O. M. G. !
Once upon a time, colleges didn’t evict students from dormitories three minutes after final exams. Back in the Dark Ages, Hubby and I stayed until the following Monday.
Eventually, some grinch discovered that supplying extra days’ heat for 30,000 students spoiled the university’s merry Christmas. College officials also realized that multitudes of sleep-deprived, de-brained students + 24-hour blocks of free time equaled … excitement.
In the early ’70s, though, they assumed we couldn’t wait to go home.
Sure, we’d missed our dogs.
If we’d hacked with colds, cough syrup and aspirin were blocks away instead of steps. We anticipated parents smearing us with love and Vicks® VapoRub®.
We’d languished without Mom’s cooking. Meals with fewer than 500 people might be nice. Plus, a refrigerator of free food would be at our disposal.
Free laundry, too! Mom might reintroduce us to clean clothes, as opposed to those sanctified by optimum time at the bottom of the hamper.
Add Christmas magic, and most students wanted to share the holidays with family.
Just not quite yet.
Having been chained to books, typewriters and labs, we needed to celebrate. Even our nondrinking Bible study required a two-day party.
We snarfed Christmas cookies by the bucket and played Monopoly all night. Only one guy owned a car, but 13 of us jammed into it, rolled down windows, and sang Christmas carols at the top of our flattened lungs. At stoplights, we emptied the car with Chinese fire drills.
Who needed sleep?
Besides, we comrades in the trenches of academia soon would part. For couples, December and January stretched like a forever, empty tundra.
During that long-hair era, guys dreaded welcome-home haircuts. We girls combed bangs out of our eyes to please our moms.
We loved our parents. But they would expect us to talk to them. To hundreds of relatives. We’d repeat our majors and future plans a gazillion times. If we didn’t have any, we’d have to make them up, quick.
Worse, our families went to bed early. At the crack of dawn, they took showers and slammed doors so a normal person couldn’t get proper rest.
Parents would expect help with the dishes. Why not summon the fairies who had done that all semester?
Ditto for putting gas in the car. Whatever happened to “free”?
Sigh. How had we lived at home so long?
After a 48-hour party, though, a 10 o’clock bedtime didn’t sound so bad. Eating a nutrient or two might be nice.
With the arrival of a station wagon loaded with delighted smiles and hugs found nowhere else on earth — well, Christmas break might be worth the sacrifice, after all.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How did (do) you celebrate Christmas break?
Oh, my God, thank You for these poinsettias, sent weeks ago by friends whose wrapped gifts already grace their trees. The blooms have thrived at our house — though, OMG, I think they find us a little confusing.
Beware! Christmas aliens lurk in malls, mega-stores and parking lots.
Unlike gargantuan monsters on big and small screens who spit purple slime, these unearthly creatures can enter a Walmart without so much as a raised eyebrow.
Like the rest of the local gift-seeking population, they are tall, short, and various shapes, colors and sizes. They may wear jeans and hoodies or polyester pantsuits with Christmas teddy bears pinned to lapels.
Their appearance does not betray their presence. Instead, be on the lookout for suspicious shopping behaviors.
These extraterrestrials don’t aim laser cannons at shopping districts or vaporize Santa and his elves at tree lightings. Still, they could destroy holiday traditions cherished by our culture for decades.
- Christmas aliens are betrayed by their driving behavior. They stop at stoplights. Yes, really. Some even halt at stop signs. A few actually allow drivers trapped in wrong lanes to go first.
- Their parking lot behavior reveals even more sinister intentions. Instead of charging across the lot in a diagonal path, they drive in designated lanes.
- Despite plentiful targets at crosswalks, they do not accelerate. What kind of Christmas spirit is that?
- Some aliens skip convenient parking spaces, keeping them available for the elderly and expectant mothers.
- Having corralled not one, but two truant shopping carts, they may even look The Salvation Army bell ringer in the eye as they enter.
What would happen if the entire population exhibited similar dangerous behavior?
- They break the First Commandment of Christmas Shopping: Instead of inflicting shopping trips on spouses and children as a punishment, they try to make them fun.
- They also refrain from mugging store clerks when a size large or Baby Know-It-All can’t be found.
- They retrieve items from top shelves for the vertically challenged.
- They sing along with background Christmas Muzak. On key.
- They procure private places for cell phone discussions about purchasing the jingle-bell boxer shorts.
- They may even toss used paper towels into the restroom trash can instead of onto the floor.
- At checkout, they say please and thank you. And find they purchased more for others than themselves.
All these are strong indications that aliens have mounted a major assault on Christmas shopping traditions we hold so dear.
Worse yet, they enact these with a smile.
Everyone knows Christmas shopping and giving have nothing to do with smiling. After all, we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. God knows, He never smiled while lying in the manger. When He healed a dying little girl. Or, watched a lame grandpa dance without his crutch.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you encountered a Christmas alien lately?
Oh, my God, how wonderful that Jesus loved people, and they loved Him. He was and is a party Person. OMG, I’m glad, because we’re going to celebrate His birthday at four — count them, four — different parties this week alone!
Oh, my God, I’m so glad You gave Mary three whole months with Elizabeth, because pregnant women need to talk. They could gripe about morning sickness. They could compare the angels who’d stood on their doorsteps. They could talk about their babies. … OMG, while You were doing Your greatest Miracle, You wanted women to talk.
Me? I might wow observers, but for different reasons: my ratty bathrobe and jammies. What else would you expect of a grandma writer juggling Christmas?
What’s that? Your Creator made you to be strictly decorative?
I told my husband a similar story. A little tired of my ratty bathrobe, he didn’t think so.
However, when Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, met your ancestors in 1828, he brought several home. Before long, your forbearers became wildly popular.
Poinsie, how did you become an important floral symbol of Christmas? Not that the Bethlehem stable was landscaped with holly or mistletoe. Jesus probably didn’t even have a Christmas tree.
Does it make sense, though, that Americans celebrate a winter holiday with a tropical plant that hates the cold more than Midwestern snowbirds? If you had your choice, Poinsie, would you have stayed in Mexico, where you and your kin reach tree size?
I thought so. For a long time, you’ve lived out of your comfort zone. Still, you strut your colorful stuff every Christmas and brighten the holiday for us all.
Until one minute after midnight, December 26, when you wilt a little. A lot, actually.
Admittedly, we all wilt, and wrinkles eventually find us. But after one grand entrance during Christmas, you begin making demands. If I cherish any notion that you will bloom again, the light must be just so. The temperatures must be just so. At night, you like to be moved to a cooler area. I must ensure your beauty sleep in complete darkness from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. from October through December. Even headlights shining through shades can disturb your blooming.
You do remember, don’t you, Poinsie, why I keep pet plants instead of pet animals? Let me remind you: because plants don’t bark or lick. And they’re easier to care for.
I used to coddle fussy poinsettias. I lined windows with scraggly, leaf-shedding plants. I watered and fed. I plucked. I pampered. I encouraged.
But they wilted all the more
Finally, I tossed them all out behind the garage. Every. Single. One.
Now don’t you think you could act a little less fussy?
What do you mean, I could be less demanding, too? I don’t ask for much. Just my favorite snowman coffee mug with my brand of coffee. My solo bathroom. My schedule. My music. My hot-food fetish fulfilled, though I have to re-microwave my plate three times during supper.
Poinsie, you’re saying I should demand less?
Now, you’re just meddling. Flowers should be seen and not heard.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you had a heart-to-heart with a plant lately? Did it mess with your life, too?
Have you ever worked the night shift?
Years ago, I waitressed from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m. at a Denny’s Restaurant in Oregon.
I didn’t see angels.
As a nursing home aide, I sometimes drew night shifts around holidays. Ghosts wandered dim hallways, one hunting chickens to fry for threshing crews who had labored 60 years before.
I didn’t see angels.
As a young mother, I frequently drew the night shift. My babies wailed, slimed, puked, and worse.
No angels anywhere. I couldn’t even see my shift’s end.
I should have realized that millions throughout the ages have worked lonesome wee hours, too. Take Joseph, a first-century carpenter. When busy, practical Joseph worked night shifts, angels never appeared.
Not until his fiancée told him she was pregnant — and that God was her Child’s Father.
No amount of coffee could clear her head. Or his.
No cutesy cherub, that other-worldly being was so impressive that Joseph bucked family and culture. He married the girl who generated snickers wherever she went.
“What are you thinking, Joseph?” His friends rolled their eyes.
He wasn’t thinking. He was listening to an angel.
When the baby was born, did the shepherds’ arrival mean as much to Joseph as Mary?
For angels had invaded their night shift, too — a huge choir who lit up the sky like Vegas, singing about God’s peace and goodwill through Baby Jesus.
Their story convinced Joseph that Jesus was the Messiah. The stepfather continued to listen to angels.
Even when one instructed him to take his family to Egypt because a king wanted Jesus dead. Even when, after finally adjusting to their new life, an angel told Joseph to return to Israel.
All during night shift.
I rarely work overnight hours now, but Denny’s servers do. Nurses, doctors, and many others: stock clerks, factory workers and truck drivers.
Those caring for sick children and elderly parents.
Many who battle demons of loneliness and misery throughout the night shift.
Few expect to see angels.
But the Bethlehem angels’ song still echoes, announcing Jesus, God’s Gift who offers peace to everyone — especially those laboring in darkness. Those stuck with tough hours. Those who have drawn life’s short straws.
Our Extraordinary Ordinary: When the angels show up, will we listen?