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?
Yes, Thanksgiving has passed. Though the holiday virus has infected my mental workings, I’m not out of touch with reality yet. After all, it’s only December 1.
No wonder my gas company turned off the heat. …
Back to the original subject. Every year we celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving. At Halloween, even. Yet, doesn’t Thanksgiving at Christmas make more sense than Black Friday? Let’s start a new trend! I’ll go first:
- I appreciate energetic individuals who decorate their homes with flair during Advent. Their stunning light displays delight my grandchildren without this all-thumbs grandma hammering a single thumb.
- Blessed are the procrastinators who, like me, have not removed pumpkins from their porches. The same people leave their Christmas lights up until July. You have no idea how you spread good cheer to me and others who will show up two months late for our own funerals.
- I’m also thankful for online Christmas shopping, as my grinchy feet have nixed walking marathons in malls and stores. What a boon for me and for others with cranky, uncooperative body parts; cranky, uncooperative children; or cranky, uncooperative spouses.
- Yet, I am thankful that my feet, in their more magnanimous moods, have allowed some shopping trips. Miss the opportunity to sing along with background carols? Never! Miss people-watching at the most interesting time of the year? Perish the thought!
- Nasty store clerks are legendary; yet yesterday, I encountered one who, amid coupon craziness, promised me the best deal possible — and delivered.
- On the receiving end of gift-giving, I am thankful my husband has developed excellent judgment in selecting presents. The past few decades, I have received nothing like one of his early gifts: a dried-blowfish lamp brought back from Florida.
- Nor have friends given me a Santa Yoda yard ornament or singing deer head. One friend, whose sister gave her a plunger-waving snowman that asks restroom guests what they’re doing, has never re-gifted me with him. For that I am deeply grateful.
- Also for commercials on TV that do not revolve around spending buckets of money for Christmas. Both of them.
- Finally, for my car clock that ignores the time change. While an initial glance at it strikes me with panic — “I’m an hour late!” — I savor the rush of relief when I realize I’m not.
Hubby threatens to change the clock. Sure, it gives a false sense of security. But it allows me to chill.
Oh, well. There’s still plenty of time to celebrate Thanksgiving this December.
With every “Merry Christmas!” I’ll remember and thank the One whose birthday it is.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How do you celebrate Thanksgiving at Christmas?