Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Heavy Meddle

We all have our holiday traditions; some quite tedious, some done by rote, and some so meddlesome people wish we'd just knock them off. Even doing nothing out of the ordinary - where 'ordinary' equals a lawn made of grass and 'extraordinary' equals a lawn made of UL-approved extension cords - for the holidays is a tradition...o' ye of little whoop-de-doo.

Lest this take the tone of a term paper, we won't discuss tradition's multiple spin-offs or the various wannabe traditionalists, like the highstrung homemaker who institutes a new "tradition" each year, rabidly hoping that this year's the keeper and becoming downright nasty when the NEW TRADITIONAL KRUGELCAKES get a lukewarm response.

We shall stick to Groups A, B and C; that is, Tedious, Rote, and Meddlesome. Starting with Tedious.

Iowa Dot, a second cousin once removed, fits this bill. Every December, Dot mails anyone even remotely related to her (think Abraham) a gaily-festooned envelope of mass duplicated (she's found relations in 29 countries) microfiche, each a microscopic rendition of the alleged Family Tree.

I say 'alleged' because, how many people do you know who have their own microfiche reader?

Okay, so I reviewed Dot's labors once or twice. And thanks to that Iowa goofball, I'm not allowed within 15 feet of two libraries' A/V equipment. Listen, my ancestors were dullards. There won't be a mini-series made of us, I guarantee it.

Yeah, yeah, it's a thoughtful gesture. At least it was. Now it's just plain tedious. For we all, I'm assuming all with telephones, have to reply. "Great stuff, Dot!" "Whoa, you did it again!" Her follow-up calls have, respectively, made Mom take up smoking; my brother hara-kiri; and myself, Caller ID.

If you're wondering why the Family Tree warrants an annual update, why not ask how Dot affords such yearly tedium, too? The answer is one and the same! Iowa Dot is the Black Widow of the Corn. A birth here, a death there; that's one thing. But new husbands affect entire branches.

As for Rote traditionalists, they only hurt themselves. It's sad, really.

I mean, the kids are long gone, but there the parents are, in their dens, watching "The Weakest Link" with an eight-foot blowup dreidel between them. Neither remembers inflating it, yet both are winded. Eventually, they'll fight over who has to deflate it.

I knew someone who set up this delicate crèche, every piece some Romanian or Slovenian crystal, then stand guard over it all month, cursing her duty. She'd lose about ten pounds every December, but she wasn't very happy.

Meddlesome, word has it, best describes my own tradition: making early resolutions. See, I make them early to have New Year's Eve free for myself. Why squander an in-demand baby-sitter on other people's problems?

But I don't think that's why my tradition irks people. I'm guessing it's because I don't make resolutions for myself (never believed in 'em), but for others.

Last year, for example, I gave a friend a typed list of resolutions she needed to make and - say, it just occurred to me that not hearing from her in a year isn't necessarily a bad sign. She might be working on her list this very minute. Aww, bless her heart.

Maybe that's what happened with that neighbor eons ago. The one with the chartreuse house and all the lawn gnomes. Maybe he really did get his eyes checked; saw the light, so to speak.

Golly. There could be hope for even my loftiest resolutions, the ones I threw in for kicks. Ooh, how sweet the sound of "...We at Fox News resolve to keep Geraldo away from any wars, conflicts, skirmishes - heck, donnybrooks, catfights, and hissy-fits - in 2002." Or...



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