By G.D. Maxwell
Every so often, out of the blue, Ill be struck with a sense of total foreignness, a feeling the worlds been turned upside down, black is white, right is wrong or more likely left things arent quite normal.
I may have first noticed that feeling when I was writing a word Id written hundreds of times and for some reason, maybe planet alignment, it just didnt look right. The word itself isnt important and frankly I dont remember what it was but I do remember looking at it for what seemed like a long time, looking at it as though Id never seen it before, wasnt sure it was spelled right, wasnt totally convinced it was even a word and finally reaching for a dictionary to convince myself it existed and set my world firmly back in the Milky Way.
That feeling of otherworldliness comes over me sometimes skiing. It usually strikes on some long, winding cruiser of a run, a run where even a two-leftfooted skier like myself can forget about what hes doing and just let gravity work its magic trick. I may be marveling at the scenery around me, feeling the bite of stinging breeze hitting my face, contemplating my total insignificance in a vast monochromatic landscape that could swallow me in a second. Suddenly, the absurdity of what Im doing hits at a level of consciousness rarely glimpsed. Sliding quickly over mountainous ground on long skinny sticks! How totally bizarre and alien it all seems.
I wonder if those incidents are the manifestation of brain cells dying, memories being flushed, patterns scrambling, the revenge of misspent youth.
I was nearly brought to my knees recently when a similar wave of foreignness washed over me like a tsunami of otherworldliness, a Serlingesque dimensional warp to another time and place. I was headed to the village, a little Christmas shopping at McCoos, when I was struck dumb by the sight before my eyes. I still dont know what it is but I know it definitely doesnt belong where its landed.
Was it Saturn rising? A comically B-movie spaceship crash landing into Armchair Books and Gone bakery? Was it hung right or did someone confuse its axes? Is it supposed to be a welcoming beacon or a bright warning for all to see and fear: Enter and be abducted, Earthlings?
Wont somebody please tell me what those alien lights at the entrance to the village are supposed to be? Please.
Assuming theyre only supposed to be festive and seasonal as opposed to some mutant art in public places erector set theyre as good a segue as any into my contribution for helping you cope with the hustle and bustle of the season. Are you a grinch or are you, in fact, Santa hisself when it comes to Christmas? Answer these questions to find out. As with all self-administered quizzes, honesty is optional.
1. My thoughts first turn to the coming Christmas on:
a) Boxing day because of the great sales for next Christmas, of course;
b) After I get my credit cards paid off from last Christmas, say in about June;
c) When the first snow falls;
d) Shortly before the stores close on December 24th.
2. The mere mention of Christmas makes me:
a) Long for an old-fashioned holiday surrounded by all my family and friends;
b) Want to rush to the attic and rummage through the boxes of colourful decorations;
c) Hum absent-mindedly, if somewhat maniacally, carols burned into my brain;
d) Long for the cold, dark days of February.
3. My favorite Christmas dinner:
a) Involves rising before dawn and the words plucking and stuffing;
b) Would make a glutton blush;
c) Is successful if I remember to read all the instructions on the box;
d) Would be anything off the Edgewaters menu, preferably starting with dessert.
4. Christmas decorations at my house:
a) Imbue my family and guests with the holiday spirit before they even get out of their car;
b) Get better with age and the nostalgia of Christmases past;
c) Are centred around a tree made from recycled 2 litre plastic soda bottles;
d) Still wont light and are mostly broken.
5. I quit believing in Santa Claus when:
a) Tell me youre just kidding!
b) I was old enough to help my parents shop for younger siblings;
c) I saw two Santas on the same street corner;
d) I ate the cookies and drank the milk myself and nothing bad happened.
6. Christmas Eve will find me:
a) Leading carolers around the neighbourhood, then back to my house for homemade eggnog and cookies;
b) At a late Mass if I can remember where the church is;
c) Up late wondering why there are leftover pieces for every toy Ive just assembled;
d) At Garfs, shaking my booty.
7. The Christmas carol I would be most happy to never hear again in my lifetime would be:
a) Shame on you!
b) The Twelve Days of Christmas;
c) Which ever one goes pa-rum-pa-pum-pum over and over and over again;
d) Whatevers being played at the moment.
8. The best Christmas parties:
a) Are the ones I throw myself;
b) Involve lots of children and Santa;
c) Make at least passing reference to the spirit of the season;
d) Include at least one blackmailable indiscretion.
9. The worst Christmas I ever spent involved:
a) I dont understand the question;
b) Air travel, small children and Chicagos OHare airport;
c) Bad fish in Maui;
d) A process server.
10) My favorite Christmas cookie is:
a) Gaily decorated gingerbread men;
b) Plain shortbread;
c) Any I dont make myself;
Now, as are worth four points, bs three, cs two and ds one. Ill wait while you cipher.
If you scored between 36 and 40, you are Martha Stewart and it may explain why your friends are avoiding you this time of year. A score between 26 and 35 strongly suggests you are a hopeless romantic. You might want to seek professional help before your kids grow up and leave home or hope they produce grandchildren immediately. If your score is between 15 and 25, you are probably pretty good at hiding your latent holiday tendencies but look out, one of these days youre going to come home from Costco with a plug-in nativity scene and wonder what hit you. If you score lower than 15, you probably dont know who Im talking about when I mention Martha Stewart and your favourite holiday most likely involves some pagan ritual, possibly human sacrifice.