Marc Carlisle: Tony Soprano can teach us about the holidays
On the Marc
I’m about six years behind the typical TV viewer. I catch the Simpsons in reruns, have only just discovered Family Guy, and while everyone else watched the last of the Sopranos, I now have the first season on DVD.
The characters created by Van Zandt, Marchand and Gandolfini carry the show.
Good thing, too, because not even Shakespeare could punch up dialogue that requires some variation of a single four-letter word in every line. Despite the handicap, the writers manage some aural gems. In one exchange with his psychiatrist Dr. Melfi, Tony Soprano complains that “my (expletive) cousin is making me so (expletive) angry,” to which Melfi responds, “No! You make you angry! It’s not your cousin; you’re angry because you decided to be angry!”
Or upset, or anxious, or worried or frazzled. She’s right, and certainly how we choose to deal with Christmas illustrates the point. Hardly anyone seems merry at Christmas, or happy at the prospect of a new year, and the explanation is not some unseen yet irresistible physical force or pernicious mind control. We choose to be unhappy at the prospect of a birthday celebration, a party where we’re not even required to bake a cake, wear a funny hat, or even buy a gift.
Admission to the celebration is free, no purchase required, but instead, with only four shopping days left until Christmas, we will curse, swear, growl and grumble until we’ve bought something for everyone on our list. We’ll spend an average of $700 on gifts for each other, but Christians, quick show of hands, who spent the same amount on a gift for the birthday boy or his suggested beneficiaries?
Got plans to cut a check to the church where you choose to come together with others and celebrate the day?
This holiday asks you to do the latter, yet we choose to do the former. To the parents who say they must spend, that they buy toys for their kids because peer pressure and conformity leave them no choice, I say shame on you.
When your kid tries drugs, will you accept the need to conform and peer pressure as excuses? If your high school senior reads at a fifth grade level, or can do no arithmetic without a calculator, do you console yourself that your kid fits in with all the other kids who are as ignorant? I hope you choose to expect more from your kids, and at Christmas, at least acknowledge that you choose to set the opposite example.
You could choose not to buy anything or, if you’re going to spend so much money, do it with heart, not because the calendar and convention dictate a spending spree.
Assume for a moment that we didn’t feel pressured to buy gifts for friends and family at Christmas. Husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends aside, when was the last time you bought something for a member of the family or a friend because you wanted to, not because you had to when Dec. 25 rolled around?
When did you last buy something for someone at any other time of year confident that you’d purchased something they wanted, or hoped to have but couldn’t find, or couldn’t afford?
Doubtless some of the purchases you will make this Christmas will be pigs in a poke because you don’t know what’s wanted, so you hope for the best with a tie or a sweater. True friends and family deserve personal gifts, maybe handmade, at least chosen because of how well we know our friends and family. We buy gift cards with the whopping rationalization, “It’s the thought that counts.” Gift cards are the opposite, proof that we know so little about the needs and wants of friends and family that we can’t even buy them one lousy gift.
And here’s your chance to be happy and merry. You have the makings of a very good New Year’s resolution, to find for yourself, friends and family the true meaning of Christmas for next year.
Christmas has nothing to do with St. Nicholas, neither the creation of the Coca-Cola corporation that we associate with Santa Claus, nor the original Nicholas, a Turk, who was not a saint but who did have the very good idea to give gifts anonymously to the needy.
And next year, consider the example of the birthday boy, and when you give, give of yourselves not just your wallet, as often as you can and without any expectation, and have a Merry Christmas.
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