How the Holidays Worked Against Me

Before you think the holidays were all perfect, shiny and wonderful… I have a few other stories to share with you.  I was pretty convinced, fairly early on, that the holidays were working against me for sure.  Thankfully, I was wrong… but observe the following strikes that I had to endure in the course of only a few days:

Strike 1: Friday, December 22: My friends Jeremy, Adam, Rafael and I went out for dinner after work, then to Sidetrack for some “Before-Christmas” drinks.  We had a fun night.  I had a few cocktails, but I was feeling just fine and wasn’t drunk or anything. 

I had driven to work that day, so I offered a ride to Jeremy.  We were singing along to my iPod on the way to his place, when all of a sudden, lights began flashing in my rearview mirror.  I panicked for a fleeting moment.  “This is NOT what I need right now!”  I knew I wouldn’t appear drunk to the officer, but with it being a holiday weekend, I imagined they were possibly stopping everyone to check for alcohol consumption.  Getting a DUI for Christmas was NOT the gift I had in mind for myself this year.

The officer came to my window and asked if I knew why he was stopping me.  “No,” I replied, in all honesty.  “You rolled through a stop sign back there.”  He said.  “Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize.”  I said. 

I knew I had certainly acknowledged the stop sign, because I always do… but it’s completely possible that I rolled through it.  Everyone does these days.  It’s an unfortunate product of the “rush rush RUSH” nature that we all embody today.  However, there are far worse people out there– people that don’t even slow down for a stop sign.  I’ve encountered loads of them.  Where are the cops when these idiots are on the roads?

The officer took my license and insurance card and returned to his vehicle.  Jeremy and I spent that time to run through all the possible scenarios:  He probably needed to up his ticket quotas for the day and is stopping everyone he sees.  Maybe he will just issue a warning and let me go.  But if he makes me do a sobriety test, what then?  I had a few drinks that night, but I was certainly cognizant and coherent, and I wasn’t exactly reeking of alcohol.  We just waited and prayed to see what would come of this. 

When the officer returned, he handed me a ticket and my insurance card.  He had confiscated my license as bond. (In an instant, I understood the need for a bond card!)  With hardly any further instructions, he left me and Jeremy and returned to his vehicle, and within moments was gone. 

A brief sigh of relief later (at least the DUI was out of the question!), Jeremy and I tried to figure out the ticket.  Honestly, you’d think we’d never seen one before.  In fact, I know I haven’t… I have NEVER been stopped for a traffic violation in Chicago before.  I’d been stopped in Wisconsin a few times, but it had been many, many years since the last time.  My driving record was clean.  But not anymore.

I was cited for not stopping at a stop sign, a fine of $75 if I plead guilty.  I could also plead guilty and take a drivers’ education course for $115, or plead not guilty and go to traffic court to contest the ticket. 

I decided to plead guilty, and sent the $75 check in with the ticket.  Yes, maybe it was not the wisest choice (there goes my great insurance premium!), but I see no sense in prolonging the situation any longer than necessary.  Plus, not having my physical drivers’ license (I can still drive with a copy of the ticket as my license) makes it hard to do a lot of things in life.  The sooner I get that little plastic card back, the better. 

But that was just the beginning of my holiday weekend woes.

Strike 2: Christmas Eve Eve
I take a lot of photos, and I like to give them as gifts.  It’s a great gift that everyone enjoys, and it’s easier than trying to figure out what somebody likes all the time.  So this year I sent a bunch of photos to Kodak Easy Share Gallery to get prints and framed prints.  I also ordered my very own homemade Christmas cards. 

As of today, I have recieved the prints and two framed prints, but not the cards or the large framed prints– both of which are gifts.  So there’s strike two against me.

Strike 3: (and there are more strikes, believe me) This one happened when I finally my car packed up and started driving to Kenosha.  I heard a strange vibrating sound coming from the back of the car, so I pulled into the nearest gas station to check it out.  Would you believe it was a flat tire?  That’s the second one this year… on TWO different cars!  What is it with me and flat tires!?!?

So I filled up the tire and kept going.  I couldn’t exactly change it right then and there, so I had to hope that this would last the trip to Kenosha; then I could exchange it with my full spare during the weekend.  Thankfully, I made it safe and sound.

Strike 4:  I was at Jewel, on the way out to Wisconsin.  I still needed to buy a gift card and Christmas cards for my family members.  Jewel had been advertising their ‘wonderful’ selection of gift cards all throughout the season, so I figured this would be a nice, one-stop shopping situation.  I picked out the cards I needed and got to the register, only to be told that I would need to come back tomorrow to validate the gift card because their computers were down.  My response was “Uh, no, I can’t do that, because I won’t be here– that card is the entire frickin’ reason I CAME here in the first place!”  So I left the gift card and continued on my way. (I ended up getting the gift card at the actual store represented BY the gift card while on my trip up north.  So much for one-stop shopping convenience!!)

Strike 5: On the way to my Mom’s, I tried to play a song on my iPod, and it died for a brief period.  I got the ‘sad iPod’ icon and everything.  At this point, I was convinced that I was surrounded by some really bad karma.  Thankfully, though, something seemed to right itself in the universe, and the iPod started working again.  I think from that point on, everything started to cool off.

But I tell ya, when I’m cursed, I’m cursed really hard.

How I Handled the Holiday Havoc


It’s over.  Amazing how quickly it passes by, with all that buildup and anticipation leading up to it.

Yes, I’d been dreading the holidays, and yes, I had the occasional breakdown or freakout moment.  But you know what, it’s natural to do that at this time of the year.  Who doesn’t have an emotional meltdown during the Christmas season?  Who doesn’t wake up one morning in a cold sweat, suddenly realizing that absolutely NOTHING has been done in preparation for the big event?

I’d been trying to tell myself that this year would be different and harder to deal with simply because my dad wouldn’t be there– well guess what?  It was just as crazy, just as painful, and even just as wonderful as any other year.

Christmas Eve was probably the strangest time during the weekend.  It was there that my family really felt the loss of everyone who had left us this year.  Madge would usually be running in and out of the kitchen, preparing food, making sure everything was just so, and mingling with the guests.  Dad would not have been there anyway, but he certainly used to go.  And in recent years I would make him a plate and bring it home to him so he could enjoy his traditional Italian fare with everyone else.  This year, we didn’t need to do that.  And Arlene would have made an appearance, bringing homemade chocolates or cookies for everyone to enjoy.

But now they are all gone.  And the night felt especially empty without them.

But even with the emptiness, the family managed to enjoy the night as best we could.  We shared a lot of stories, and enjoyed each other’s company.  Because we’re family, and we have to stick together, no matter how hard life gets.

In truth, the one and only time I really and truly had an emotional breakdown during the entire holiday season was at the Windy City Performing Arts holiday concert.  I no longer sing with the group, so I was in the audience with my good friend Perry, and at the end of the show (which was magnificent), they performed “Silent Night” interspersed with another song called “Night of Silence”. I had heard this ‘mashup’ before many years ago, but it had been a long time since.  It’s really a gorgeous piece, and the choruses performed them absolutely beautifully.

However, what happened at the end of the song is what I wasn’t prepared for.  The chorus membership stood at the perimeter of the church, circling the audience.  The song ended with the familiar “Silent Night,” and as they sang, they were interpreting the words in sign language.  One by one, a part of the music was taken away– first the piano, then the words (to a hum), and then all trace of sound.  The only thing you could hear was the movement of arms signing the words to “Silent Night” in utter, pure silence.

This moment struck me like a freight train and absolutely wrecked me.  By the time they finished, I was absolutely sobbing.  Something about that moment was the wake-up call for me.  I thought of my Dad, I thought of all the other relatives I’d lost this year, and I thought of my family.  There was no really good reason for this– it’s not as if “Silent Night” was my Dad’s favorite song or anything– It was just the power of the moment resonating something in me that brought all of those emotions bubbling back to the surface.

Since that moment, the holidays got easier for me.  I sang with CGMC the next weekend, I threw my party the weekend after that, and I even got all my Christmas shopping done.  Then I packed up the car, drove to Mom’s, went to my Aunt’s for Christmas Eve and my Sister’s for Christmas Day.

And somehow I survived it all.

In the end, we all did.

Hope you had a great holiday as well.