Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's Not Christmas Until the Grocery Store Sound System Says So

It was the Friday after Thanksgiving. Black Friday. Retail Friday. Start the Diet Friday. Whatever you want to call it. Two-year old Son and I were at the grocery store, buying something, anything, that wasn't turkey or mashed potatoes.

Son was not in a helpful mood. He was dilly-dallying in front of the iced fish section, fingering the carp. He was banging a wooden spoon on the bars of the Pirates of the Caribbean Jack Sparrow Cookie display. He was rearranging the Jesus candles in the Hispanic food aisle. He was not listening to me at all.

"Son? Son? Over here. We need to get coffee. It's down here. Son? Put that down. Please put that down. It's salt. We have plenty of salt at home. Just put it, would you please put it…? Where are you going? This way! Over here! The coffee!!!"

I was trying to remain a calm, collected, sane parent. The Good Parent. But The Bad Parent was threatening my psyche. I should just pick Son up and buckle him into the seat. He will scream. He will cry. He will kick. He will Go Boneless (Thank you Mo Willems). But I will shop.

When Son began dumping various bags of Lays chips into the aisle, Bad Parent won out. I reached down at this innocent, happy child, flushed with the intent to ruin his morning so I could get out of here before Dusk. But then he turned and looked up at me, smiling.


I blinked. I choked up.

I ignored the moment and picked him up anyway.

But just before he began to scream, in that moment of uncertain stillness, I heard it. Over the intercom. Right there in the chips and salsa aisle.

The Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping."

My God. I haven't heard that song in years.

No. Not years. A year.

Last Christmas.

And it hit me. It's Christmas Season. Time to be nice to everyone. Time to enjoy a better world. Time to give things to people. Time to feel bad for not being poor.

I put down Son, who hadn't yet devolved into hysterics. He laughed, threw some more chips into the aisle, and ran off.

And I followed him, already in an immensely better mood. Who cares if Son's antics will keep me in this store long past the expiration date on the milk? It's Christmas!

Son isn't being an obnoxious two-year old. He's the joy of Christmas incarnate. Everyone else looks at him and smiles, remembering their own childhoods, or thankful that their own children are well past this stage. The people working the store don't mind the mess he's making. It gives them something to do besides roaming aimlessly up and down the aisle, avoiding customers.

And all because they're piping in Christmas music.

Christmas Wrapping ended and just like that, George Michael and That Other Guy were singing "Last Christmas" which, by the way, is a really lame song and has about four words in it aside from the chorus.

But it's Christmas music, so it rocks the world from late November to New Year's Day.

Why does this music, infiltrating my brain non-stop for over a month, make me feel so happy? And why do I stop listening to it in January? Done right (meaning pretty much anything that isn't Clay Aiken), Christmas music can't help but get you feeling, well, jolly. I mean the entire year is sucky and filled with trials and tribulations and people who don't like you and bills and taxes and serial killers and stuff.

But not Christmas.

Christmas is filled with, well, lots of suicide. But aside from that, it's filled with goodness. Wholesome, family goodness. And the Barenaked Ladies singing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is the soundtrack to all this phenomenal happiness. If grocery stores, post offices, elevators, and gas stations played things like Alanis Morissette or Flo Rida Featuring T-Pain during December, the world would be a rotten place. Puppies would die.

So I say let Christmas ring! Give me Mariah Carey singing "All I Want For Christmas" in seven octaves. Give me Nat King Cole singing that damn Chestnut song for the googolplex-th time. Give me Dean Martin singing "Let it Snow." Give me John Lennon's "So This Is Christmas." Hell, give me T-Pimp & G-Whore singing "Christmas can @$#& my $+&}@* with a *$%&#@!"

As I said, pretty much anything but Clay Aiken.

I'm sure that, come January, I'll be so over this junk. But now is a time for optimism, peace, and Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.

As Band Aid asks so eloquently, "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

If they're in the grocery store, then yes. They do.