My mother looks down from her spiritual post somewhere over the rainbow and shakes her head. “Oh for God’s sake! Yes, I’m dead. That’s a fact. But Christmas! Get off your asses and get to work! You’re all way behind! And somebody turn on the record player!”
The day after Thanksgiving. This is the time that the visiting family normally drapes across every available couch, chairs, inflatable beds and random cushions. Three TVs are all blaring in three different rooms. We discuss the success of the day before. The minimum twenty-five guest and almost as many dishes. We chew dreamily on starter leftovers of crescent rolls baked in the shape of a horn o’ plenty, herb butter, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing and green beans. Homemade cranberry sauce. And glazed eyes trained on our favorite Christmas movies. Elf, Rudolph, Christmas Vacation, White Christmas, Holiday Inn, Frosty The Snowman, Charlie Brown, All versions of a Miracle On 34th Street.
Later in the day, appetizers and homemade desserts come out of the refrigerator and another meal stars with dill dip and crab spreads and ends with pumpkin cheesecake, petit fours, Hello Dollies, cherry and pecan pies.
Our few Black Friday shoppers tap quietly across the web from their perches on mounds of assorted blankets and throws positioned on the floor. We no longer leave the house on that day.
Many years ago it was known simply as The Day After Thanksgiving. My sisters and mother would wrap all the kids in strollers and cruise the crowded (but not overflowing) mall for bargains and shove ourselves into Bennigans or Ruby Tuesdays for a special lunch. That was back when it was still safe to bargain hunt on a day not yet named Black Friday.
When the sun sets, the real food finally makes the way to the middle of the room. Wonder Bread, mayo, white meat turkey and the REAL cranberry sauce – the kind you have to coax out of a can. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (both Karloff and Carrey versions), 8 Crazy Nights, It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and Bill Murray in Scrooged.
Full dark outside. The channels change to Jack Frost (the snowman serial killer version), Black Christmas and the remake of Black Christmas. Network holiday specials are interspersed with Malcolm McDowell as a killer cop dressed in a bloody St. Nick suit and Malcolm McDowell as a killer barber dressed up in a barber suit. We do love our seasonal malfeasance. We break out the Christmas music because we’ve seen all of these movies scores of times. My Dad once watched the National Lampoon Christmas Vacation Marathon on AMC all day long on December 25th – and because he kept dozing off – he thought it was a mini-series.
Black Friday ends in the wee hours of Saturday around huge bowls of popcorn as we all come together in one room to watchBad Santa, a movie about almost every man any of us older chicks ever dated in our younger years.
November 28, 2014
Yesterday was a small, intimate success. I invited less people than any year prior because I needed to ease into the move, the job and the holidays. A short marathon of serving, eating and visiting served off a buffet crafted from U-Haul boxes and cheery tablecloths.
The kid came home and Sissy flew in from Boston. My nieces begged off so they could budget for the Christmas trip home. We learned a hard lesson last year losing Mom but were lucky in the end because it was actually a year everyone made it. I doubt anyone will ever miss another holiday. Just in case. We did stay up late talking and laughing but we didn’t kick off the Annual Playlist. And it didn’t seem like the time anyway.
From The 1960′s On
Music was always a part of every holiday from the time I attempted to carry a tune as a toddler. I couldn’t carry one, but God knows I tried. Mom had a console crammed with records from Bing Crosby to Brenda Lee that kept us rockin’ around the Christmas tree from Halloween until Valentine’s Day. I believe I have told you, Gentle Readers, of Poppy’s love of his four foot cracked concrete Santa and wooden reindeer catapulted him into more than one neighborhood brawl when he refused to take them down and store them until the spring thaw. I am convinced that the advent of homeowner’s associations grew from the duration of my grandfather’s holiday displays.
Even before Doctor Demento and Weird Al Yankovic, there was a wacky bandleader named Spike Jones who specialized in outlandish parodies of popular songs. Every tune was punctuated with cowbells, gunshots, whistles and a whole team of crazy voices he called The City Slickers. We always loved these songs the best. There’s just no better way to pay homage to a favorite holiday than to parody it.
Our Christmas soundtrack began with Spike and continues through Allan Sherman in the sixties, Cheech and Chong in the seventies and beyond. Every song has an element of someone or something that has happened in our family. So in Mom’s honor, this is a different kind of blog today.
December 12, 2014
I know in my heart she’s wringing her hands and nervously asking, “Why aren’t they playing any Christmas music yet?”
When no one answers, “I certainly hope that a little thing like me dying is not going to keep YOU PEOPLE from plowing straight ahead into the holiday by over-spending, cooking too much food and at least a few of you getting into a good ol’ Irish brawl over something that happened so long ago – it probably didn’t even happen in OUR family. After all, it is Christmas!”
From the people who manage to turn every holiday function in dysfunction…we offer up some unusual holiday tunes that can shore you up any Bah Humbug naysayer before the big day.
“Post the Christmas Eve song first!” Mom insists.
“Awww, geez Mum. It kinda feels disrespectful after what happened last year. People will talk.”
“Oh, me passing away, you mean? And since when have you ever been concerned with people talking?”
Know this when you eventually lose your own mother. They never change, even after they’re gone.
“WE love that song,” Mom says firmly. “Or we could just post about that time in the Target parking lot when that woman came up to you and asked if you were dating her husband and you had the audacity to say, ‘I dunno, lady. What’s his name?’”
Damn, Mum. “I think the point was that she had the wrong person!”
Mom shakes her head. “I do NOT think that was the point!”
OK, so here we go. I guess it’s all right to post this song because no matter how bad it gets, with any luck at all it won’t be as bad as last year. And I simply cannot let her tell any more stories!
A Bad Christmas Eve, Sha-Na-Na.
“See,” my mother says. “Don’t you feel better already? I know I do!”
Ya. No. I don’t.
“Mum, it just doesn’t seem the same. Every song I hear reminds me of you and you are not here any more. It all seems pointless.”
Mom snorts in that way only your mother can pull off. “That’s the Greek in you. Everything is a big drama. My mother died and I kept going. Didn’t Kellie tell you to stop milking that dead mother thing?”
Geez, things sure are harsh in the afterlife.
“I’m not milking it! I miss you, Mum. I really do. I don’t feel like doing this right now.”
My mother purses her lips. “I guess I’ll just have to do it myself. That’s the only way anything ever gets done in this family. Ladies and gentleman of this blog, here is your Keratsis Family Playlist. If you’re looking for that Bruce Springsteen, Adam Sandler or trendy new hits – you’ve got the wrong family. I bet you’ve never heard of most of these tunes!”
For Sissy, Sandy Claw, Joseph Spence
For Dad, You Ain’t Getting Shit For Christmas, Red Peters
For Poppy, Rusty Chevrolet, Da Yoopers
For Poppy, Somebody Stole My Santa Claus Suit, Christmas Jug Band
For Nicole, ‘Zat You, Santy Claus? Louis Armstrong
For My Kid & His Cousin Baby J, Nuttin’ For Christmas, Smashmouth
For Nana, From A Nice New England Boy ~ Merry Fuckin’ Christmas
For Gale, Joining This Family, The 12 Pains Of Christmas Are Us!
For The Boys, Police Got My Car, Cheech & Chong
For Various Old Friends, Christmas In Jail, Asleep At The Wheel
For Anyone Who Needs To Be Comatose During The Holidays, It’s Christmas And I Wonder Where I Am
For We The Irish (That Means you Too, Dina) Irish Lullaby
And E.K.? This Clip Reminds Us All Of Her, Every Year.
Thanks for getting that done for me, Mum. I wanted to get some music out there and get the family moving forward.
This One Is For You…
So, my tribal members, let’s try to get ready for a Merry little Christmas. The fates says they do allow.
This message, if you can believe it, has been approved by Mom.
And here’s one my grandfather wants to send out to all of you, because he thinks it’s hilarious and wanted every day to end on the upswing. He played so often that Nana asked for a new baseball bat for Christmas so she could kill him.
She never got one.
Three Nice Jewish Boys Getting In On Christmas
Author’s Note: Got a funny old holiday song? Post the link in the comment section!