Mary Oves Danny Drake

I love the movie "Christmas Story." My favorite scene is on Christmas morning, after Ralphie and his brother open their presents. The little brother falls asleep on top of the wrapping, clutching his new toy zeppelin, while the parents sit on the couch drinking wine, admiring the tree and talking quietly. That scene fills me with such peace.

By the time anyone reads this, Christmas hysteria will be in its last death throes. All the planning and stressing will have culminated in a lump of wrapping, tinsel and over-stimulated children. The day will ease itself slowly into blurred satisfaction, complete with pans of lasagna, almond shells and half eaten cheesecakes. People will gaze at the aftermath, not with disgust at the gluttony but with satisfaction, at another year lived successfully and perhaps, happily.

And melancholy will set in. Perhaps the decorations that lit up our houses so cheerfully just 24 hours before will already look a little maudlin. Maybe the broccoli casseroles and the pulled pork platters that just a week before made our mouths water look heavy and fattening. We begin to munch guiltily on baby carrots, and we put away the wine, at least until New Years. And that reindeer sweater with the lit up nose? What in the world had we been thinking?

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But we have new stuff. New phones. New jackets. New boots. New ski stuff. And the possibilities, they're new too. "This phone is going to make my life so much easier!" we say. "And I'll be a better skier! A better walker! A better person!" The end of the Christmas season ushers in the beginning of the Improvement Season.

Tis the season to be better.

The days after Christmas are ripe for reinvention. We want to become brighter shinier versions of ourselves to go along with our new stuff.

"I can't wear these new Ugg boots and be the same old boring person with the same old boring hang-ups!" we think.

So out comes the exercise equipment, the self help books, the gym memberships, the diet plans. The vows to travel more, read more, smile more. To eat less, worry less, swear less (my personal favorite). Watch the spending, watch the junk food, watch the sinning.

For some this works. But for many of us life intervenes, forcing us back into the same old habits. And we beat ourselves up for being lazy, rotten, mean or compulsive.

It's an exhausting wheel to run. I run it every year.

But I don't want to run it this year. I'm tired of running. So my goal this coming year is to not be a different me. Or a new improved me. I'm thinking of maybe becoming someone entirely different. Of maybe imitating someone.

But I don't admire anyone except my sons. And I don't want to be 12. So options are limited. Who else is there?

I could be Lindsay Lohan. Or Demi Lovato. They hit people, go to treatment centers and get to wear electronic ankle bracelets. Oh, and they never have to apologize for anything. I hear Lindsay has a multi-million dollar movie deal on the burner right now in case she ever dries up. Must be nice.

I could be Justin Bieber. He is writing his memoirs. What is he, 12? Is he writing about the trials and tribulations of potty training?

How about Miley Cirus? Wasn't she videotaped inhaling some kind of legal drug in California? And then she dons that blonde wig when she sobers up. What a joke. She does what she wants, and gets rewarded for it. I want to be her.

And Charlie Sheen. He commits crimes and parties but still shows up to work on time. Great work ethic, and what a great guy.

My boys asked me last week if I was excited about getting presents. I explained that adults don't need presents, that safe happy children are all moms and dads want. And that seeing those safe happy faces on Christmas day is a true blessing, when so many parents don't have that.

So they disappeared on their bikes later in the day, and when they got back, they were huddled together over wrapping paper. Turns out they were shopping for me. For presents. Because they were afraid I wouldn't get any.

Maybe I do want to be 12.


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