AW Blog Chain — December — “Backdated”

This month’s theme is:

Home for the Holidays (not associated with the real Holiday).

This one is broad: write about a holiday memory. It can be fiction or non-fiction, and the choice of holiday is yours (fictional holidays are okay too).

I was preceded in the chain by LilGreenBookworm and will be followed by Cath.  A complete list of the bloggers concludes my post.

*************

I thought I’d try a little fiction.  The picture of Santa I shamelessly stole from Absolute Write because it made me laugh.

Backdated

I wanted to give my man the gift of time for Christmas, a do-over supply, but I didn’t know where or how to procure it.

Betting the master of gift-giving himself would know, I wrote him a letter:

“Dear Santa,

This past year, my husband has been exceptionally good to me and the kids, and I’d like to give him the ultimate gift of more time.  His thoughtfulness and ability to say just the right thing during difficult moments have made me truly thankful he’s in my life.  No gift is too special for him.  I hope you can help steer me in the right direction.

Yours truly, Susan.”

Sadly he responded with this:

“Dear Susan,

Thank you for your letter.  We are working diligently to address everyone’s wishes and will respond personally as soon as we are able.  Requests are fulfilled in the order in which they are received, but as always we guarantee delivery by Christmas. If you can’t wait, might we suggest a foot massager?

Sincerely, Santa”

Santa sent form letters?  A foot massager?  No, no, that would never do and, ironically, I didn’t have time to wait on him despite his guarantee.  Disappointed, I turned to Apple figuring if anyone could package time in a commercially viable manner, those guys would be the ones to do it.

I emailed them several times, but they never wrote back.

Why was my request such a tall order?  Surely someone could create a means to cram a little extra time into my husband’s day.

While watching television, I had a new idea.

I jumped in my car and sped to Staples.  I searched up and down the aisles for what I sought until finally an employee came to my aid.  He was an older man with a shaggy white beard, and wore a red tartan flannel shirt under his Staples vest.

“Can I help you find something, Miss?”

“The Easy button.  Where is it?” I scanned the racks on either side of me.

The old man chuckled.  “Why, you’re looking at it.  I’m the Easy button. All you need to do is push me.”  He laughed again.

Great. That was all I needed for Christmas.  A pervert.

“Okay then. I…uh…I don’t think–”

The old man held his palms up in apology.  “Calm down.  I’m only kidding.  Bad joke.”  One hand shaped itself into a single index finger that he pointed at me.  “If you’ll come this way, please, I’ll take you to what you need.”  He turned and started walking away.

Glancing around,  I saw several other customers and employees milling about, so it wasn’t like he could spring some dangerous crazy on me and go unnoticed.  I skipped my first few steps to catch up.

He led me to the rubber stamps and receipt books section.  “I believe this is what you were looking for isn’t it?”  A gnarled finger pointed to an adjustable date stamp, its box ratty and torn.  “A backdater.”  Two arctic caterpillars that passed for eyebrows arched as he gazed at me.

My mouth hung open for a second as I puzzled how a date stamp was the Easy button.  “How does it….  Do I push it?”

The old man clasped his hands around his belly and chuckled.  “After you change the date you do.”

What in the world was he talking about?  “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand.”  I picked up the box. It had obviously been used and returned.  Tape secured its top and bottom.  The picture of the stamp on the exterior had faded, giving it an antique look.  “This is the Easy button?”

The employee chuckled again and took the box from my hands.  He whipped out a pocketknife he used to slice open the top flap and remove the contents.  It looked like a regular date stamp that offices used.  “You don’t need the Easy button, Miss, you need an easy way to give the gift of time.  Am I right?”

I gasped.  “Yes! That’s right. But how did you–”

“Know what you needed?” He cocked his head toward me, a mischievous glint in his eyes.

“Uh…well, yes.”

The old man grinned.  “I told you.  I’m the Easy button. But never mind that. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

I looked at the stamp.  I looked at the old man, whose vest I then noticed bore a tag proclaiming his name to be “Kris Easy”, then back at the stamp. “Could you tell me how it works?”

Mr. Easy patiently explained that to capture additional time, all a person needed to do was change the date to a past date. I glanced at the stamp and marveled that it reflected the current date.

I turned the dials back one day.  “So I’d be backdating my life to yesterday if I stamped this somewhere?”  I held it up to show him, squeezing the mechanism in my fingers to flip the rubber date from its self-inking pad into its stamping position.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you!” Kris exclaimed reaching for the stamp.

Before he could touch it, all the colors around me swirled and blurred in a dizzying array for a split second.

“May I help you find something, Miss?” Kris asked.  His tartan flannel shirt had changed from red to green.

Eyes wide, I consulted my wristwatch.  I had entered the store on Tuesday, December 20th, but my watch showed 12-19.  “What day is today?”

“Monday the nineteenth.” Kris pursed his lips and cast his eyes down to the object in my hands.  “Oh, I see.  You used the backdater.”

“How much for it?” I asked.

“How much would be too much?”

“Fifty bucks?”

“Then I’ll sell it to you for forty-nine,” he said, a huge grin on his face.

***

One day later…

“Dear Santa,

I know it’s not polite to return gifts, but I had to return the backdater you helped me purchase for my husband yesterday.  While testing it out before wrapping it, revisiting what I thought were joyous occasions in our marriage, I discovered he already had one and had been rewinding time to manipulate events to his advantage. Since then we’ve both been rewinding and rehashing time for what feels like decades to us.  We’re both miserable.  I returned the backdater I bought with your assistance at Staples (I know you were Kris Easy, by the way, your disguise wasn’t all that effective), well within their return policy window.  We learned the hard way that time indeed does heal all wounds, but if it never passes, those wounds never heal.

Yours truly, Susan

P.S.  A foot massager would be lovely.  Thank you.”

The End.
A Picture of an Staples, Inc. easy button

The complete December chain of bloggers follows:

orion_mk3 – http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com (link to this month’s post)
Ralph Pines – http://ralfast.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
pyrosama – http://matrix-hole.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
AbielleRose – http://stainedglassinthenight.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
writingismypassion – http://charityfaye.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
Domoviye – http://lets-get-happy.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
Areteus – http://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
Alynza – http://www.alynzasmith.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
SuzanneSeese – http://www.viewofsue.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
robeiae – http://thepondsofhappenstance.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
MamaStrong – http://inamamasworld.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
kimberlycreates – http://www.kimberlycreates.com/ (link to this month’s post)
darnzen – http://writelydone.com/blogs/darnzen (link to this month’s post)
LilGreenBookworm – http://themayhemofwritingsahm-style.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
AuburnAssassin -YOU ARE HERE
Cath – http://blog.cathsmith.com/ (link to this month’s post)
Diana Rajchel – http://blog.dianarajchel.com/ (link to this month’s post)
SinisterCola – http://acgatesblog.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)

Bah, Humbug. The Lazy Cheapskate’s Guide to Christmas

English: Cartoon of George C. Scott as 'Scroog...

As I age, some joys really start to lose their luster.  Christmas is a prime example.  When I was a child, I thought I’d lose my mind waiting for what seemed an ETERNITY for Christmas to arrive. But arrive it always did and with it came immense riches and happiness as only a materialistic child can understand.

Those days are long gone.  Christmas, I’m ashamed to say, has become a polite nicety, a chore, not a heartfelt celebration.  It parades in like the only trophy wife in a neighborhood of middle aged first wives to the whispers of “tsk-tsk, didn’t he just get divorced? It’s way too soon for this.” You dismiss it / her under your breath so many times until one day you realize everyone else is partying with the new wife while you’re still working up the nerve to say hello at the mailbox.

OMG! Christmas is less than two weeks away!!

As a Christian, I know it’s supposed to be about celebrating the birth of a pretty special guy, but that sentiment is too easily bombarded into afterthought by the to-do list.  I have good intentions, but every year the execution against those intentions slips a little further.  Behold how my Christmas To-Do list has unfolded so far:

1.  Start Advent Calendar and update daily —

I hung it with 14 days remaining (a feat I accomplished with an incredible burst of initiative).  Five days later it still says there are 14 days remaining.  Alas pretending I have two weeks every day has failed to catch on with the rest of the world, though I’m sure the merchants would love to accommodate me.

2.  Light the exterior of the house and decorate yard with deer, signs, candles, luminarias, etc. —

No lights, they’re too tangled to string up.  The luminarias are in a box, I know not where and don’t have the energy to hunt for.  The glittery golden candles are propped up against the front porch but not yet plugged in.  The flame on one is sagging to the side like a botched beheading.  Though the automated light up doe stopped grazing a few years ago, she could still strike quite the seductive pose. Alas her mate kicked the bucket and we packed him off to the dump last year.  This year, we discovered Bambi couldn’t go on without Bucky.  She sits in heap of useless wire waiting for the next garbage pickup.  Go into the light, Bambi.  Bucky awaits you.

3.  Hang wreath on door —

I purchased what I thought was a wreath from one of my employee’s kids for her Girl Scout troop’s fundraiser, but it turned out to be a potted poinsettia. I’m not quite sure how I thought I’d hang a poinsettia on the door when I made my purchase well before Thanksgiving.  A fake wreath I made nearly 20 years ago from grape vine stalks, ribbons and mesh bows all purchased from Michaels and lovingly crafted into a work of giddy newlywed art, now graces our front door, the bows crushed, the ribbon unwrapping and the vines unbraiding in a few spots.

4.  Put up Christmas tree —

I live in the Pacific NW where evergreen trees and U-Cuts are as plentiful as Black Friday sale inserts in the Thanksgiving day newspaper.  Yet fresh trees are still ridiculously expensive, not to mention fire hazards.  We bought a fake one over ten years ago, but it’s starting to show its age.  The pre-attached lights are partially burnt out.  I’ve hung ornaments on the parts that only the family can see.  To bypassers on our street, the tree looks bare, but I’ve more than compensated by loading down the other parts with non-breakable generic ornaments I bought when I got tired of boxing and unboxing my Hallmark Keepsake ornaments about 6 years ago.  One day the Hallmark keepsakes will be heirlooms and my kids will thank me for keeping them so pristine (Okay, maybe the boxes are all a little crushed).

5.  Hang stockings (by the chimney with care, yadda, yadda) —

One stocking is in the bottom of a laundry basket from when I found it in the youngest kid’s room eight months ago with the yucky candy still inside. The stocking hangers are in the china cabinet, one barely holding together with superglue to the point to where I’m afraid to remove it. We’ll probably skip stockings this year.

6.  Bake Christmas treats —

One Costco sized box of Chex cereal –corn, rice and wheat–sacrificed for puppy chow and Chex mix, all devoured within two days.  One tube of Pillsbury gingerbread dough sits half used in my refrigerator. I normally hate pre-made cookie dough with a passion, but my kids don’t care and neither the Silverback nor I need the calories or sugar.

7.  Mail Christmas cards with letter, all hand signed with a short personal note in each —

I’m not going to kid anyone here.  It didn’t happen last year, and probably won’t happen this year either. Maybe I’ll use my Hallmark e-card subscription to post cards on everyone’s Facebook accounts or send to their email addresses.  Better for the environment, right?

8.  Shop for Christmas presents for family members who live far, far away  —

We’ve been drawing names on both sides of the Silverback’s and my family for years now.  You’d think we’d simplified it as far as it could go.  Apparently not.  Check out the email exchange between my sister and I, paraphrased for brevity:

Me:  I’m out of time.  What do you and yours want for Christmas?  I need to know within like ten minutes.  Go!

Sis:  Hubby and I both have Kindles now so Amazon gift cards for us and either Target or Walmart or Game Stop gift cards for each of our kids.

Me:  Oh good, that’s what my kids want too.  Mom’s already covered the Walmart gift card for my kids so cross that store off your list.  Target or Game Stop is perfect.

Sis:  Well then, why don’t you buy the gift cards for your kids and I’ll buy the cards for my kids and we’ll just wrap and sign on the other’s behalf.  You can PayPal me for the difference since I have 3 kids to your 2.

Me:  Done!

Used to be we ordered online and had the merchants ship directly to the recipient with the understanding that the parent of the recipient would wrap and tag the gift for the giver. That way we didn’t waste money paying for gift-wrapping or double-shipping.  The gift card will soon put Santa out of business.  Sad but true and a fact the Silverback hates with a passion, but is yet another example of where the spirit of giving has morphed into the spirit of maximizing recipient value and minimizing shopping hassle.

9.  Wrap all presents from Santa and hide where I will remember them —

I’m still finding ghosts of Christmases past so I can probably call it good, sort of like digging change out of the sofa.

10.  Buy stocking stuffer candy–

You don’t know how tempted I am to wait until 12/26 to buy all the half-priced candy.  I think I’ll buy everyone one small candy for Christmas day and that’s it.  We don’t have any stockings to fill anyway and none of us need all that sugar. (See 5. above)

All pretty depressing isn’t it?  Christmas should not be this way.

See, in my heart, I still believe in Christmas and rather than dragging through the motions in a half-assed way, I’d rather plan for a few activities we can all look forward to. Better to enjoy a pauper’s Christmas than gut through a glutton’s plastic facsimile.  After all, Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger, pretty low rent and low fuss.  There were no lights, no trees, no baked goodies, no gift-wrapped presents, no stockings, no cards, no trite Christmas specials about Santa Claus I’ve seen so many times my eyeballs hurt.  Only the blessed birth of the Christ child and the hope he represented.  Recapturing that same childlike hope of my youth is not something I can buy, not anymore. I’m going to have to start from scratch I think.

So…my goal is to take back Christmas next year, to wrestle it away from the gimlet-eyed merchants, to thumb my nose at the Jones’s who put their decorations up earlier and earlier each year (if they take them down at all), to eliminate the chore-like quality I’ve come to associate with Christmas, and to substitute only that which that restores my sense of hope. Because that, my friends, is the real spirit of Christmas.