Friday, January 7, 2011

The cost of Christmas

Before I even knew what was happening, it happened. Lily found the WalMart toy insert in the Sunday newspaper before I had a chance to scoop it up and toss it in the trash.

I hate commercialized holidays, especially Christmas.

Wait, that didn’t come out right. I don’t hate Christmas. That’s crazy…who hates Christmas? (Well, the Grinch does, or did, until Cindy Lou Who got a hold of him.)
No, I hate the commercialization that comes with Christmas.

As a result, we get very few catalogs in the mail, we only use Netflix so we don’t have to deal with commercials on television, and I keep the kids chained to their desks doing homework from the time they get home until bedtime. Okay, that last part is not true.

Yet in spite of my best efforts, Commercialism has a way of weaseling its way into our home. And quicker than you can say “Rudolph with your nose so bright” Commercialism set its sights on Lily.

She came into the kitchen and handed me the catalog. “I circled all the things I wanted for you to make it easier on you, Mom,” she said, smiling sweetly.

Thanks, Lily. She’s a smart one, that girl.

I got to page three of the insert before I had already added up to $424 in my head. After all was said and done, her circled items had totaled $1,250. I showed Craig and we laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

“Hey Lily, remember that calculator you wanted me to buy?” I yelled from the kitchen.

“Yes!” she said excitedly, remembering that I did, indeed, buy her something once that she had asked for.

“Well, bring that in here and sit down to add up all of these things you’ve circled.”

Shoulders slumped, she padded her way to the kitchen table and started punching away. Before she even got halfway through the catalog, she had headed outside to play volleyball with neighbor kids who were not her Grinch of a mother.
Can you say “killjoy?”

But really, why does she need a motorized jeep, a pizzeria for her Zhu Zhu pets (they don’t even have hands, so I’m not seeing how pizza enters the picture), and a special Christmas Barbie doll for $29.99 (which we all know cost $1.23 to make).
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not just the kids who are at fault. Adults are even worse. I was looking through another insert and saw these candles with fake flames that are battery operated AND have a remote control. So let me get this straight, not only are we too lazy to strike a match, but we also don’t want to get up and walk across the room to light the thing?

And really, I need another remote control in my house like I need another WalMart Christmas insert, that is to say not so much. And if your family is anything like my family, that remote control will sprout legs, get up and walk away to a far corner of the house in less than 24 hours of being unwrapped, leaving you with one lifeless and dark candle mocking your ridiculous purchase from the corner bookshelf.
My friend Brenda grew up in Honduras where the tradition was to give each child three gifts since that’s what the three wise men brought the baby Jesus. I liked that idea until I remembered how expensive gold is, and when I Googled frankincense and myrrh I discovered that those little “gifts” will run you $20 for .5 fluid ounces. Of course it’s quite possible I’m missing the point.

I think it will all work out in the end. In fact, Lily came into my bedroom last night with the same WalMart insert and said, “If you can’t afford all of these things, I’ve circled an item on page 12 that I REALLY want.” When I turned to the page, it was an oversized plastic horse with a cowgirl doll, priced at $35.
Yes, Lily, there very well might be a Santa after all.

Eileen Burmeister is a writer who lives and works in Roseburg. She can be reached at

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