Stick Miller: Bah, bah, humbug

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Just as it is almost impossible to make a Plymouth PT Cruiser into a sexy car, it is going to be tough to convince me to like Christmas. I am an inveterate humbug.
I’ve always thought it was OK to be against the secular trappings of Christmas, but lately I’m even having problems with the religious aspects. My denomination, along with other liturgical congregations, is smack in the middle of Advent. Advent is our celebration of the coming of the Christ Child, but it’s not really a celebration. It is a brooding, anticipatory season that has few, if any, redeeming qualities for this writer.
While the world is singing Christmas carols, we “wild and wacky” Episcopalians are attempting to sing unsingable songs with hard-to-even hum tunes. I can’t help but think our organist would like to get back to some familiar tunes. I know I am more than ready. Fa-la-la-la-la.
Yes, Christmas for Episcopalians begins at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve. Since it has been a long time since I’ve been to a midnight mass, I’m going to assume they cheat a bit and sing some Christmas songs before the clock strikes 12. I sure hope so.
So, for that and other reasons I am humming Christmas carols. We play them in our house and our car. On Dec. 26, 2015, I shall cease to do so. For on that date, we’ll begin disassembling weeks of work and decorating. Never mind that none of that work was done by me; I’ll participate in the dismantling.
My bride insists that we do it the way of the Episcopalians. In her world, the tree should stay up during the 12 days beginning with Christmas Day. That is a battle she is never going to win, for I know without a doubt that having your tree up on New Year’s Day is bad luck. Southerners (and prudent others) have had their trees in the burn pile before the turn of the year for centuries. It is in our blood and it’ll happen again this year.
Growing up I really had no traumatic experiences during Christmas. We were Southern Baptist, so we sang regular old Christmas carols right up to December 25. My daddy didn’t go to church much, but he did at Christmas. My parents were not drinkers and there was no violence in our home.
No, it was more subtle than that. Christmas mornings we’d wake up to treasures beyond imagination. My mother would have taken the Nancy Hanks passenger train to Atlanta on what is now called “Black Friday.” A couple of days later, while we were at school, the Rich’s truck would pull up at the house in Griffin. What was unloaded and hidden in parts of our house in places unknown to us babies, must have looked like a king’s ransom.I know it looked like that to me for many Christmas mornings.
That was good. Those memories were good. What happened after that might have colored my perception of Christmas for years to come.
My father would open his socks or his ugly tie and announce that it was time to go. “Where are we going, Daddy?” we kids would ask innocently.  Well, we knew full-well we were headed for Florida. We would leave our bicycles and electric trains and head for the first warm spot we could find. Usually, that was Miami.
Miami was not exactly the most “Christmasy” city on the eastern seaboard, but it was dependably warm. While we enjoyed our time in the warm sunshine, it was as though Christmas had been ripped from our being. By the time we got home, my friends’ Christmas toys were passé and we were left to take down the tree.
Later on, after my mother completely retired from cooking, it became our duty to entertain the “troops.” My father really never wanted to visit. The joke was that he left the car idling in the driveway while he wolfed down his meal.
My mother, never a drinker, would always have a glass or three of White Zinfandel, a wine that truly deserves to be put back in the horse. As sweet as that swill is, she would always add four or five packs of artificial sweetener. Whatever it tasted like it fortified her and loosed her lips. As we all know those can sink ships.
She picked on my sister endlessly. Carolyn was way overweight and as she dug in for another plateful of garlic mashed potatoes, Momma would jab her with a fork under the table. The ensuing squabble couldn’t have been written into a Hollywood script.
And I was always made to feel that someone felt shorted in the gift department. I know that is not in the spirit of the season; it is just the way I feel. In fact, my mother would pull me aside and tell me she wished I’d done a bit more for my sister. I give up!
They’re all gone now. My mother, my daddy and my sister are (hopefully) all feeling better in Heaven and maybe, just maybe, no one is getting jabbed under the table with a fork.
Things are better now. All my children and their husbands, wives, girlfriends will be here for Christmas. I’m even going to have the world’s most wonderful grandchildren, Owen and Kate. We’ll have some of our favorite people joining us, my dear daughter-in-law’s parents. We’ll break bread together and laugh and tell stories in our wonderful old (very Christmasy) house before heading to Atlanta for another celebration.
It’ll be good. … or so I keep telling myself.

Boyce (Stick) Miller is an award-winning writer living in Americus, Ga. Contact him at