“I’m a people pleaser.”
“I love people.”
‘I’m a people person.”--Oft' heard comments
Oh, bah, humbug, People Person. You are such a phony. Have you paid attention to people and their various nefarious activities lately? If you encountered one of them, you would be like the liberal who turned conservative after he got mugged. Never mind the obvious suspects like dictators, war lords, terrorists, rapists and billionaire bankers. Athletic coaches and teachers rape young boys. Men beat women. Women sabotage each other. Internet trolls rise from the security of their anonymous muck to fling their curse words and pithy observations, like “You’re stupid,” at those who hold opinions different from theirs.
You love these people?
Yes, I am the misanthrope in this little tale. I do not like most people; and I would know within five minutes of meeting you if you are one to be liked.
Every family has their holiday symbols and sacred totems. A distant relative back in St. Louis decks and trims from rooftop to basement with the red-and-green themed kitsch inside and out—too much is never enough—but the true heart of her collection is The Stone Frog, cherished because she stole it from her mother on Christmas Eve.
The stone frog is a symbol of family disunity, but you knew that, and also an icon of bad taste.
Relative A once loved her mother so much it was creepy. They talked on the phone several times a day, their conversations ranging from dirty jokes to taking inventory of A’s two sisters. A, a married woman, could not go to sleep without the final Mom call. Sloppy kisses were exchanged in person, on the phone. The grandchildren revered her except when they were taught to revile her. Occasionally A and her mother had big arguments and didn’t speak for weeks, even months, replacing their chats with calls to relatives, each warrior claiming “I’m the victim!” But they always came back together in an over-the-top emotional scene I suspect was scripted by a former Jerry Springer production assistant.
This time may be different. The feud has lasted a year. The sisters were at the final loud show-down on Christmas Eve a year ago. The neighbors called the police, but A managed to steal The Stone Frog and drive away, spinning gravel. She saved the angry message from her mother demanding its return.
But alas the frog has not taken its place among the garden gnomes or in the Nativity crèche. You remember the frog beside the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling, yes? Imagine, no frog! It’s under tight security in the garage.
A, The Stone Frog thief is The Poisonous Toad, puffy with “water weight. There is so much damned water in cans of Pepsi. At first glance, she is merely one half of that stereotypical married couple: Angry, Controlling Wife, Passive-Aggressive Husband. She fancies herself a Do-Gooder, adopting wives of abusive alcoholics as BFFs, handling the final care (and bankbooks) of dying relatives. Her house is filled with their personal treasures—and the cats, birds and dogs she has adopted.
Underneath the façade of the chain-smoking sentimentalist with a big heart and rough edges, she is a seething witches’ cauldron, jealous, hateful, spiteful, envious, foul-mouthed. She and her Stone Frog are the underbelly of Christmas, kin to the pepper-spraying Walmart shopper. They lurk in the corners of the decked halls.
Like many a Scrooge, I enter the Christmas season ferreting out the toads, fearful of opening a Stone Frog in a gaily-wrapped box. Cancer has made me somewhat kinder but also given me x-ray visions. I can spot a Poisonous Toad in a crowded room. I didn’t say Bah Humbug once—until now—but felt it tickling the back of my tongue.
Enter The Christmas Soldiers. Two SexyPrime readers, home from Iraq and scheduled for release from service came to visit. They brought food cooked by the grandmothers who raised them and their sex questions written down so they wouldn’t forget. While never discussing combat, they shared warm and funny stories about buddies who didn’t make it home alive.
Did they ever feel used by the system because our volunteer Army depends on men and women with limited economic choices? No.
“The Army saved my life,” one said. “I will always be grateful to the U.S. Army for getting me out of the ‘hood,’ making a man of me and giving me some skills.”
“Of the guys I knew in childhood, probably more than half of them are dead, in jail or addicts who will die from their addictions,” the other added.
They walked the streets, glancing back over their shoulders, keeping an eye out for Death long before they went to Iraq. Each in our own way, we have made peace with darkness. Christmas Soldiers are better than Marley’s ghosts for chasing the Bah-Humbugs and toads away.
“Remember—call us if anybody gives you trouble about anything. Nobody messes with our Auntie Sue.”
IF YOU'VE MISSED THE PREVIOUS POSTS--
Dying, The End Game, Part Six: A Quickie on Questions People Ask
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