On the ninth day of December, Christmas gave to me…

A 14-hour road trip.

Across five states.

With a dog.

Who may or may not secretly be plotting how to take over the world.

Believe it or not, this is actually really good news. I just found out my husband gets the week before Christmas off, which means we can now spend the holidays with my family in Ohio (something which I have not done for five years). And although it would seriously make my writing so much better if they weren’t, my family is highly functional and loving and supportive and all that crap you’re not supposed to be when you are the family of a writer, who needs dysfunction to thrive.

But I’ll forgive them for their supportive and cynical-crushing ways because this trip means I can spend Christmas the way it was always meant to be spent: opening presents and then getting drunk and then eating a dinner you did NOT prepare and then dozing off on the couch as someone else does the dishes.

See, depending on your age, the holiday season can mean many different things.

As a kid, it’s all shiny, shiny lights and cookies and presents and big, fat men with beards whom you’ve never met but nonetheless are guaranteeing to do everything within their vast magical powers to make sure YOU personally have a very merry Christmas.

As a teenager, it means three weeks off school, the anticipation of your mom finally buying you those “ridiculously over-priced” (her words) pants with the vaguely suggestive word on the rear that you’ll just DIE without and hanging out with your cool, older cousin with the tattoo at grandma’s.

In your early 20’s, it means one month of never-ending rounds of eggnog and wine and seasonal beer and reddish-looking cocktails with cutesy names like North Poletini and Santa’s Sleigh Bomb at hip holiday parties and festively decorated bars. And then going to your parents where they feed you and give you lots of presents and do your laundry if you ask nicely enough and then give you all the leftovers to boot because you “look too skinny.”

But then, one day you’re married and 30 and BOOM! You realize it’s December but you wouldn’t know it from YOUR house, which still has up an odd mixture of Fourth of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving decor. And it’s all because YOU are suddenly in charge of MAKING Christmas happen. And that’s when you cross the threshold from “this is most wonderful time of year” to “no wonder there are so many suicides this time of year.”

Because now when that massive ball of Christmas lights roughly the size of Utah needs untangled, that angry, throbbing vein is appearing on YOUR forehead, and not humorously on your father’s. And now when you hear “Silver Bells” for the fourth time before you’ve even had breakfast, it is no longer “festive” but some sort of sadistic audio torture.

Suddenly, you’re Googling how much the going rate for a semi-decent kidney is on the black market in order to afford gifts for your husband, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, in-laws and even your stupid dog because your husband thinks it’s mean if little Buffy doesn’t get at least one chew toy. Not to mention, now it’s a faux pas to not buy gifts for your mailman, hairdresser, neighbor, boss, co-workers, cousin’s baby, mother-in-law’s dog and the barista who serves you your Peppermint Mocha every morning.

And while before you always insisted that artificial Christmas trees were just so “bourgeois” and that when you had your OWN home, you wouldn’t be caught dead without a real pine tree, this year your corner is inhabited by a $19.99 three-foot tall fake tree that looks like it died of some horrible fake tree disease in 1974. And then you stuffed it with some pine-scented air-freshners from your car.

And even though you swore you were going to make gingerbread cookies from scratch this year, two minutes inside the store made you grab the closest pre-packaged desert-like item and SPRINT back to your car out of a not-entirely-unreasonable fear of being stabbed by a soccer mom with a candy cane.

But not this year. No. No, this year, I will be reverting back to my teenaged/early 20’s Christmas self. Complete with (fingers crossed*) the gift of pants with the vaguely (or even outrightly) suggestive word on the rear.

(*HINT HINT, mom)

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