Behold the Drinkey Elves, brewing up a new year! But I’ll get to that. First of all:
Relief if it was done right. Relief if it all worked out. Relief if the family had no arguments, that the dog didn’t pull the roast off the table, that you laid down the law about no phones at the Christmas table and everyone complied and the kids didn’t grouse as though you had told them to reach around and pull a kidney through their skin.
Relief it’s over - and sadness, but the name you give that sadness, perhaps, is . . . relief.
Me, I had low expectations, and there just wasn’t much of a build-up. No snow - family drama - - daughter past the age when big boxes with pink pony palaces make the day. You want to know what i got? Sweaters. Slippers. About as middle-aged and old-time as these things get, but you know what I needed? Sweaters. Slippers. I would have been happy if I got a pipe and some socks.
It was modest and all the better for it. As I said later to Daughter: one of the good things about getting older is that you don’t feel that crushing emotion on Christmas afternoon: IT’S OVER. Partly because it isn’t: there’s still the family dinner with relatives, and they’ll bring their dog, and we’ll play Password -
Oh. About that. French Brother-in-Law’s mother comes this time of year, all the way from Fronce, and she speaks little English. By which I mean none. But my wife speaks French, and I can fake the pleasantries, and daughter is taking French, and niece speakers it, sister-in-law speaks it, so it’s not like she has to sit alone in a state of miserable incomprehension. But playing Password is hard when one of the teams is just speaking French, because whoever insists we hew to the rules (take a guess who that might be) is convinced that brother-in-law is rattling off a series of descriptive clues to his mother, perhaps because his hints have 27 syllables. If they were German that might work.
The game ended when we got a phone call from father-in-law’s bedside, where one of his grandchildren carried on the family tradition of reading the Wall Street Journal Christmas editorial. He heard and understood.
Now the Interstitial Week, where we wind down the sacred and kick up the secular, even though they’ve existed in rough equilibrium for the last few weeks. Santa: outta here. The holiday decorations are still apt, but the presence of Santa clangs. He’s before. He’s the symbol of anticipation. He’s come and gone. There aren’t any small elfin creatures preparing the Magic o the New Year behind the scenes, although you wish there were legends for that sort of thing. No? A completely different set of mythical quarter-sized genial creatures tasked with putting together the First Day of the Year, ordered around by an old man with a scythe. No, that’s too dark. Ordered around by a dumb baby wearing a sash with the date of the next annum! No. Perhaps they get their work orders from the Home Office without seeing the actual boss. They’re broken up into teams for each month. (The ones nearly retirement get February.) one year a novice elf makes a big mistake and the months have the wrong number of days, or perhaps he drops the mold they use to make January First.
You almost wish there were old legends about this, because it’s impossible to start any new ones. The tales we tell our children were handed down to us from the past, a distant place seen through a smudged window. If we passed of the New Year’s Elves as a tale with a long pedigree, they might believe for a while.
Then they'd grow up and Google it.
Now I will add a line to the top of this entry to explain the Bleat Banner. I chose that last month when i was laying out December, before i found last week’s Dismayed Husband in an early 1960s magazine. By the way: there will be a tonal shift in the visuals of this site next year, away from the late 40s and high 50s to the early 60s. Let me give you an example:
I’ve tried to find where this is, but I can’t pin it down. I mean, I know the landmarks, but their arrangement makes my head hurt. But: the car! The hat! The uniformed attendant! if someone said “this is 1959,” you’d think: end of a certain bygone time. But to say this is 1960: it still feels like the future. Odd, I know. But that’s what 2015 will be about.
If the elves make it in time! I hear there’s trouble at the factory! Oh no! Will they get the year together in time? Well, kids, what do you think?
In the meantime there's Boxing Day - the subject of today's newspaper column. Here you go.