Quiz #98. "MFC"

Finding joy in dark times and the dangers of walking 2 dogs with a Santa mask on Christmas Eve. Steve's Stay-at-Home Coronavirus quiz for December 24, 2020.

It should surprise no one that long before 2020, my family and I have used the phrase, “Merry Fucking Christmas.” In a typical year, “MFC” is used to break the tension when the hustle and bustle turns to hassle and too much excitement becomes too much.  But in 2020, “MFC” seems especially apt with a holiday which will be marked not by family get-togethers but more isolation and disruption, a weird and other-worldly pause and deviation in an already chaotic year of upheaval.  In 2020, when the calendar hits December 25, 2020, “MFC” says it’s still Christmas, just a Covid Christmas--for better or worse.  Take the joy and happiness when they come--though things may be a little rough and bad things may happen along the way, despite our best intentions and well-thought-out plans.

It was my brother Richard who many years ago first championed the phrase “MFC” in our family.  His children were younger and Richard and his wife Julie took them to a Saturday matinee of the Christmas pageant with the Rockettes at Radio City.  They did not have aisle seats and with 3 small children, there were many trips to the bathroom and candy counter.  Every time they got up, my brother reported that the woman in the aisle seat did little to hide that she was annoyed at having to get up and down to accommodate young children at a Christmas matinee.  My brother reported flashing angry looks at the woman throughout the show.  When it was over and as they left, Richard found himself standing next to the woman in the crowded aisle.  As they parted, he told her, “Merry Fucking Christmas.”

For my brother and me, it’s become our Christmas greeting and several years ago, I bought two plastic, wind-up Santas--one for Richard and one for me.  Crank the knob on Santa’s back and he gives you the finger.  Sara did not like the idea of this angry, adult Santa being on display in our house where children might see Santa giving the finger.  I agreed to put Santa  away in a drawer in my dresser.  He hasn’t seen the light of day for years, but because it’s 2020, I pulled him out on this Christmas Eve, December 24th.  F.U. Santa has had a tough time and when I got him out, I realized his arm had broken off--and it’s his critical arm.  Why?  Because it’s 2020.

On Wednesday, December 23rd, Sara spotted this video which was making the rounds on social media.  Its central message: “Fuck you 2020.”  

Sara said she laughed the first time she watched it and the second time she watched it, she cried.  It’s actually a fund-raising message for a Canadian mental health agency.  It turns out that it’s a good thing to let some of your frustrations out when things suck.  Uncharacteristically, Sara changed the message on the chalkboard leading to our basement.  There is strength in defiance.  

Long familiar with “MFC,” Annie, a psychiatric social worker, posted this image on her social media on the morning of Christmas Eve.

Awake too early on Christmas Eve, I was struck by two posts from social media.  They’re not directly connected to Christmas, but they’re perfect and made me smile on a dark December morning.  The first is from Weird Al Yankovich, flagged by @timfullerton.

The second tweet showed a wonderful side of John Lewis who died in this awful year of 2020.  I have no idea how or why it cropped up on my Twitter feed on Christmas Eve, but I was delighted to discover that the civil rights icon had once gone crowd surfing on national TV.

My own social media feed has been filled with ads for a Covid mask with a Santa beard on top of the mask. Several weeks ago, I ordered a set of 3 Santa masks and planned on wearing mine this last weekend when I played Santa in my extended family’s Christmas Zoom party.  Sadly, they were not delivered in time, but I was still very happy when they finally arrived on Wednesday night, December 23rd.  Sara and I put them on and quickly snapped some photos which I shared in a family text with my step-mother, sisters and niece. 

Kate, my niece, suggested that I wear the mask with the Santa beard when I walked the dogs the next morning as a way of spreading holiday cheer on Christmas Eve.

You may not be able to see it, but there’s a red mask under the beard. Ho, ho, ho!

And so it was that I headed out Christmas Eve morning to walk the dogs, sporting a Santa hat and a COVID mask with a white beard. There’s a family with a dog and two young children, ages 4 and 1, that lives eight houses down.  Sometimes they all walk together and I pass them as I walk our dogs.  Twice in the last week, when I passed their house on my morning walk, I noticed that their dog noticed our dogs and started barking from a corner window of what must be a TV room, off to the side of their living room.  Each time, once their dog had been alerted that we were walking by, the 4-year-old girl would poke her head in the window to wave to me and our two dogs.  I went out this morning, thinking my beard and Santa hat would make the perfect Christmas Eve surprise for a housebound 4-year-old.

When I passed the house, however, there was no movement from their dog, “not a creature was stirring.” I crossed the street and walked the dogs across the athletic field next to the school in our neighborhood.  Usually, I then make turns around several block behind the school so that when I return to our house, I’ve made a full circle.  This morning, I really wanted the little girl to see me in my Covid Christmas gear so I looped back across the school field to walk back down our block making a second pass in front of their house. Two things happened to disrupt my plan to spread Christmas cheer.

First, as I crossed the street, I saw a woman who was out running.  We spotted one another as she came running up the block.  We made eye contact as we silently communicated how we’d navigate the sidewalk during these socially distant times.  She signalled that she’d cut over to the street on the apron of the driveway between us, I nodded my thanks and held the dogs firm, but as she hit the end of the driveway she hit the pavement, wiping out on some black ice at the edge of the street.  I was no more than 10 feet away as she crashed to the ground. Her running tights were badly torn with a huge hole on her right knee, a blotchy red scrape underneath.  I asked if she was okay, but she was wearing headphones so she did not hear me at first.  She was clearly in pain and she started to cry on the side of the road.  She was not so badly hurt that I thought I needed to go over to her, especially being 6-foot-5, with two dogs, a Santa hat and a Covid beard. I apologized and backed up in the driveway to give her some space and let her get herself to her feet without me and the dogs standing nearby.  She soon got up and started walking--not running--limping ahead of me on the sidewalk. I again paused to give her some space. I felt awful as my plan for Christmas cheer was turned upside down. No holiday joy here.

In a few moments, I started to walk up the block again and was soon back in front of the house with the dog and the little girl. This time, the dog had spotted me and our dogs.  He was barking from his usual corner window and I stopped at the end of their driveway, hoping the little girl would look out and I'd surprise her with my Santa get-up.  Nothing.  I waited and then walked up the driveway, closer to the window and their dog started barking even louder.  Still no sign of life.  I turned to walk away, but I did not want to give up my plans easily.  I decided to ring their doorbell, taking care to get off their front porch as soon as I could to keep my social distance.  Their dog had followed me and he was now going nuts from their dining room window.  Still no response. Either they were not home or they had no interest in opening their door to a 63-year-old man with two dogs and a Santa beard. 

Of course, it’s normal to question the magic that is Santa.  When Annie was in college, she revealed that one Christmas when she was growing up, she’d reached the age when she’d begun to question whether Santa was real or not.  That Christmas, she wanted an American Girl doll, Samantha, but she didn’t tell anyone that she wanted it.  If Santa was real, she reasoned, he would know—and she would get Samantha. When there was no Samantha on Christmas morning, Annie said she knew there was no Santa.

For more than 10 years, she lived with this story, not sharing the unspoken control experiment she’d conceived and conducted as a child trying to understand the world. When she finally revealed this childhood secret in 2004, I responded by getting her the Samantha doll that Christmas.

Four American Girls on Christmas Day, 2004: Annie with Samantha and Betsy with Molly.

This Christmas, it’s been hard to hold onto hope in these dark times.  Before Thanksgiving, Sara ordered chocolate Santas from a family-run candy store in Ohio.  One brother used to have a store in the New Jersey town where Sara grew up and every year for decades, she’d bought chocolate Santas for the kids, a tradition she’d maintained for close to 30 years.  In 2020, the local candy store shut down, but Sara found his brother’s Ohio store on the internet and called to order the Santas. Over coffee on Christmas Eve morning, she lamented the fact that with shipping delays, the chocolate Santas had not arrived. I reminded her that there was still time and she needed to hold out hope that they’d get her for Christmas. At lunch, I told Sara and Will that we needed to put Christmas to the test.  If Christmas magic was alive, the Santas would arrive. Will called it a bold proclamation and cautioned me against putting all our 2020 Christmas hope on the line with the USPS. 

And yet at 2:30pm on Christmas Eve, the box of chocolate Santas arrived.  Sara was delighted and as I tore open the box, I yelled to Will in the basement with joy.

Here’s to all we have endured and witnessed in 2020.

There’s joy in the darkness—and there’s light at the end of this tunnel.

As Dr. Faucci has said, the holidays in 2021 will be epic.

Merry Fucking Christmas!

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What did NOT happen?

A. I wrapped some presents this morning and abandoned our wrapping paper system in which each member of the family is assigned a distinct wrapping paper which is used for presents given to each person;

B. Will ordered a “Trumpy Bear” as a Christmas present.  It arrived this Thursday on Christmas Eve;

C. Sara and I left two envelopes with tips outside on top of our trash can for the two garbage men who come on Thursday. They tag team down separate driveways and we watched the one young man take the envelopes and put them in his pocket.  We were relieved to watch him get into the truck and share an envelope with his co-worker;

D. Sara and I decorated our Christmas tree this Christmas Eve afternoon, the latest we’ve ever waited to decorate;

E. For both Sara and me, in our families of origin, our parents would put the tree up and decorate it after the children went to bed on Christmas Eve so we’d wake up on Christmas morning thinking that Santa had brought presents and the tree.


Want the answer?

Answer #98. “MFC.”

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Want more?

Here’s the next quiz in the series: Quiz #99. Numbers.

Here’s the previous quiz in the series: Quiz #97. “Sur-prise, sur-prise, sur-prise!”

Here’s the first quiz in the series: Quiz #1. Stella and Social Distancing, March 13, 2020

Here is an archive of all the quizzes.

The quiz is explained here: Steve’s Stay-at-Home Coronavirus Quiz.


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MFC.