Mr. wOw’s Christmas

The Boobys

Home for the holidays: a bad cold, a bad mood, epic movies — and a blue-footed booby

Now, I know you wouldn’t think it, by looking at the lurid display, but Mr. wOw had a difficult time putting up his tree and turning the house into the usual Christmas bordello. I wasn’t feeling it. At all. Oh, I generally have a hard time. In recent years (the last decade!) my bouts with depression, dissatisfaction at work, and disappointment in myself have hampered what was always a lot of fun — if, a lot of effort. B. has always taken great pleasure in my tossing tinsel, overburdening a hapless fir, and garlanding the house willy-nilly. So in the end, I’ve always mustered up enough energy to do my thing. I feel I do little enough for B. and it won’t kill me to be unselfish. Even if I act like it will.

The Tree (and I didn't think I'd done enough!)

But I was way down this year. I had a bad cold. And when I have a bad cold it doesn’t fool around. In fact, I still have it. (A bad cold reminds me always of my illness back in ’97, when I kept insisting, “it’s just a cold, it’s just a sinus infection” — obstinate until it was almost too late.) I continue to hurt from my fall and various sprains of more than a month. As for work — it has been an especially fraught year. I told B. frankly I was deeply unhappy and didn’t think I could bear to do it. He nodded sympathetically, but he has his dissatisfactions and unhappiness too. He needs the tree, the lights, the glimmer of hope for a new year. And he’s Jewish, so this is a major thing for him, to anticipate and enjoy my pagan rites. We have the menorah out, of course — but there’s only so much you can do with a menorah. I suppose I could stick a few sequins on it.

I waited and waited. I dragged out the ornaments and looked at them in despair. No joy. I half-assedly decorated the window (no beads strung along the top. And I love those beads, purchased many, many years ago in Manhattan at a store specializing in Christmas frou-frou.) Then, I went and got the tree, sneezing, hacking, miserable. Brought it home, stood it up, kept in watered but still bound and bare for two days. Finally, I went to work on it, full of self-pity and dark thoughts. Poor Mr. wOw, forced to decorate a Christmas tree. (The absurdity of my intense resistance made me even more cranky — “Effie, we all got pain!” as the line from “Dreamgirls” goes.) In three hours, I was done. Was it any good? Or bad, considering my not-universally-admired tendency toward excess? I was exhausted and went to sleep. But by Christmas Eve — I’d only decorated the day before — I was feeling somewhat lighter. (At least I didn’t feel anymore like the crazy nun in “Black Narcissus” — let’s put it that way). B. really was pleased, although he kept saying, “I feel I forced you into this.” Ah, well — he did. But Mr. W. needs that at times. On my own, I can fall apart. And all the kings horses and all the kings men …

By Christmas day I was feeling much better, mentally. Physically I was still all Greta Garbo, coughing, swooning and generally being a big ham. I took to my couch and switched on Turner Classic Movies. From 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. I watched “Ben-Hur,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told” and “King of Kings.” I know — that’s a hell of a lot of crucifying and resurrecting for one day. Not to mention chariots races and Salome’s dance!

I finally did use those beads

Mr. wOw is not especially religious. Hardly at all. But religion fascinates me — sometimes like a mongoose/cobra thing. And it is difficult not to be moved by the words of Jesus Christ, whether he was a man, the son of God or a myth. But I watched these films more out of nostalgia — I saw all of them on first release as a child. (“Ben-Hur” at a drive-in. I loved drive-ins!) And also because I’d always adored epic movies of antiquity. This sprung from my obsession with Greek and Roman mythology. If you think I know way too much about Marilyn and Liz, you should have heard me at ten years old, reciting the names of all the gods and demi-gods and nymphs and naiads; all the major and minor tales of the capricious gods. And The Trojan War? Please, I’d read “The Iliad” at bedtime. So, all movies that featured men in helmets and great marble edifices, ladies with elaborate hairstyles and lots of make-up — I was there. Quality didn’t matter much. I was crazy about everything from “Hercules Unchained” to “The Fall of the Roman Empire” to “El Cid” to “The Vikings.” Okay, okay — the cute guys bare-chested or in leg-revealing tunics? Even as a child I knew.

So my Christmas Day movie-thon was secular pleasure. Still, “Ben-Hur” is a top to bottom masterpiece, and I inevitably cry when Charlton Heston’s mother and sister are healed of their leprosy “The Greatest Story Ever Told” is cluttered with too many stellar cameos — most infamously John Wayne’s gladiator intoning “This indeed was the son of God” — but it is a beautiful-looking film and Max Von Sydow was an acceptable Jesus. “King of Kings” is high-toned camp, with Jeffrey Hunter as the most Aryan of all Christs, with his milky skin, light brown hair and blue-blue eyes. But he does his best. Even with his shaven armpits, on the cross. “King of Kings” is much enlivened by the subplots — Pilate’s wife, Herod’s wife (Rita Gam’s big moment — aside from being a bridesmaid at Grace Kelly’s wedding), and of course that nasty minx, Salome. (Brigid Bazlen played her as bloodthirsty Lolita. Her dance is erotic to the max. This gorgeous girl’s career never took off for some reason. She died in 1989.) More fun in this movie — Pilate is played by Hurd Hatfield of “The Portrait of Dorian Gray” fame. I never thought Hatfield was particularly well-suited to play Dorian — too, stiff, not pretty enough — but he’s a marvelous Pontius Pilate. And had become much more handsome since his 1940’s MGM debut.

As much as I'd like to say it is, this handsome fellow is not Mr. wOw. It's one of our cats, Tiger: the only one who is unafraid of Christmas in Hoboken

By the time Mr. Hunter was rising from his tomb — this moment is always accompanied by a lot of music — I was in tremendously better spirits. Certainly better than watching the gilt-encrusted Pope on Christmas Eve, condemn the commercialization of Christmas. Too late, now, bub. Just remember, there’s no such thing as Christmas in the Bible, and Jesus himself would be appalled by … almost everything done in his name. Shopping is the least of it.

I was even hungry. B. made a scrumptious pot-roast and I ate as I haven’t in a while.

Miss Taylor, at least, always approves the "too much is never enough" dictum

Oh, my present! We don’t exchange presents anymore. B. lives online and orders most everything he wants during the year. My finances are no longer what they were — nor do I have any credit cards to abuse. In general, all I want for Christmas is B. I stopped wanting “things” a long time ago. But we exchange cards, B. does order me all the current Marilyn calendars for the new year, we have some champagne. But being more sensitive and playful than Mr. W., B. always comes up with something. Last year he presented me with a little stuffed animal. A blue-footed booby. It is in danger of extinction. Along with that, I received a certificate from the World Wildlife Fund that I’d actually adopted the Booby, to protect its special status. I am a very late-life parent! This year, B. said, “wOw, the Booby loves you a lot — but he’s lonely for the kind of conversation he can only have with another booby. So … B. presented me with another stuffed bird. A red-footed booby, equally in danger of disappearing. And another certificate of adoption. Men! They think we have nothing better to do than take care of the house and tend to their Boobys. Actually, the blue-footed booby was very happy. Now they cuddle close together on the chaise. I just hope they are careful. I don’t need a booby litter!

That was my Christmas. It started off bad, but thanks to B., I got my head out of my ass and stopped whining. This won’t last long, but I’m always encouraged that it can happen, and maybe someday I’ll start living again for today, rather than regretting the past and fearing the future. After all, in January I am only 59. And on a good day — today is a good day — I still feel 28.

Last but not least. I love you all. You have made recent years much more pleasant, fulfilling, and brim with “teachable moments.” Despite my anonymity, I think you know me. (Well, you kinda didn’t have a choice — I told all!) I hope yours were the happiest, healthiest of holidays and a fabulous New Year to each and every one of you.

Love, Mr. wOw

84 comments so far.

  1. avatar mary burdt says:

    Today is Dec,30th and I am just viewing your blog today. It has been a challenging year for me. My brother, whom I adored, died on Dec.28th of 2010. On Christmas day last year my cat, Rosie, died suddenly from an enlarged heart. As if this wasn’t enough, my husband of 52 years passed away after cancer surgery. I have never in my life lived alone. I am terribly depressed but do receive treatment. I miss him so very much. However, as this Christmas season approached I found the deep need to put up a tree and decorate it with the help of my daughter and grandson. They too miss grandpa but also wanted to continue a family tradition. I have always loved the Christmas season but must admit that this year was a difficult one.

    I love your posts and feel close to you especially this time of the year when you show us your tree. I laugh at your decorating sense and love your over-the-top style.

    Happy New Year to you and your beloved B.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Mary…

      Once again, I am humbled by real problems that don’t (yet) beset me.

      You know, I’ve never lived alone.  Ever. Years ago I used to think I yearned for it, and romanticize a sense of independence.   But my own particular personality, set of circumstances, well-meaning enablers, etc., kept me rather childish.  Now, the idea of being alone is terrifying.  I know I would survive.  But I would suffer coming out on the other  side of it.   I hope your daughter and grandson can relieve at least a little of the pain. 

      It seems almost grotesque to wish Happy New Year.   But I will.  Your losses can never be replaced but you can find happiness.  Not just “peace” or “contentment.”   I’ve resisited it so much, but I know happiness is always within reach.  And even if the time came when that reach exceeded what it is now–just across a room–I must believe I would be strong enough to find it again, in some form.    

      And forgive me, Mary.  If Rosie didn’t have a companion, get another cat.  Perhaps you have, since last Christmas? 

      Mr. Wow

      • avatar mary burdt says:

        Thank yo so much for your kind words and understanding. The New Year started out great. My daughter and grandson took me to brunch today and also brought me flowers. Isn’t that lovely. We are all hoping 2012 will be a time for us to heal and once again feel joy in our hearts.

        I haven’t gotten a cat yet. I seem to only have the energy to take care of myself for now. Maybe sometime in the future. Who knows.

        Thank you again for your concern. It touched me deeply. Mary

  2. avatar Pdr de says:

    Mr. Wow, every week I look to see if there’s an article from you – awoke at 2:30 this morning and after tossing and turning, got up, went into the study and clicked on the computer and then typed in wowowow.com and there you were. I think Christmas can be a very challenging time of year, perhaps because people keep using words like “jolly” and “happy” and “merry” and it isn’t always that, especially these days. I’m sorry you’ve not been feeling well and am glad you managed to become infused with enough energy and determination to put up the tree (and it’s very pretty, as is your gorgeous cat). It was lovely to have glimpses of your the home you and B share.

    It’s been a big year for me – I sold my dearly loved home in Wisconsin where I’ve lived for the past 21 years and left it and my dear friends and moved to Virginia. At 73 I can no longer cope with winter. It’s been a huge “wrench” leaving everyone and everything familiar to me; I’ve lived within 90 miles of my birthplace, all my life until now. Leaving old, tried and true friends some of whom I’ve known and loved for 50 years or more and knowing I’m not likely to be returning is so hard. The grieving process which was delayed by the simple process (well, not so simple, really) of “getting settled” and finding my way around, with the help of my beloved GPS, the multiple and confusing freeways filled with heavy traffic to which I’m totally unaccustomed, hit me full force as Christmas approached. I cried a lot for a couple of weeks, aching to be with my friends to celebrate the holidays as I’ve done for many years. Living here has been challenging. There are pluses – going to Lowe’s and seeing Christmas trees and pansies being sold side-by-side made me smile. Waking up nearly every day to a blue sky and lots of sunshine is lovely. No matter how cold it gets at night – it always warms up during the day. Another plus is having my senior apartment sandwiched between the first and third floor with sunshine pouring into my living room in the afternoon. It’s going to be January in one more day and I have only had the heat on a total of 6 hours since winter began. Heat rises and the elderly lady downstairs always has her heat at 75 degrees – she may be cold but I’m toasty. Before I went to bed last night my thermostat registered 73 and as usual, my furnace is off. I had to open the door to the patio to let the apartment cool off before going to bed.

    Summer is something else and I moved here on the hottest day of the year. As my lungs struggled to “suck in” the hot, humid air, I screamed silently to myself, “What have you done????” Just after I moved in we had an earthquake which was rapidly followed by Hurricane Irene. I didn’t feel the earthquake though others here did but I was certainly aware of the hurricane. Knowing that as global warming continues to heat up and hurricanes will be stronger and there will be more tornadoes in our area is disquieting to say the least, but I’ve decided to table my anxiety and just enjoy these golden days. Winter in the Midwest is GRAY, DAMP, COLD, GLOOMY and oh yes, SNOWY, VERY SNOWY!!!! I’m making new friends while still missing those I had to leave behind. My house sold in 3 days with two bids so I guess that’s a sign I’m supposed to be here. People are friendly, I have my little bichon to make me laugh and to snuggle with and I’m better off than many people.

    I hope you are able to “take down” your Christmas tree without feeling too sad, Mr. Wow. I’m sorry your job isn’t what you’d like it to be – I stayed in a job 15 years that I really, really hated just for the benefits. I had a terminally ill husband and a child in college so I couldn’t just walk away. I know how hard it is to make oneself go to work under those circumstances. I hope a miracle happens and just the right job drops in your lap.

    Let’s pray some kind of sanity returns to the political arena because I tell you what, I’m very, very frightened at what’s going on right now and what has been happening or not happening for the past 3 or more years. Our country is up for grabs, environmental protections are being tossed aside like so much used tissue paper and many animals are in danger of extinction, including mankind.

    Instead of wishing everyone a happy new year, I’d like to wish everyone a “sane” new year – wisdom needs to prevail. Good luck to all of us!

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear pdr de…

      Thank you!  I won’t feel too sad taking down the tree.  By then, I’m grumbling “why did I put this damn thing up anyway?!”

      As for for the right job “falling in my lap.”  It did.  The one I’ve got.  I just stayed too long at the fair, never made what I could have of certain opportunities, allowed the too-intimate atmosphere  of my workplace to overwhelm me.  The proper sort of motivation and discipline I needed, I never had, leaving home and school at 15.  Still, I’ve done better than anybody who knew my story would have expected.    I always use the anology of approaching  a beautiful beach. I walk into the surf.  The ocean looks so tempting.  I know I should dive in and swim, make the most of it.  But I don’t.  I stand with the water lapping at my ankles.  The undertow of ambition, success, true adulthood–taking control of my own life– are too frightening.  I made my choice to allow my ankles alone to glisten.   Some people never have the opportunity to do even that!

      Yeah, the political season is pretty scary.  Always is, actually, with everybody pandering to the worst elements of their parties. 

      I agree–a “sane” New Year to us all!

  3. avatar Harriet Shoebridge says:

    I haven’t posted on the wow site forever … because … ah, does it matter … a new year and anyhow … and just for you … I want you to know that your blogs put a smile on my face … edgy and sometimes snarky and intelligent and sweet and funny … without apology … and hasn’t political correctness used up it’s infamous 15 minutes of fame yet, for God’s sake.  That said, thank you for you.  All the best in the new year, all the peace and happiness that your heart can hold.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Harriet…

      Thanks and good to hear from you!   Honey, I’m with you on politcal correctness.   There is a point to excercising some sense of self-control and civilized good manners, but now we’ve gone totally over the edge.  You’re fired if you call somebody a “bad name?” or tell an offensive joke?   And to what purpose?  The haters are just as hateful as ever?  Moreso. 

      Happy New Year!

  4. avatar Joni Evans says:

    Mr. Wow:

    So today is the last day of the year and I wanted to thank you for sharing all your wows and woes on this site. We are all here to sympathize, applaud, chastise, agree, disagree and marvel over you.
    Wishing you and Mr. B a happy happy new year. We love you both.

    xox, JONI

    (P.S. Did you get a flu shot?)

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Joni …

      Thank you. As I mentioned above this outlet has been a  great gift.  And much less expensive than therapy.

      I did get a flu shot, which is what has made this lingering cold so frustrating.  My arm ached for a week for nothing!

      Happy New Year.

  5. avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

    Happy New Year Mr. Wow and B!! Looking forward to reading a new chapter. Until then, thinking of you and buying lottery tickets for the “great train ride”. I will never give up on that one!!

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Deidre…

      I won’t either.  Just the idea–the train full of us.  Us full full of food and drink…speeding across the country. 

      Happy New Year!

  6. avatar rick gould says:

    I keep coming back and reading everyone else’s stories in response to yours, Mr. Wow.

    I’ve enjoyed them all…and yours.

    Well, fasten your seatbelts for 2012! Hopefully, it’s not too bumpy!

  7. avatar christine woodley says:

    For some reason, I have not been able to find your columns for some time. I’m really glad I read this one. I think many people feel less than festive at xmas but are afraid to admit it. My son left for a 5 month overseas stay right after xmas so I was kind of dreading the whole thing. I turned out fine of course. But underlying is the fact that xmas is changing for a 52 YO mom whose kids are growing up. That can be tough to accept sometimes. Anyway, I used to get email alerts for your columns but they stopped. ?? I just signed up again so I hope to not miss any more. You’re terrific. Happy 2012.