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Davis, California

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Column: Oy, humbug

A strong contender for this week’s column was the ultimate fictional holiday showdown between Seinfeld’s Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us, and the O.C.’s Chrismukkah, the pairing of Jesus and Moses, the superteam. Both are solid holidays, both created by television geniuses of equal measure, Frank Costanza and Seth Cohen.

There are two versions of my holiday season. The first is the easy one, the one where Thanksgiving was so amazing that the Brady Bunch would be jealous. That one is, in fact, a lie.

The second is the one where I admit that I didn’t do jack shit all throughout the break. Thanksgiving dinner consisted of a slice of wheat bread, two celery stalks, spaghetti, an old fortune cookie that I found in my mother’s purse and four peach bellinis.

Peach bellini number three was seceded by an earth-shattering and mighty impressive belch. Sometimes I feel like a middle-aged truck driver. But with boobies. I adhered, of course, to the old Rick family adage, “Never pay more than $6.99 for a bottle of wine.”

I had a dysfunctional family way before it was cool, ages before those endearingly foul-mouthed Osbournes made their MTV debut. The people I consider immediate relatives have inspired enough material in my 21 years to adapt into an indie sleeper hit and at least one sequel.

Pop culture loves a dysfunctional family; it makes for great comedy. It’s always the same slapstick madness – as Ryan Atwood once said, “There’s drinking, crying, cops. It must be Christmas.”

Maybe grandma drove into the living room again, Uncle Benji has been spending his days counting cards at poker tables since he lost his job or someone’s sister finally came home from college, only to reveal that she dropped out after freshman year, continued to collect tuition money from the parental units, and used said tuition money on a little nip/tuck. She is now waitressing somewhere outside of Hollywood.

None of that has ever occurred in my household, actually, though the nip/tuck situation is eminently possible. The end of every TV episode/movie/short story about a holiday gone wrong ends with the whole pack contentedly sitting by an open fire, reminiscing over the good old days. Sometimes in real life, a can of cranberry sauce can’t magically turn things around.

Thinking back on it as I was returning to Davis, I came to realize that the point of me coming home for Thanksgiving in the first place wasn’t to consume massive amounts of food until I wanted to be put out of my misery with a .38 Smith & Wesson Special. It was to be with my eccentric mother and eccentric dog in our eccentric house. Even if we just sat around doing nothing and didn’t go through the motions of putting the Hallmark in the holiday.

So there you have it – I descend from a line of nut jobs and spend most of my holidays watching bad Adam Sandler movies on TV. As impressed as I am by shiny objects, I’ve gotten pretty used to living without tinsel. We roll like Jews on December 25th – we take advantage of what’s open, that being the movie theater and any given Chinese restaurant. Or drive really fast because there are no cops on the road.

We may never be contenders for the first family of Stepford, but it’s probably not something I would want to be remembered by. If you’re imperfect, embrace it. The people who want to say something about it probably aren’t worth knowing. Don’t waste your time kissing up to your neighbors if they’re gonna talk smack about you anyway.

Life is too short to keep up with the Joneses. As much as I’d like to, it’s also too short to drag them down to your level. Therefore, you might as well focus on having a damn better time than them. So ace those finals, add a little extra, by which I mean a lot of, peppermint schnapps to your hot chocolate and spin a dreidel with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Celebrate the holidays in whatever whacked-out way you’d like. If it involves an aluminum pole and an airing of grievances, more power to you.

MICHELLE RICK formally invites you over for boxed wine, Wheat Thins and a showing of the Water Boy on December 25th, since she has jury duty on the 24th. Get at her at marick@ucdavis.edu.


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