Ham Is Mandatory, Cheer Is Optional

The presence of holiday stress is debatable until they make you wear a antlers.

We drove into the mouth of the beast, sure of our destination, but not entirely confident that we would return unscathed. Armed with cash and coupons, our bellies full of chicken nuggets and French fries, we felt prepared for our mission: to get a Honeybaked ham, while away a little time in World Market, and maybe fit in a side trip or two to some other shops we like. Three days before Christmas, the frenzy is in full swing, and we are loathe to become a part of it, but that ham . . .

We had received an extra Honeybaked ham coupon in the mail, and we’ve been trying to find someone who would use it. Finally, it occurred to us that we could just give it to someone in the store, so as we waited in line, I turned to a man behind us and asked if he was buying a ham. He answered “yes,” so I offered him the coupon. I thought he was unsure the coupon was real, but Chris thought he was just putting on a cool facade as he took the coupon and said “I guess I could do that.” In return for the good deed, we got a terrifically friendly clerk who picked out the perfect ham for us.

What we noticed, as we meandered through World Market, was the intensity of the shoppers around us. It seems that finding Christmas cheer is very serious business, indeed. There is such a thing as a “holiday scowl” and I saw it a lot today. A smile in return will net a blank stare and then turn back to the scowl—what could one possibly be smiling about in the marzipan aisle? Marzipan! I note, excitedly. Marzipan and chocolate and teas from around the world and real shortcake and stollen and oddities that I never see in New Richmond; that’s why I’m grinning like the king’s favorite fool.

The hoards coming out of the liquor store were no more cheerful, despite carts filled to the top with bottles of cheer. They complained about parking, and traffic, prices, and people. They’re probably right; the parking lot is filled with people who don’t seem to know how to drive, the prices are as awful as ever, and, yes, every store is crowded with shoppers . . . except Hobby Lobby, which was our next stop.

Chris wanted to look at classic car models and I just wanted to look. Here, the shoppers were more contemplative, studying the juxtaposition of colors and textures of scrapbooking papers. Gazing with longing at the high end art supplies, choosing bottles of paints and dyes with deliberate care. The music was simple muzac, as opposed to the obligatory Christmas tunes of World Market. It was nice.

In our vehicle, with our ham and our treats, we made sure to follow the advice of the ranting fellow we had passed on our way to Hobby Lobby and did not “go the wrong fecking way” up the aisle. Out in traffic, Chris stopped at a driveway and waved six or seven cars through before proceeding (we all made the green light at the intersection—Karma is pretty cool).

We’re home, safe and warm now. We had a good day, some great laughs, and found a few things we didn’t know we were looking for. It’s Christmastime and I guess the cheer is optional and perhaps elusive. Still, I hope it finds you and I hope you find it right back.