An Obsessive-Compulsive Christmas

We Sniders are an obsessive-compulsive lot that can barely function in normal society without a lot of medication and public embarrassment. And nowhere is this made more manifest than at Christmastime. We’re big on traditions — so much that anytime something new happens on or around Christmas, we declare it a new tradition and insist that it happen again in all subsequent years. (This includes accidents and family tragedies.)

For example, one year when we kids were young, Dad tried to take a shower before coming out to the living room so we could all open presents. We were enraged that he would delay the proceedings. The next year, he turned on the shower, and when we heard it, we raced down the hall to kill him. Turns out he was still fully clothed and was merely pretending to take a shower to see what we’d do. And the merry new tradition of pretending to shower was born.

So each year we add more and more traditions to the 30 years’ worth we already have, making Christmas more and more complicated, to the point that we now have to begin observing it on Dec. 20 just so we can be done by New Year’s. I shudder to think what will happen the first time I’m not able to fly home for the holidays. I suspect the family will do everything as per normal, and just leave silent spaces where my lines would normally go. (Sample dialogue: “Now I remember why I moved out”; “Someone get rid of that stupid cat”; “I have TWO sisters?”)

One of our traditions is accusing each other of ruining Christmas. This is sometimes done in a joking manner, and sometimes it is accompanied by a torrent of tears. It is an essential part of the American Christmas experience, as it helps remind us that no matter what goes wrong, it is always someone else’s fault.

The greatest crime this year was committed by Mom (the record-holder in the field of Christmas-ruining), who allowed her yappy little dogs to dictate the placement of the presents. Normally, of course, the presents are under the tree, where they belong, as mandated by the Bible. But the chihuahuas, Andy and Pee-Wee, apparently wreaked havoc on them, so they (the presents) were put on the pool table instead.

Now, I ask you: Is it acceptable to put Christmas presents on a pool table? Can you picture the Wise Men doing that? Do the Norman Rockwell paintings allow for it? If you ask me, it’s a travesty with a capital T. Besides, any dog that can’t climb up on a pool table is no real dog at all, and trust me, Andy and Pee-Wee are not real dogs. They are gophers, or throw pillows, or things to kick. They bark ALL THE TIME, in accordance with the law of nature dictating that creatures with the least capacity for coherent thought should also make the most noise. (See also Jerry Falwell.) Pee-Wee is also Andy’s father AND grandfather, thanks to some mating shenanigans that apparently are OK in the dog family but that we humans tend to frown upon, at least this far North. I think the inbreeding actually made them stupider than your average chihuahuas, if you can believe that.

Anyway, speaking of stupid, our newest tradition is riding my brother Jeff down the stairs. See, Jeff’s a big guy. Huge, in fact. He could eat you under the table, and then eat you and the table. And our parents just bought a new house, with a second story, and the house we grew up in had no stairs, so stairs are a novelty. And so now for fun, Jeff lies on his belly and slides down the stairs with someone on his back, riding him like a sled. We have video footage of Mom doing this.

Some families get really dysfunctional around Christmas. But not mine. We’ve got all that medication to help us out.

This column was written entirely from my parents' home in Lake Elsinore, Calif., where I stayed for a few days at Christmas. It was also written a couple days before Christmas, with the assumption that no late-breaking Christmas-ruining events would occur on the day itself.

I do not think this column is particularly funny, but it is jolly and merry and all that. And my mom will love it, since it talks about her.