Dreaming of a Kitsch Christmas


Michelle Mairesse
    My name is Ishmael, Izzy for short. Just kidding. Itís Isadora. Also Izzy for short. Do you remember me now? I worked for you in the late summer of 2000 in your dinky little Happy Holidays boutique (short for overpriced kitsch) right after I got downsized (short for blindsided) from an up-and-coming (and now-down-and-out) investment company.

    Iíll admit, Binky, at first you drove me crazy. (By the way, is it true that Binky is the nickname given to one-quarter of the graduating class at eastern womenís colleges?) Never mind. No, it wasnít your trampling-all-barriers-to-increased-prosperity attitude, it was mostly your Christian Scientist-like refusal to recognize consensus reality. I mean, what is a person to think when her boss drags herself around a display heaped with party poppers, confetti, and miniature doodads, picks up a paper napkin, blows her streaming red nose into it, and replies to the sympathetic query, "Oh, are you getting a cold?" with an abrupt, "Dough, Iím dot gedding a code."? I could never do that, but it seemed to work for you.

    A year later, I was almost converted to Binkyism. You had defaulted on your home mortgage and lost your lease on the shop, but you were already talking like the comeback kid, getting ready to retake the title--the title to your house, at least. If that didnít work out, you were going to start anew back home.

    At our farewell lunch, you were doing the comforting. Attitude was everything, you told me. An experienced person is someone who has made mistakes, you said. "Think, Izzy: obstacle equals opportunity. Ride the waves. Donít sweat the small stuff."

    I took you to the airport, thanked you for the laudatory letter of recommendation you wrote for me, and promised to keep in touch.

    Thinking you would want me to apply your principles, thinking obstacle equals opportunity, I plunged fists-forward and head-first into blank walls. Oddly enough, being a near-convert to Binkyism, trying to do what sunny, funny Binky would do, helped me weather two months of unemployment. Un-Binkylike, though, I lowered my expectations and started scouting opportunities in the holiday kitsch sector just in time for Christmas. The new job is much like the old one, but minus Binky.

    Sometimes I canít distinguish between the small stuff and the big stuff, though, and I really start to sweat it. Hearing about mad cow disease in Washington state, I sweated a whole lot and amended my eating habits, and so I find myself feeling under-appreciated and undervalued because Iím having Christmas dinner at a cheap vegetarian restaurant, which is also under-appreciated and under-valued because if it werenít here as a symbol of high-mindedness in this particular neighborhood, the pasty-faced, oily-haired, long-armed louts who hang around swilling smoothies might otherwise be skulking in the alley and shooting up junk. But Iíve got to stop this negative thinking.

    So hereís what happened, Binky. I took the December issue of a veggie magazine to my table and started reading their goddamned veggie Christmas menus and began feeling quite critical and superior, and all the while Iím eating a soyburger, which I wouldnít be eating if I hadnít heard about mad cow disease, and damn it, Binky, I really started to miss you and I really wished I hadnít taken you to the airport and watched you board that doomed airliner on 9/11. Happy holidays. Whatever.