Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Letter 2004


Two weeks before Thanksgiving the holiday decor schussed into Starbucks. Like the Mouse King vs. the Nutcracker, the Tuscany yellow colored walls battle with the cranberry red and tinsel silver of Starbucks’ Holiday Look. The tall centerpieces on the display tables, made of shiny metallic paper cones and silver spangles are vaguely tree shaped and look tacky. Trashy. The usual non-descript everyday cardboard cups offering stupid drivel of life advice have been replaced with a deep crimson holiday one sporting a cute sketch of a man and boy working together to put up a tangle of holiday lights. “It Only Happens ONCE a Year” it says. I think this is supposed to be encouraging.

Even though, at home, we are not yet dealing with Thanksgiving leftovers and dirty dishes, here Christmas tunes are playing in the background, as if to herald in these garish Christmas decorations. Faint staccatos of cinnamon dance through the typical peppery coffee aroma. Any sign of baby Jesus is conspicuously absent from all the d├ęcor and holiday gifts. Likewise, there are no Stars of David. No green trees. No gold stars. No white doves. It seems commercialism can’t afford to recognize the true meaning of the holidays. This makes me slightly sad. But mostly I am disgustedly amused. I’m certain this whole holiday campaign has been planned for at least ten months. Probably as soon as last year’s last post Christmas holiday sale items were boxed up and sent to some African country, the Starbucks visionaries got together and looked at several benign holiday campaign ideas to select this year’s winner. This year’s attempt looks oddly familiar to last. Which itself looked like the year before that. There is only so much you can do with crimson red, white and silver. It all starts to look the same. Now, if they would throw in some pine boughs, some golden stars, some brightly wrapped gifts: decorations as colorful and varied as the lives of these customers that come here and they might just knock me into the Christmas mood. These people, standing in line in peppermint-mocha daze, craving the wake up that only an espresso fix can give, are showered with snowflakes of holiday stress that this new seasonal Starbuck’s decor has released; depression dancing into their subconscious like the Sugar Plum Fairy.

In Starbucks I see couples and sense a triple shot of tension between some. I remember that. How we would load into the Subaru always saying “next year we should go to the mountains and cut our own.” Son would be sulking. Though he said it was because he’d rather be doing something else, I suspect it is the same reason that my heart was also sulking. I knew that with the Christmas tree would come a day of cussing: help would be hard to find at the tree lot; carrying the tree to and tying on the car would have husband and son barking at each other; the stand wouldn’t fit right; the tree would be unacceptably crooked; the poor dog would get yelled at by husband as she got in the way in the excitement; the decorations weren’t put away right last year; the light strings are tangled and only half work. I do not miss that.

This year son and I got our tree up and decorated the day after Thanksgiving. As we pull the box with our take-apart fold-down pre-lit fake tree (no floss, no tinsel, thank you very much) out of the cardboard box that has been stashed in the basement of our rental, son laughs and calls us “trailer trash” because we have a fake tree which makes me laugh because there is no tree crisis, no day of swearing and moodiness though I used to vow that I’d never have a fake tree or use Presto Logs instead of real wood which are two fabulous changes in my newly single life. Make that a cup of seveneleven coffee trailer trash, please. Stained cardboard cup. Just black. No room.

Here at Starbucks, the Christmas gift packs are expensively assembled. They will be snatched up by the last minute gift shoppers who have to bring something for their seasonal catching up with friends or in return for some small gift somebody unexpectedly gave them. I know this because this is when I buy Starbucks overpriced gifts.

This year Christmas shopping is fun. No frustrating effort in going out with my uncommunicative husband who only whines about the parking and the crowds and how we should have a list. No exhaustive efforts on a mother-in-law who doesn’t like me. No obsessive shopping for careful selection of a special gift for my husband which he will store unused for years on his dresser, claiming he likes it but still wont use it and doesn’t want to return it but wont use it or donate it to a good cause. No, this year our shopping is fun. Son and I spend more than our limit selecting CD players, basketballs, footballs and make-up kits for needy teens. Son asks with worry if we have enough. I say, for trailer trash we are doing OK.

Coming home from shopping, we stop at Starbucks. Son is not as bothered as I by the garish colors and lack of Christmas in the decoration. He thinks I am being silly. He tells me that for trailer trash I sure am opinionated. I am OK with this. We pull into our driveway, crimson cups of Starbucks’ hot chocolate in our hands, reminding us that “It only happens ONCE a year.” Our trailer trash tree looks beautiful, all lit up in the corner window. This has been a peppermint mocha moment. With whip cream.
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Just cleaning up and found the 2004 Chrismas letter. Picture from Palermo (Sicily) Opera House, 2007. I want to go to Cappucino class in Italy and learn how to make designs in my foam!

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