My Inner Scrooge

Tis the season to be jolly. Except I don’t feel the least bit jolly. All around me greens and reds light up the night, which arrives earlier each week. My favorite stores promise me great bargains if I shop with them. I won’t get there, though. In fact, if I had my druthers I wouldn’t leave my house until January. Well April, but that’s another story. However, when, out of necessity, I pull out of my driveway between Thanksgiving and Christmas I experience an agitation that is unique to this, the season in which I should be jolly.

First, there’s the traffic. It is exponentially worse in the weeks leading up to the holidays, and no time of day is immune. People must be taking long lunches to get their shopping done or sneaking out of work six hours early. Or not showing up at all. The other possibility is that there is an enormous amount of bottlenecking as people gaze at all the Santas’ and reindeer that decorate the side of the road. This I find particularly curious, since Santa, in my forty plus Christmases has not changed. Unlike the rest of us he refuses to age. You seen one Santa, you have seen them all!

I admire Santa’s ability to stay young almost as much as I admire his omniscience; that guy gets around! And while the inanimate Santas’ cause traffic; it is the live ones that cause me the most consternation, because they ask for money. And for me, this is the real problem with December; everyone seems to want a piece of me.

Take Borders Books, for example. Eleven months of the year it is my favorite haunt. But between Thanksgiving and Christmas Santa lurks at every check out counter. And in this case I am expected to be Santa. I buy a book for myself and I am asked to buy another one off of a cart for an underprivileged child. Fine. I am a sucker for kids and books. Then I go downstairs for my cup of Joe. There I am asked to buy a pound of coffee for a solider in Iraq. Ho-Ho-Ho! Or should I say No! No! No! The Barista doesn’t push it, but I feel compelled to explain.

“I donated a book upstairs,” I say. Somehow this explanation seems inadequate, because really, what does the military have to do with a kid who needs a book? So I continue. “My daughter’s school sent holiday cards to the soldiers,” I asserted. The underlying message of course being that my duty to the American Army is fulfilled.

Is my duty to the Salvation Army fulfilled? One wouldn’t think so, since every time I enter a supermarket Santa rings his bell for me to slip him a buck. I guess I should thank him, since in an effort to circumvent the shame that comes with avoiding eye contact each time I go for a gallon of milk, I simply shop less. My family may run out of bananas, but I steer clear of guilt. When I tried to go to a different supermarket, the guilt still pierced and I wanted to ask Santa, “Didn’t you get the memo from your colleague in Bedford? I gave over there! How about checking your list? I’m nice!”

None of this is to say that I embody another Christmas icon, Scrooge. I do give. I like to give. I did Toys for Tots. I gave Santa his buck. My kids gave up a night of Hanukah gifts, and we donated the money to children who need gifts in Israel. I did it all in the spirit of the season, too. And the season doesn’t stop on December 31st. I try to give all year. When I think about it in April or June I will send a check off to my favorite charity. When a friend asks for help in support of a worthy cause I will even give in September!

But between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I feel like Scrooge. I suppose I could carry around my cancelled checks as proof that I am charitable to show the Santas and the Baristas.  But what would I say to the person from the Lung Association who doesn’t get the hint that I am screening her calls? Well maybe she did get the hint, because she caught me off guard when at the unorthodox solicitation time of 8:15 AM last Monday morning, I answered the phone.

“We are not asking for money,” said the voice on the line.

“Well that’s good. Cause I already donated. If you wait, I can look up the date and amount for you.” I feel the need to prove my charitable nature during holiday season.

“No, we know you gave. We need you to ask your neighbors to donate. We will send you pre-printed envelopes which you can mail to them to solicit donations.”

At that moment I saw myself in a Santa suit standing on the cul de sac ringing a bell as my neighbors passed by. Then I saw myself as Scrooge visiting Christmas past and watching all the times I left Santa cold and empty handed.

I should really thank this lady, as she was presenting me with the opportunity to be Santa. But I went with Scrooge.

“I am not comfortable asking my neighbors for money,” was my tart reply.  And by the way I resent any call asking me for something at 8:15 AM when I need to get kids to school and a husband to work”

I hung up and screened my calls all day. I avoided the supermarkets and the toy stores. I may even do pea pod and stay home until the New Year. In short, I have decided to embrace my inner Scrooge. And once January hits, I will be Santa again.

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Published in: on December 17, 2010 at 3:34 am  Leave a Comment