Holidays mean bell-ringing and bad sweaters

jackie.stark

It’s the holiday season and I feel guilty.
For most people, the holidays are a time to get together with family and enjoy a few days of cheer. For me, the holidays are the time when I’m most likely to form an ulcer.
I feel guilty for a lot of reasons, the main one being that I have a place reserved in my dresser for the ugly sweater I’ll receive this year from one of my relatives. I love my family very much, but sometimes I think they just don’t know me that well. I will never wear a dark blue sweater with a giant light blue heart on it, nor will I adorn myself with a violently pink sweater that has two knobs sticking up off the shoulders so that the pink scarf that comes with the sweater can be attached to it. And though I’m not exactly of intimidating size, I haven’t fit into anything labeled “extra small” since I was 10.
As a kid, someone gave me something Barbie-related every year. I had an entire case of Barbie dolls by the time I was nine. This was like a graveyard for toys, each doll thrown in after all the gifts were exchanged, never to be touched again.
While I appreciate each sweater in its own way, I can’t bring myself to wear them. So, every year, instead of discarding the ugly sweater right away, I assuage my guilt by putting the sweater in my dresser, so I can at least entertain the idea of wearing it at some point during the winter. Then, when the winter holidays roll around again, I take out the old sweater, donate it to charity and replace it with a new sweater. It’s become my own twisted, personal holiday tradition.
Though I spend the whole month dreading the moment when I’ll have to open the sweater gift, smile and show my family the item they’ll never see again, there’s one other thing about the holidays that makes me want to sleep through them . the Salvation Army bell-ringers.
I understand that during the holiday season, people are predisposed to donating their extra cash to charity, but these people never fail to make me feel guilty when I walk by.
As a college student, I’m not exactly rolling in dough. The last $100 bill I saw was handed to me through a drive-thru window while I was working. I’ve never gone on a $1,000 shopping spree, and I doubt many college students get the chance to. Yet, when I emerge from almost any store during December, with the cheapest shovel I could find or a dozen boxes of mac and cheese, the sound of that bell pierces right through the scarf wrapped around my head. I can’t walk past this man whose arm looks as though it’s moving on its own, probably because the rest of his body is frozen. His eyes are the only part of his face I see, and they’re always boring straight into me.
I try to walk past him. But I have a hard time moving my feet, mostly because I’m standing in a foot of snow and don’t have on boots because I can’t afford to buy them. I know there is change in my pocket that I could give to this guy, but I already gave two bucks to the bell-ringers that were in the mall. I’ve already donated today, but this guy standing in the blizzard doesn’t know that. This is why I think the bell-ringers should give out large red buttons that say “I’ve donated today!” in white lettering. This way, when I walk past blizzard-man, he’ll know that I already did my part.
Instead, my hand delves into my pocket and re-emerges with my last quarter, the only physical money I have left. As I put the coin into the bucket, blizzard-man wishes me a Merry Christmas, and I wish him the same.
If only wishes could come true.