Is Christmas day a big deal to you? In what way? Reading “UPS draws fire after Christmas delivery breakdown,” I couldn’t relate to those who slammed UPS for ruining Christmas for them.
Does it really matter if gifts arrive on December 25 or a week into the New Year? I might cut slack for kids’ disappointment, but I can’t fathom adults going ballistic about delayed gifts to other adults.
When I was a kid, it was thrilling to open a pile of presents on Christmas morning. I’m no stranger to the commercial pleasure of this holiday. But I still recall feeling a bit deflated by midmorning, after my sister and I had unwrapped every present, compared notes, posed for photos, and eaten Mom’s banana pancakes for breakfast. Now what do we do? I had binged, maybe overdosed, on presents! Even as a kid, I had mixed feelings about big holidays and their big expectations.
I recently reread The Catcher in the Rye, and I’m reminded of Holden Caulfield’s conversation with his 10-year-old kid sister, Phoebe, about what he likes.
In a scene toward the end, Holden goes home to talk with Phoebe before his planned departure from New York. She figures out that he’d gotten kicked out of Pencey Prep, and she’s distraught. “Daddy’ll kill you!” she agonizes. “Oh, why did you do it?”
After describing a bunch of phonies and bullies at Pencey, he says, “I just didn’t like anything that was happening at Pencey. I can’t explain.”
“You don’t like anything that’s happening,” she says. When he objects, she asks him to ”[n]ame one thing” that he likes a lot.
He mentions liking their deceased brother Allie, and adds, ”And I like doing what I’m doing right now. Sitting here with you, and talking, and thinking about stuff, and–”
Regarding the latter, Phoebe says, “That isn’t anything really!”
“It is so something really! Certainly it is! Why the hell isn’t it? People never think anything is anything really. I’m getting goddam sick of it.”
Holden is sick of phoniness, meanness, and social expectations. He values genuineness, in the way kids are candid and in direct human connection. It’s a great scene, the interplay between brother and sister, and the truth of Holden’s observation.
Isn’t it fantastic if your highlight is simply to hang out with a loved one? An ordinary conversation on an ordinary day? What could be better than that?