What Christmas Means to Me, the 2019 Edition


Incidentally, I’ve kept that pic under wraps for a few months now. Funny story: It was taken, along with a ton of others on a blustery Sunday when my minions, me, Heather and her boys spent a few hours at the Philadelphia Art Museum by the “Official Art Museum Photographer” who–for the price of $3.00–basically gave me an impromptu photo shoot. It was going to be my Christmas Card this year but I opted not to send one out. Now? I am sharing it with you. All of you. Even the ones that don’t want to see it. Happy Holidays from the Swarthmore, PA Chapter of the Marsh Family!

In the interest of full transparency, I should tell you now friends, family and oft times casual readers that this is not my first attempt at a holiday rumination. This is actually attempt number three. The previous two–both entitled “2019: A Retrospective”–were convoluted, filled with neuroses and downright boring. Basically my infamous Dennis Rodman post from a few years ago, but with a Christmas/New Years spin. I have no way of knowing if this effort is going to be any more successful than they were, and judging from how tired I am today and the fact that I woke up this fine, chilly Christmas Eve morning with a sniffle and a cough that seems to be getting progressively worse and worse with each, passing minute I’m not optimistic and the only thing I can tell you with surety is that’s it’s likely not going to be long. Still? In the immortal words of Freddie Mercury/Queen and countless other entertainers over the years, “the show must go on” and this show? Trainwreck or not, It always goes on. For 44 plus years so? So. Let’s get schazzy, peeps.

First off? Happy Christmas Eve guys and gals that celebrate, and Happy Holidays to anyone that doesn’t. I hope you are all reading this, nestled snug in your respective beds with visions of sugar plums dancing in your heads. Unrelated to sugar plums and sleep–some things I’ve lacked in abundance this holiday season–I was driving into work this morning (staffing never stops, y’all; I’ll probably be getting phone calls and emails tomorrow) and Carrie Underwood’s version of “Do You Hear What I Hear” came on the radio. In a completely unrelated turn of events, it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks, or a five ton pile of candy canes, dropped on my head from a height high enough to daze me, but not high enough to kill me that there was only one thing I had to write today. One rumination. One little piece of Mental Flatulence that in no way, shape or form relates to Dennis Rodman. Thank God for that, right?

I’ve made no secret that 2019 has… let’s just say had it’s moments. Not by any stretch of the imagination all bad, but bad enough at points to make me reconsider my motto of never giving up and just throwing my hands up in the air, saying “f*ck it Dude” and going bowling. Booyakasha, Lebowski. Respect. What I will say is that no matter how bad I think or thought I had it in 2019, other folks on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence had and have it worse, and I think that we the people inadvertently lose sight of that at this time of year. I don’t think it’s intentional. Heck no. But we get so caught up in the grind that is the season we’re tis’ing that we lose sight of it. I am fortunate to have a roof over my head and food in belly, even if said food is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and said roof appears to be a bit leaky. I’m fortunate to have heat and lights, water and WIFI. But others aren’t, and I wish there was a way that I could do more.

I tried this year. Really, I did. Despite what has at points been a challenging stretch of time, I made an effort because in a life that has been, for the most part over the last couple of decades pretty stable both financially and mentally (though some that know me and are reading this right now could and likely would argue the latter), this year I discovered what it felt like to struggle. Again, both financially and mentally. Maybe this is TMI, maybe not but f*ck it Dudes and Dudettes, it needs to be written so I’m bagging bowling and writing it. You’re welcome to look away if you desire.

To anyone that’s struggled in the past, if I didn’t understand it before, guess what? I do now. I was always sympathetic, but sympathetic in the way that someone is when they see others having trouble while all their bills are paid and they have Christmas presents for their kids. I felt your pain, but I didn’t really feel it the way you did and maybe still do until this past year, i.e. the year that was. 2019. Back in 2016 I wrote about taking a barb-wire wrapped baseball bat to the year that was. This year? I’d like to hit the year that was with a tactical nuke. For all the good that came out of it–and there was good; sh*t, there’s always good, even in the darkest of times–it needs to die a quick and preferably painful death, though I’ll settle for a merciful one if that’s my only option. “Am I not merciful? Am I not MERCIFUL?!?!”

I didn’t survive 2019 without scars, and I didn’t do it alone. To everyone that has helped me over the course of the year that was, thank you. I’d mention names… I’d “booyakasha respect” the sh*t out of you all but in the interest of time, and the fact that I’ll be heading out to pick up the minions in a little bit I’m just going to leave it as a blanket thank you and move on. If I can ever pay it forward… if you ever need the same, please let me know and I’ll support you in whatever capacity I can/you require.

You know guys and gals, I was on LinkedIn this morning–as I generally am, multiple times daily while working–and I saw someone that had posted about where they were 20 years ago and where they are now. Twenty years ago: A single mother who used EBT benefits to purchase cereal and candy for her kids for Christmas morning because it was all she could afford and she wanted her kids to have something under the tree to open. I grew up with that. I had my Charlie Brown Christmas Trees and Campbell’s Creamed Chicken in place of a turkey or a ham dinner with all the ‘fixins a number of times as a kid.

But now? That same single mother is the owner of her own company. And I see that too. I feel it. Single Dadhood and by association Single Momhood is a pain in the a**, and despite what one or two have told me, I don’t think that I’ve conquered it. In 2019? I conquered diddly squat, AKA jack, AKA sh*t. But despite that, I look at that single mother from 20 years ago and I think to myself self? I can conquer it. I can do this. Because pulling myself up by my bootstraps is in my DNA. And despite the fact that the year that was didn’t turn out the way I thought it was going to on New Years Eve 2018/New Years Morning 2019–by roughly noon that day it had already gone sideways–2020 can be and will be better. And 2021 will be better than 2020. And so on and so forth until such time as I, too, can look back on all that I went through this year with a smile and ruminate on it and where I ended up. Maybe laugh a little, as well. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

I believe that. And I wish that for any and everyone that has struggled and is struggling right now. That’s all I want for Christmas, friends, family and oft times casual readers, alias guys and gals, alias my endlessly awesome folken. I’ve really lost interest in anything material at this point unless it’s something that supports my caffeine addiction. I wish that all the Dudes and Dudettes that had or are presently having the kind of year that makes them want to nuke it with a ballistics missile find a little peace and security over the next few days and weeks. And I hope and wish that your 2020 is a better time filled with happiness, new beginnings, love, friendship and family, not to mention bowling, zero mention of Dennis Rodman or Charlie Brown Christmas Trees and Campbell’s Creamed Chicken and a healthy dose of “the show going on.” This show? It will go on, trainwreck or not.

So raise a glass of your favorite holiday cordial and toast with me. Here’s to the year that was and what lies ahead. Year 45 of my existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of the same. 2020, y’all. Cheers. And Happy Holidays from your ol’ buddy Frank, alias El Autoro, alias the Madchronicler, alias the Patriarch of the Swarthmore, PA Chapter of the Marsh Family!


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