American Consequences - December 2017


By Matt Labash


passive-aggression, with an outside chance of violence. In other words, it’s about the people we spend Christmas with... family. Or as Alexander Pope called them, “the commonwealth of malignants.” When I think of these people – my tribe – I think of everything that is both wrong and righteous about this highest of holidays, which leads me to my saintly mother and the time she tried to decapitate my Uncle Carl with a King James Bible. It had been an uneventful Christmas. A family gathering with Crosby and Como on the hi-fi. Uncles and aunts and cousins lazing on the couch in tryptophanic catatonia. But out of nowhere, a theological conversation broke out – a no-go zone as dangerous as politics or comparative salary discussions. Despite both my mother and uncle growing up Catholic and then converting to evangelical Protestantism (or “Christianity,” as we say when ribbing our Catholic friends) as adults, Uncle Carl was experiencing a temporary crisis of faith. Or more than likely, he just wanted to make trouble. Like any good uncle, he was a professional ball-buster,

When I was a child, Christmas was all enchantment and mystery. ‘Twas Jesus’ all- you-can-eat birthday party, guest starring Santa, who’d show us the true Reason for the Season, which happened to be one- upmanship, when I rode my spanking-new Huffy Green Machine over to the house of my Jewish friends, the Rappaports, with their chess sets and dreidels and other sad little Hanukkah offerings. I’d learned in Vacation Bible School that they were God’s Chosen People. Based on their holiday booty, I had my doubts. In adulthood, Christmas took on a more selfless hue. Inviting friends over to sit around the Christmas tree and drink the pain away. Wearing the mistletoe belt buckle to the office Christmas party. And staying up until the wee hours on Christmas Eve, assembling impossible children’s toys with missing bolts and directions written in Mandarin – so that fat phantom beardo in red pajamas could walk away with all the credit. But when considering what binds most Christmases in memory, for me it’s all the foibles and eccentricities, dysfunction and

American Consequences | 73

Made with FlippingBook - Online catalogs