Humor Non-Fiction posted November 8, 2015

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Scenes From A Marriage: Vol. 6

by Mark Valentine

I love Christmas, the season more so than the day. It’s been said before that, at least in my corner of the world, it’s the one time of year when we come closest to being the people we’re supposed to be. That being the case, I’m always eager to get the season started. The tree and the bulk of the decorations don’t go up until after Thanksgiving, mind you, but I start to phase it in about now – a little music, a snow globe or two on the bookcase. Maggie tends to be more rigid about the no-Christmas –until-after-Thanksgiving rule, and thus we often have exchanges like this:

Valentine living room, Mark is putting a few Christmas decorations on the bookcase

MAGGIE: Already?

MARK: What? It’s just a snowglobe.


MARK: Portraying the birth of our Lord.

MAGGIE: On November 7th.

MARK: I like to keep Christmas in my heart all year round, but that’s just me. You apparently have a different value system - that's Ok too. (yelling so that their son Dave, who is in his bedroom can hear). Hey Dave, do you have any posters of Satan in your room?

DAVE: No, why would I?

MARK: I don’t know, you’re into that heavy metal stuff. I thought those albums came with posters of Satan.

DAVE: There are no albums anymore Dad. Anyway, what do you want with a poster of Satan?

MARK: It’s not for me, it’s for mom.

MAGGIE: No, it’s not.

DAVE: Why does mom want a poster of Satan?

MARK: Because she hates Jesus.

MAGGIE: Your father is an idiot.

MARK: Pay no attention to her son, that’s the devil talking through her.

DAVE: Should we get an exorcist? I saw something about that on TV.

MARK: Yeah, google that will you? See how much they cost. Nothing over $50.

MAGGIE: You’re both idiots.

MARK: Hurry, it’s getting worse. (to Maggie) When did they stop making albums?

I remember our first Christmas as parents. Casey, our oldest, was born in December, and thus the idea that we were parents hadn’t fully sunk in as we decorated our small apartment. It seemed surreal to think that the stockings that said “Mom” and ”Dad” referred to us. It felt overwhelming that we could love something that much. Three years later, Maggie and I spent Christmas Eve in the emergency room with Casey’s little sister, who had just turned one. Turned out to be nothing serious, but we were there until well after midnight (Maggie’s parents watched Casey, who was asleep by the time we got home). Though she fully grasped the whole Christmas thing by age three, Casey’s first words upon waking up the next morning were not “Can we open presents now?”, but “How’s Mary Meg?” She wouldn’t go downstairs until she was assured that her little sister was OK. I still bring that up when Casey pretends that her little sister is an annoyance.

By the following year, David had arrived and our family was complete. Our Christmas Eve ritual involved going to five o’clock mass (and the concert that began at four), barbequeing when we got home (even if it meant shoveling a path to the grill), some family time, and then ushering the kids to bed. Once that was done Maggie and I would open a bottle of wine, put on “It’s A Wonderful Life”, and begin wrapping presents. The putting the kids to bed thing usually took several attempts before it took.

(Any Christmas Eve between 2001 and 2010)

MAGGIE: (shouting from downstairs to the kids above) I hear you up there. Go to bed!

MARK: Yeah, Santa is watching.

MAGGIE: (to Mark) Don’t threaten them with Santa.

MARK: Why not? I thought that was the whole point of Santa. When I was a kid, my mom would tell me that if I didn’t behave, Santa would kill my dog.

MAGGIE: She did not. She is a sweet woman.

MARK: Sure, when she’s sober. You didn’t know her back then. Every Christmas Eve she would beat us until we passed out. Ah, the magic of Christmas!

MAGGIE: I’m telling your mom you said that.

MARK: She’ll deny it. She doesn’t remember a lot from those days. You know, the alcohol and all. (shouting upstairs) Go to bed or I’ll beat you until you pass out!

(Laughter from upstairs)

MARK:  It worked better when my mom said it.

(Meanwhile, on the TV, the scene where Bert the cop shoots at a fleeing George Bailey is playing.)

MARK: Ah, those were the days. When a cop could shoot into a crowd on Christmas Eve and not have the press get all up in arms. Couldn’t do that today. They’d be all “Oh, police brutality. They tried to shoot an innocent man in the back while he was running away and put dozens of innocent lives in danger.”

MAGGIE: That darned liberal media!

(Mark begins to assemble a playhouse they have bought for the kids)

MAGGIE: Do you want the instructions?

MARK: Real men don’t need instructions.

MAGGIE: What about you?

MARK: Very funny. I’m very handy with tools you know.

MAGGIE: Of course you are. You’re a throwback to an earlier generation with your tools and your fedora.

MARK: Damn straight.

MAGGIE: Just thought that the instructions might speed things up a bit.

MARK: I am a man.

MAGGIE: And what a man you are. You could be one of those Marvel superheroes.

MARK: Yes I could.

MAGGIE: Your superpower could be sarcasm.

MARK: Exactly! I’d be like “Oooh, real nice disguise Clark Kent. I can’t even recognize you now that you have glasses on. Why don’t you put on your blue tights and show us how you can leap real high, ballet boy?” Superman would have no comeback for those, he’d surrender.

MAGGIE: But Superman is a good guy.

MARK: Oh yeah. It’d probably work on Joker too – you know the hideous face and all – he’d be an easy target.

MAGGIE: So what did you get me for Christmas?

MARK: Not telling. Have you been good?

MAGGIE: So far, but there’s still time to make the naughty list, if you get my drift.

(Mark continues to assemble the house – suddenly the light bulb goes on)

MARK: Oh! Hand me those instructions. Not that I need them mind you, but it might speed up the process a bit.

MAGGIE: Yeah, why didn’t I think of that?

Those were the good old days. Shopping isn’t as fun now as it used to be. The kids have outgrown toys, though that doesn’t necessarily stop me from buying them. One of the highlights of the Christmas season these days is that our oldest comes home from college. She went through a brief period in high school where she was a “typical” teenager. By “typical”, of course I mean, the kind you want to kill. Thankfully, we resisted our homicidal impulses because whatever demons were possessing her have now been expelled (perhaps they’ve taken up residence in my wife?), and our sweet, lovable Casey is back.

Though the things we buy have changed, our annual shopping day/date night continues. A week or so before Christmas, Maggie and I find a day when we can both leave work early to go shopping and to dinner. One of my favorite nights of the year. The shopping budget will be a little tighter this year as my hours at work are being cut back effective December 1. (Aside - though our fiscal year began on July 1, the politicians in my state have yet to pass a state budget, resulting in non-profits across the state needing to cut services. Politicians – don’t get me started). In the grand scheme of things (and Christmas is certainly a time for reflecting on the grand scheme of things), a smaller paycheck is no big deal. Everything will be OK. Christmas is a time for happy endings - Rudolph saves the day, the Peanuts gang decorates Charlie Brown’s tree, Zooey Deschanel leads New Yorkers in song in Central Park allowing Santa’s sleigh to fly, and John Payne proves that there is a Santa Claus.

And, oh yeah, unto us a Savior is born.


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