All I have to say about December is ‘bah humbug’
By EDMUND LIS
This December, people were asking me if I was going to write a column for the month. My reply was simply, “It’s the holidays and I don’t want to be depressing”. So why is December a downer for me with all that “joy and merriment” all around? Here’s my list, no need to check it twice.
Birthdays: There are way too many people around me with December birthdays and that adds a lot of stress to the holidays. My wife Diane’s is on the 20th, my twin siblings are on the 15th, the same birthday as my father in-law who died 15 years or so ago. My mother in-law’s birthday is the week before my wife’s and my nephew’s is the 28th. Oh, and last but not least; my sister, the one who was murdered the day before her 15th birthday. Her birthday is the same day as my wife’s on Dec. 20, which makes my wife feel kind of weird, so she always wants to keep it low key, especially around my mother.
Christmas: Not having been raised with any kind of religious teachings, Christmas was all about Santa Claus and presents, not Jesus or Hanukkah for that matter. Both my parents were born in Argentina and raised Jewish, so I think for our family, Christmas was more about trying to be American. We didn’t have any history or traditions around Christmas, so for us kids, it was all about the getting and not much to do with the giving.
I, for one, have never been very good at receiving gifts, which in turn makes me uncomfortable with giving gifts. I’ve always been of the mind that if I want or need something, I will just get it myself. On the flip side, I also don’t want to guess what someone else may want or need.
In my 50 plus years of Christmases and birthdays, I can only think of a couple of times where I’ve been truly happy with a gift I’ve received. They were both from my wife and seeing as how we’ve been together for over 30 years, that’s about a 3 percent success rate. Finally, after all those years of trying to find me that perfect gift, I convinced her to just get me what I want: nothing. So now I get nothing and you know what? I’m still not satisfied, just a little sad.
New Years Eve: Like we need another collective excuse for a party. I guess I’m a little jaded, living next door to the most happening party bar in town. It’s just how I want to start the New Year — with drunken revelers being loud, exploding firecrackers, and puking on my front yard.
Moira: That was my sister’s name. Like I said at the beginning, she was killed on the day before her 15th birthday. That would be Dec. 19, 1973. She went off to school that day and never came home. My parents reported her missing but the police listed her as a possible runaway. This was back in the day before we all knew about serial killers, missing kids on milk cartons, or that friends could keep a secret about something so terrible.
At the time Moira went missing, our house and family were not a happy place. My parents were always fighting and inching towards a divorce, with us kids feeling the stress. My older brother had just gone off to college and I was a rebellious teenager who couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there. When I heard that my sister might have run away, I thought “cool” that she escaped and I wished that I had the guts to just leave, but I just escaped with the help of drugs and alcohol.
For the month before some kids found her body in a park, life just went on for me in my usual smoky cloud of obliviousness. That included her birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s. Her murder has never been solved, and for most of my life I didn’t think much about her life or death. I don’t know if it’s my age, or that I spend a lot of time reflecting on the past, or that my emotions aren’t buried in the smoky clouds anymore. But for whatever reason, I think of my sister much more these days, especially during December.
Like I said, December is not my favorite time of year and I’m glad it’s over, but it’s not all doom and gloom or an insurmountable downer. There is that short-lived collective spirit of giving that we see around us, there is the annual return of eggnog, and for Diane’s birthday, there is our favorite meal in the world: Smelt & Frites at Bistro Jeanty to remind us of Michigan and simpler times.