Saturday, December 24, 2005

Pass the Advil, eh?

'Tis the day before Christmas, and my dark little heart is deriving guarded satisfaction from the fact that in a mere couple of weeks, all the Santas and reindeers will be gone from the stores, driven back to their warehouses by cherubs and frilly hearts. 'Tis the season to look forward to a more wholesome, human-sized shopping experience where it is once again possible to run errands on the way back from work without having to wait 45 minutes to pay for milk or stamps. If you're buying lingerie, I suggest you wait until Easter. For chocoloate, Canada Day.

This year my 14-year-old son and I are enacting a seasonal pageant called "Christmas with the Sick and Infirm". I have a vicious bug, and I was stoned out of my wits on flu medication last night when Dominique stepped on a broken glass in his bare feet. His hollering combined with the dog's barking to penetrate my Advil stupor, and I staggered upstairs to find the flesh of my flesh writhing and bleeding on his bed as the Unpleasant Thought to end all Unpleasant Thoughts haltingly dawned upon my drugged mind: I was going to have to get dressed and walk to the drugstore.

I couldn't even read the labels on the various first-aid supplies at the piercingly bright, frantically Christmasy Shoppers Drug Mart, so I lay $45 on a pre-assembled first-aid kit, trusting the makers to have provided everything I would need this side of a gunshot wound. Then I staggered home and somehow channeled my late mother the nurse to get my son to stop howling and let me unwrap his blood-soaked t-shirt from around his foot.

His cut neatly dressed, my son reverted to the pain-management strategy he's been using ever since he was a baby: he fell asleep on the spot. The dog and cat both curled up at his bedroom door, ready to spring into action should the need arise again: the dog to wake up the dead at Beechwood Cemetary, and the cat to stalk around with his tail straight up in the air, looking on top of things.

Now Dominique just limped off to an evening of merriment with his girlfriend's family, and I just have to admire how swiftly he made the transition from "that boy from high school" to actually getting invited to family Christmas parties as an official boyfriend. I don't remember the males in my generation being so smooth at that age.

Meanwhile I'm left nursing my tea and contemplating my Christmas siege strategy. There are a number of obvious mistakes to avoid, one of them being Christmas television. Mainly I'm planning to keep it tuned to Météo-Média and fret about freezing rain, since the girlfriend's family party is over in Pointe-Gatineau. To keep the fretting short of outright psychosis, I have a great big stack of new books that I picked up on a last-minute supply run at Chapters. To my delight, I not only got my hands on the only David Sedaris book I haven't read, but also stumbled upon something completely unexpected: a Neal Stephenson book I didn't even know about!

The book is called "The Cobweb" and co-authored by one J. Frederick George, although the style is pure Stephenson. I'm already halfway through it and starting to pace myself, fearing the worst: I'll finish it sometime around the stroke of midnight and hit the Stephenson withdrawal symptoms just as the Météo-Média people break out the champagne and cheerfully issue a freezing rain warning for the Ottawa Valley.

Now I'm off for one last pass at the stores to load up on flu drugs. This will be a strictly dry Christmas Eve, I'm afraid, but that doesn't mean I intend to get through it sober.