December 22, 2004

"Wow!" says The Main Nerdy Geotech Guy, as he stops at the front desk to sign in. "You're looking festive today!"

This is the third  -- no wait: make that the fourth -- time in less than a week that I've shown up at The Dirt Company in 'holiday attire.' On Friday it was a bright red cardigan festooned with sequined snowflakes: the second-ugliest item in my closet.  On Monday, it was a red turtleneck with a big tacky snowman brooch fastened to the lapel: on Tuesday, a short-sleeved pullover -- more maroon than red, actually, but close enough to qualify -- accessorized with a pair of dangly "Christmas bulb" earrings and matching necklace that I picked up on eBay a couple of months ago.   

Today I'm dressed in somewhat more subdued fashion, in a tasteful black sweater-and-pants combo, silver earrings, plain black loafers  ... 

... and a gigantic felt snowman on my head.

I give The MNG Guy my big twinkly Just-For-The-Holidays smile. "Thanks," I tell him. "I'm working on it."  And I offer him a candy cane from the snowman mug sitting next to my computer monitor ... one of 43,897,621 snowman *collectibles* I've got clustered on my desktop,  like an army of tiny frozen boyfriends. Across the lobby, the fake ficus tree sparkles with silver ribbons, carefully Velcroed to the branches: over the tinny laptop speakers, next to the switchboard, Hootie & The Blowfish are extolling the merits of chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

It's *Holiday Central* at the Dirt Company front desk. 

I used to believe that holiday spirit -- like love, or good grades, or hair that holds a set longer than 2.6 milliseconds -- was something that should just happen automatically, without help from God or homework or Vidal Sassoon. You flip the calendar over to December 1st, plop the Bing Crosby album onto the turntable, light a couple of candles ... and voilà!  Instant holiday warm-and-fuzzy!  And that's pretty much the way it worked, too, for the first two-thirds of my life or so.  One whiff of shopping mall pine, and poof! I was instantly transported to my Holiday Happy Place. 

The older I've gotten, though, the harder it has become to work myself into a genuine holiday frame of mind  ...  let alone sustain it for the entire Bazillion Days of Christmas. Usually, I coast through the holiday season with a semi-fabricated expression of peace on earth/good will to man plastered on my face  ... secretly counting the days until the whole noisy overblown mess is OVER WITH, and I can go back to being my usual prickly unapproachable self again.  But this year, for reasons I haven't quite been able to put my finger on -- aftermath from the broken ribs? from a dismal and dispiriting election year? from the worst 'Survivor' season ever? -- I felt that it was important to actually try and  enjoy the Christmas season, for a change  ...  especially at the office, which is where (it seems) I spend 99.9% of my life and energies. 

But I knew that I was going to need help getting there.  

Since shortly after Halloween, therefore, I've been systematically stockpiling the accoutrement of the season -- decorations, jewelry, clothing, music, candy canes in every flavor known to mankind  -- in a calculated effort to achieve maximum holiday spiritosity.  Loading 43,897,621 hours' worth of holiday tunes into the laptop. Dragging my entire snowman collection into the office, piece by piece. Decorating every square inch of the Dirt Company lobby. 

And -- of course -- wearing red. Lots and lots of red.

It seems to be working, too. I'm sure that my co-workers think I'm insane -- or inappropriately medicated on the job -- but the combination of cheesy jewelry, outlandish fashion choices and wall-to-wall holiday music seems to have worked a tiny Christmas miracle in my heart this year.  I've been smiling more than usual. I've been nice to the people I work with  ...  even the ones I hate.  I actually caught myself humming in the elevator the other day.  It's sort of like that stoopid "Smile Therapy" exercise they used to make us do at Wednesday Night Bible Study: you hold a smile for a full thirty seconds, without twitching  ... and even if you weren't feeling particularly happy to start out with, the simple physiological process of smiling somehow makes you feel like smiling.  It's the same with the Christmas stuff. I mean, face it: it's impossible to feel prickly and unapproachable when you're wearing a big felt snowman on your head. I realize that I may never again achieve that natural *holiday high* I used to get as a kid, or as a teenager, or as the mom of a herd of toddlers in chocolate-stained footie pajamas ... but this feels like the next-best thing. 

With any luck, it might even last until I get onto that airplane for TicTac tomorrow morning.

"Well," says The Main Nerdy Geotech Guy, "if I don't see you before Christmas, have a good one."  And he tucks his unwrapped candy cane into his pocket protector and strides off down the hallway, looking grim and distracted  ...

...  and absolutely devoid of holiday spirit.

But that's OK.  I've got enough holiday spirit for *both* of us. 


And I've got the dorky snowman hat to prove it.


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1.  elton john, "step into christmas"
2. dandy warhols, "little drummer boy"
3.  emmylou harris, "light of the stable"
4.  the corey band, "stop the cavalry"
5.  stevie nicks, "silent night"
6.  clarice the reindeer, "there's always tomorrow" (shut up)
7.  glen campbell, "old toy trains" (shut up)
8.  the polen tots, "santa claus is coming to town"
9. sheena wellington, "the christ child's lullabye" TIE kathy mattea, "the christ child's lullabye"
10. john lennon, "happy xmas (war is over)"