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compounded holidays

There’s this stretch of time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s—that’s mimicked on a microcosmic level between Christmas and New Year’s—during which nothing gets done. This time of year is called “The Holidays.” Happy Holidays. Precisely which holiday are you wishing me happiness during? Thanksgiving? Christmas? Hanukkah? New Years? (By the way, has the greeting “Happy New Year” run its course? Because I fear I’m running it dry.)


Mt. Joy has this song “Every Holiday” that they’ll never play in concert because A) it’s way too depressing, and B) they don’t tour this time of year. The song opens with the line, “Every holiday, I feel that depression,” which is the feeling many of us internalize around this time, but we don’t have the courage to spit it out. Good news—Mt. Joy has muscled up for us.


For my family, there’s a lot of death around the holidays: my grandmother; my grandfather; my brother’s and my high school calculus teacher, who was way more than the title I just gave him; and, this year, my childhood dog died a few days before Thanksgiving. RIP, Lola. <3


I like “Every Holiday” by Mt. Joy because it’s a slap in the face. Hallmark movies and Mariah Carey want us to smile for six weeks straight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The sky is practically bleeding red and green, so you should be, too! But Matt Quinn is keeping it real, ending each chorus with “Merry Christmas, babe, I hope we make it through.” I mean, yeah!! I hope we do! Loved ones who used to bring the warmth each Christmas may not be with us anymore. And, if you grew up in Massachusetts like me, you know we all need some warmth during these New England winters. Like most things, Christmas isn’t how it’s advertised on the postcards anymore. Bing Crosby, I’m also dreaming of that White Christmas, the one I used to know as a child, when snow didn’t turn to slush in 24 hours and when we didn’t have rainstorms in January. I know we don’t deserve it, because we love to burn our planet, but give the kids their snow days!


I told my roommate before leaving for Winter Break that I think I’m a Grinch. I don’t like Christmas music, and it’s a huge turn-off when an artist I like drops a modern Christmas track (“Every Holiday” is an exception). I can’t remember the last time my family got a Christmas tree or exchanged Christmas presents. For a White Elephant exchange with our family friends last year, I brought spaghetti. I cooked a box of spaghetti and wrapped the soggy noodles in red and green paper. I don’t know… sounds like something the Grinch would do.


When my family moved to Boston, we started going away for “The Holidays.” Back in Hopkinton, my mom liked to decorate a tree and wrap tinsel around the staircase, but not enough to hike a pine tree to the 9th floor of a Boston apartment building. So, we started going places where pines don’t grow—Florida, Dominican Republic, Mexico. My parents kill several birds with one stone on these trips: they’re our Christmas presents, we get to be warm, be tan, play golf, and experience someplace new.


This year we went to Punta Mita, Mexico. We were there for eight days, and I was sick for five of them. I accidentally brushed my teeth and washed my spinach with the sink water, and I ended up with a long, long stomach ache. I couldn’t eat or drink, and on Day 3, my mom thought I should get an IV.

Perhaps the neon-yellow tint of the IV bag should’ve been a dead giveaway. Did they just hook me up to a liter of lemon-lime Gatorade? That may explain why I went into anaphylactic shock within 10 seconds of them starting the IV. My whole body blew up like the Michelin man, I turned the color of blood, and my throat closed. I used to tease my best friend in middle school for having a peanut allergy. Bad karma, Tess.


My boyfriend, Connor, witnessed the whole thing, horrified. He arrived the night before, 16 hours later than scheduled, and he spent Christmas night alone in an Atlanta airport hotel. Merry Christmas, babe, I hope you make it through. The day after I almost died, Connor got food poisoning. We were in the ocean, and a wave knocked the vomit out of him. I’d never seen anything like it. He got hit by a wave, and a color adjacent to my lemon-lime Gatorade spewed out, and then another wave, and more Gatorade, and this Tom-and-Jerry went on for about three minutes. I stood out of the splash zone, helpless, quite the same as he watched me the day prior.


So, did anything go right this Christmas? Of course. I was with my family. Corny, yes, and I like keeping the bar low for holidays. It leaves room for funny, slightly dangerous stories like these, stories that remind us to not take ourselves too seriously. I mean, if grandma burns the Christmas casserole, is Christmas really ruined? Are we really going to pout all day if that big box under the tree isn’t the newest Xbox you’ve been asking for? These high expectations keep us narrow-minded around this *magical* time of year. So much pressure to produce the perfect day, but if I think about my favorite days I’ve ever lived, they’re the normal, non-miraculous ones. The same goes for birthdays. Last year on my birthday, my team woke up at 3:30 AM to fly to South Bend, IN to play Notre Dame. I got to sit in the cock pit, the whole plane sang me Happy Birthday, and yes—I turned 22. Rock-bottom expectations produced a quite entertaining, quite silly day of being around 40 people I love.

Low-to-no expectations doesn’t make me a Grinch; it keeps me realistic. Some people, or furry friends, who I wish were at the dinner table aren’t here anymore. That’s okay; we remember them fondly. Your Christmas dinner may be Atlanta airport hotel room service, alone in bed, watching a rom com; you live, learn, and it’s a story to tell next year. I almost died, but I didn’t die, and that simply keeps me grateful. I’ve chalked it all up to five words: It’s not that deep, honey.

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