The Christmas that ALMOST broke us.

Have I ever told you I HATE Christmas? I know, it's hard to imagine.

“Have I ever told you how much I hate Christmas?” I said.

“Yes. Just about every year. Every Christmas. Every time we’re here, at the mall, doing our final shopping for the kids. Will you ever shut up about it?” She said

She’s my wife, by the way.

We are those people. She doesn’t like shopping and I don’t like Christmas. Yet, we still haven’t caught onto the whole Amazon thing. We’re technologically lazy, some would say.

“OK. You get Joshua and Teigan. I’ll get Eliza and Sarah.” She said as though I wouldn’t protest.

“You get the girls every year! I want Eliza. I’ll give you Joshua.” My bartering skills are unmatched. I used to live in the 3rd world before I met her and I was, by far, the cheapest traveller ever.

“No. That’s not fair. Joshua complains about everything we get him unless it’s like a thousand dollars. Then he breaks it. So we only get him cheap toys now and he hates it all.” She said with confidence, knowing she had a point.

“Well, the Mall closes in 3 hours and we only have a babysitter for 4. We can fight about it or we can get going. And you know Eliza isn’t easy to shop for either. She only likes those weird digital pets that she spends hours on just staring at it, feeding it, or walking it, or whatever the heck you do with those things. I think she has all of them so if I get her something else you know there will be terror in the house on Christmas day and none of us want that.” I replied to her, knowing I had her cornered. I was already planning on getting her this one specific toy I heard her talk about a couple weeks ago. Dang, I’m good.

“Jeez. Fine! I’ll take Joshua.” She said, “This sucks.” She muttered under her breath.

“What?” I looked at her smiling.

“Merry Christmas! She looked back at me smiling.

My smile reversed.

So, here we are at the mall on the eve of Christmas Eve. Yes, I know. We’re terrible parents. But our kids love us and what they don’t know until they're 18 won’t cost us any in therapy, just them.

It looks like Christmas threw up at every corner at this mall. Tinsel over here. Christmas trees blocking traffic. Santa caressing kids on his lap, letting them whisper in his ear what they want (I always found that weird). And, my God people are aggressive during Christmas! I felt like a linebacker blocking for my wife who’s running behind me. But we’re doing it! We’re going to get all our presents in the next 3 hours and we will triumph!

Just then all the lights went out and the emergency lights kicked on in the building. The low light turned the mall into a cheap horror film where everyone went silent, stopped, and waited. It was weird. A second later all the emergency doors shut for every single store. Then the panic began. But not from the people. From my wife.

“Oh. My. God. This is not happening.” She said in disbelief. She looked around as people started to increase their volume in one accord, all asking the same question: What’s going on?

“Uh.” I said to her with my mouth open. “I’m pretty sure it is and we’re …”

“Freaking crap! What are we gonna do?” I can feel her anxiety rising.

“I’m pretty sure we can’t do anything, hun.” I grabbed her arm. ”Let’s see if the exit doors are open. Maybe we can get outta here.”

We walked over to try to get out but those doors were locked. Now I started to panic a little.

“So, maybe we should call someone.” I said to her.

“Like who?” She said.

Just as she said that an announcement came on over the intercom system in the mall.

“Please, yall ….. everyone …. Uhhh ... be quiet.”

“That sounds like a kid.” I said. “We’re screwed”.

“We are uh...testing our security system for a shooting incident and something went wrong.” The loud speaker said. You could hear the gasps in the crowd. “We’re working on gettin it fixed up soon, okay. Uhhh, sorry for the troubles, yall”.

“Did he just say ‘yall’, again?” My wife looked at me.

“I believe so, hun.” I looked back at her.

So there I was, stuck in Christmas hell. For someone who doesn’t like Christmas, to be trapped in a mall on the eve of Christmas Eve with low lighting that could potentially be, or not be, an active shooter scenario, I was not happy.

You’ll never guess how long it took for them to fix it. Yeah, you guessed it. Three hours. When they finally fixed it the mall was closing and kicking people out, but really, people were fleeing the mall by then. There was no kicking.

So we had to explain to our kids that year that we didn’t get them any gifts. They weren’t happy. Eliza sat on the couch, feeding her digital chicken on her handheld device and Joshua was busy breaking some of his other siblings' toys. We didn’t think it was a big deal then. Years later, when they were teenagers going through ‘that phase’, the one where they hate their parents, we ended up having to do therapy, seriously. We took them all in and it all came out. All their disdain for us rooted from that one year we didn’t buy them anything for Christmas.

It turns out that although kids can’t verbally communicate how you just traumatized them by ruining their Christmas, they later act it out as either aggressive or passive aggressive behaviour towards you. That was a fun fact to learn.

I had one kid put the dog poop in my shoes for months. He kept telling me that I left my shoes outside and the dog would just run right up to it and squat over it with high-precision accuracy.

Another kid kept calling me fat, for years! I’m not even fat. I’m 6 foot 170 lbs. But it’s a sore spot for me and she knew it. Fatty. Fatalicious. Fatto. There were hundreds of fat names she gave me. It really hurt!

So, after the therapy session we finally started celebrating Christmas together. We would ALL go to the mall and buy each other gifts. It took a couple of years but the wounds healed and I stopped being fattorama and the dog started pooing in the backyard again. Except, the only thing we remember every year is we all carry rocks in our pockets just in case the doors all lock on us. I’m breaking the heck out this time.

So, Merry Christmas to you and remember to buy the ones you love gifts. Even small gifts. They’re worth it. It’s better than therapy.

The End.