You’re not allowed

There are certain individuals in our society who, because of the nature of their work, should not have “bad days”. Here are some that come to mind:

  • Astronauts: When everything you do goes wrong, the last place you want to be is stuck in space.
  • Judges: What you say goes. So please don’t say “I could just kill someone today! Ugh!”
  • Secret Service Agents: On your bad days men get three names* and live in infamy.
  • Kim Jong-Il: If he tortures, starves, and kills his own people on his good days, I don’t want to see him on a bad one.
  • Oprah Winfrey: who knows what would happen. She might be seen as human, get married, or maybe even recommend a book I actually want to read.
  • The President of the United States: The way things are today, it would seem there have been plenty of bad days already.
  • The Pope: You never know what dogma he’ll roll out with next.
  • Surgeons: “Scalpel… Clamp… Anesthesia—Oops.”

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There are a number of traditions on my late father’s side of the family that center around the praise of silliness. One such tradition involves stockings. Well, not your ordinary hung-by-the-chimney-with-care sort, of course—more like giant bags filled with stuff all unpacked simultaneously by two dozen loud, ruckus relatives. The whole point of these stockings is to give each person a pile of things they can’t decide if they’d admit to receiving. We don’t get together to do gifts each year. We get together to do stockings.

When we have to claim things at the Canadian-American border, the stocking bags are often classified as “miscellaneous under ten dollars” … probably to keep the authorities from seeing the giant plastic pen the size of an arm, felt jester hats, or Hawaiian leis we have stuffed back there.

One aunt is a dentist, and each year, without fail, she gives each person a G.U.M. brand toothbrush (the kind with the rubber picky bit on the end) and floss. I think it’s funny that we always act surprised when these come out of the bags, but they’re a Christmas staple. I can’t imagine having Christmas without floss and a toothbrush.

While in Toronto last weekend, the relatives all came together for a jovial (and jovial always means rowdy) dinner together. At the end of the evening, they surprised my mother, sister, and I by giving us our stockings early. The family stocking event is happening on the 22nd, but they were kind enough (or cruel enough?) to give us ours two weeks early. So, as tradition goes, whatever is wearable in your bag must be worn. Don’t forget those felt jester hats and leis I mentioned. This year was actually less-wearable than usual. We didn’t get goofy glasses or kazoos to finish off the looks. All the same, I’m sure there are terribly embarrassing pictures of the three of us now tucked away in the family blackmail file.

It’s been a week since our stockings, and I’m fiddling with a handmade necklace of seashells—one of my stuffers—and delighting in the sounds it makes in my hands. But what do I do with this stuff? Some of the gifts are more practical than normal. I have tissues printed with the American dollar (because they had to rub the power of the Canadian dollar in our faces), a bookmark, chocolate, a few ornaments, gum, peppermint soap, and of course my dental supplies for the year. I suppose I could brush my teeth and floss… well, after I eat this giant bit of chocolate shaped like a ‘J’…