but ours is far less cohesive-looing than yours.

    Off to look of Tom & Jerry's ...

  7. What the heck is a Tom and Jerry? I tended bar for five years and I've never heard of that one. I must go Google it.

    Oh, before I go... Your tree looks fabulous!

  8. Here's another one in the dark about Tom & Jerry drink ?!?

    Your hodgepodge tree looks a lot like mine! I like it!

    You post just once a week usually I need to tell you that I *just* *can't* *wait* to read it. You are one of a kind...

  9. Just looking at your Christmas tree makes me feel all seasonal inside :)
    Sorry you didn't experience it quite like you envisioned....there's always next year!

  10. Anonymous1:24 PM

    Your tree is lovely. And the scene you described doesn't put me off at all: Last night I strung the lights, dropped f-bombs, and sucked chardonnay from a sippie cup while the SpongeBob Squarepants movie played in the background. No lie.

  11. I think the tree is absolutely lovely, dear; and isn't life one big hodge-podge, after all? Hope you have a great Christmas!

  12. I love your tree!

    Is it just me, or does that picture of Donna Reed make her look like she's about to go on a killing spree that involves strangling the righteous with her apron strings?

  13. Anonymous5:32 PM

    A perfect description of egg nog--and I happen to like it, all the same. I know what you mean about Christmas fantasy vs. reality, too. Damn those movies and television shows!

  14. Anonymous7:18 PM

    Hee. I may be the only person alive who hates "It's a Wonderful Life" but god help me, I do.

    We usually put up our tree while drinking wine and watching Monty Python's The Life of Brian, but this year, we listened to Sufjan Stevens' christmas CD instead. I highly recommend.

  15. Ooh, I just blogged about MY digestive system... Jess, we are sooooo on TRACK with one another, get it, digestive track... heee hee... pour me one of those pancake-batter shots and quitcherbitchin'!!!

    Love ya!

  16. Just read the comments. I think a Tom and Jerry is a blended up cat and mouse... ?

    And hey, don't fret about your tree--it's lovely. It's fairly pathetic when you have three children ages 5, 7 and 9 who beg you for weeks to put up the freakin' tree, and so when we do start, ten minutes later all three of the bastards desert me to go play outside in the snow, while the husband bastard moves to the couch to watch football.

    Bah-freakin'-humbug over at Manic's.

  17. Jess,

    Tom and Jerry? What's that? BTW, you have the nerve to put up a Christmas tree already? On behalf of all the other Scrooges in the world, I say, SHAME ON YOU! :-)


  18. I like your tree...I'm not into themes either. ;)

    Donna Reed...this is the part where she says, "Gearge, WHY must you torture the children?" God, I love that movie. Not least because it's the first movie my husband and I ever watched together. Nice kisses on my living room sofa. Sigh.

    But for the person who watches Life of Brian while putting up their tree? Rock on, what a great idea! What better way to honor Jesus than a parody of his life? Love it. And I gotta say, I'm thinking Jesus probably had a sense of humor, and would laugh along with us. :)

  19. Our tree decorating was marked with the sounds of the boys running through the house screaming and tackling each other, the cussing of my Mom as she put her hand through a glass ornament, and the taste of eight month old beer my Step Dad refused to pitch despite my warnings of "Born on dates." So... Yeah, I feel ya. :)

  20. Wait - there's a Hippo Christmas song??? (I know that this misses the ENTIRE point of your post, but really, for some of us this is exciting news!)

  21. Anonymous1:16 PM

    I'm brand-spankin' new to here, and flaming WOW that's some fun writing!

    I love your tree, mine has carried the same lights and hand-colored ornaments for 15 years. The only 'theme' is the 20 stuffed hearts that add some texture to the thing.

    And, I'm looking up Tom & Jerry too. What the hand-battered heck?

    /love me some egg nog
    //erect is good for a tree. Baby Jesus would approve.
    ///Of course I speak for him.

  22. Well your Christmas tree looks beautiful nonethless!

  23. If you really want to get in the spirit of "Its a Wonderful Life", i think you should decorate your tree only in black and white. :)

  24. Trish Ryan: The hippo song is cute and annoying all at the same time:
    "I want a hippopotomus for Christmasssss
    Only a hippopotomus will dooooo...."

  25. Anonymous11:58 PM

    Your Tom & Jerry could have been worse. It could have been tequila, or cooking sherry, or Nyquil, or…

  26. Anonymous1:35 AM

    a themed tree is so better homes and garden. i'm soo not that put together. throw some crap up and call it day, that's my theme.

  27. Love your tree. My is a total mess with my kids helping, but at least they helped. I'm tired of doing it all alone!!!