By Dom Cioffi
Here we are again – the start of another busy holiday season is upon us. It’s no surprise that Christmas and New Year’s happen at the end of December, but inevitably many of us find ourselves scrambling to get a handle on the things that need to get done before the big days arrive.
This year (like so many others) I vowed to get all the activities related to the season accomplished ahead of time so I could relax when the rest of the world is most frantic. So far, this year I’m on pace to accomplish this act.
Last weekend I climbed into the dark recesses of my garage to extract our outdoor decorations. I then spent the better part of one afternoon fumbling with cords and ladders and swearing at myself because every strand of lights I owned was defective in one way or another – and I bought them all new last year!
I made the prerequisite run to Home Depot to buy more lights and then returned to hang them. I asked my son to help with this project, figuring he could at least hold the ladder while I did all the work. Even this sounded like too much effort for him. At one point while I was working out some logistics, he laid down on the driveway and literally fell asleep – on cold cement!
I finally succeeded in getting all the outdoor decorations in place. Several neighbors who walked by scolded me for being too early. I told them sheepishly that the lights weren’t going on until Dec.1, I just wanted to get the process out of the way.
During the following week I started and completed our annual Christmas card. This is the 30th year that I’ve created a personal card for the holiday season. The tradition started in 1989 (the year I graduated college) and has continued uninterrupted.
My wife (who was my girlfriend at the time) and I had rented an attic apartment and were doing our best to start our careers. Being that I was an illustrator, I decided that I would draw a Christmas card and then photocopy it, color it in with colored pencils, and send it to our family and college friends.
The process was enjoyable and the reaction from everyone was positive so I decided to do it again the next year. As the years passed, my process improved and evolved. I went from hand coloring to outputting colored laser copies to utilizing a computer to eventually having them printed professionally.
Every card features something that my wife and I did during the year. When our son arrived, he became the main focus. They almost always have a humorous slant that gives everyone an insight into our lives.
I take great pride in these cards and have saved a copy of all 30, which I keep in a special binder that I pull out every holiday season. I’ve told my wife on several occasions, “If the house catches on fire, make sure you grab the Christmas card binder.”
Getting the card completed and sent off to the printers is a huge relief. I accomplished this the day before Thanksgiving this year – my earliest completion ever.
This past weekend I attacked the inside of the house, which involved climbing into the attic to remove all the Christmas boxes. Once I got those downstairs, I spent the better part of Saturday afternoon decorating. We’ve got several ceramic lighted Christmas trees, stockings, wreaths, a crèche set, numerous wintertime figurines, and a multitude of other holiday themed paraphernalia that I strew about the house.
After that, my son and I went back under the eaves to drag out the Christmas tree. I’m not a fan of fake trees but when I was sick with cancer two years ago, my wife thought it would be easier.
It’s a quality fake tree, but I realized fairly quickly that “fake” doesn’t necessarily mean “easy.” It’s still a ton of work to muscle the thing together and get it decorated. By Saturday evening that process was also complete.
So, I am officially done with the major holiday prepping. And to really top things off, I’ve almost completed all my shopping as well! Now I can sit back, have a warm toddy, and enjoy the sounds, scents, and sights of the season.
This week’s feature, “Beautiful Boy,” features a family that spent several years devoid of joy while their young son suffered through a horrible addition to narcotics.
Based on two separate memoirs from David Shelf and Nic Shelf (a real-life father and son), “Beautiful Boy” delves into the ugly underbelly of addition and the pain it causes for both the addict and their families.
Starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet, this is far from a feel-good movie, but is instead a painfully gripping portrayal of the intensity and all-consuming dynamics that surround families when drugs take over someone’s life. It’s not an easy watch, but the delivery is professionally and artistically complete.
This film is well worth watching, just plan to follow it up with something a little more uplifting soon afterwards.
A somber “B” for “Beautiful Boy.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.