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Christmas Mallick

Betsey Johnson Blazer


I do a kind thing each December

By HEATHER MALLICK
Friday, December 24, 2004 - Page F2

Woke up this morning and said, "All I want for Christmas is goodwill toward all," a great improvement on what I am usually capable of articulating at 7 a.m., which is "gaagh."

It's not a good time of year for those prone to gloom. We are told to castigate ourselves for this "Christmas orgy of consumption." Well, all I can say is I didn't know tuberculosis was back to that extent, at least in this country, although I understand it is positively rampant in Russian prisons. Fine, I shall donate, but for once, I am not to blame.

Gaagh.

I do a kind thing each December. I pop out to the shops and buy presents for my husband to give me, and wrap them, because if there's one thing he hates more than shopping, it's wrapping. On Christmas morning, my wee face spouts fountains of rapture and surprise as I unwrap my gifts. I'm not even faking. (You may think this sad; rather, it is a magical blending of hope and experience.)

This year, he has bought me pearls, an indescribable Nigella Lawson thingy (salt pig, she claims) to put thingys in, and a truly inspired gift, a green plastic WonderVase. "Make-A-Vase! Just use water! Re-shapeable! Unbreakable! Looks like glass! Stores flat!" I quote the manufacturer.

When we travel, I buy romantic flowers for our hotel room, which, vase-less, I then stuff in toothbrush mugs and tiny plastic Evian bottles. They overturn, we quarrel, we empty a bottle of Sancerre while making up, and you can shove some freesias in the bottle too.

But my WonderVase! The Amazing Vase You Can Shape! is not only practical but suggests what I really want for Christmas, which is a plane ticket, a hotel room and sexy French strife.

I hope he doesn't read this column. Then he'll know what he got me.

I contemplate the tasks this strange season mandates today: Polyurethaneing four berry balls (they're shedding), and individually responding to 100 gleefully enraged e-mail messages from SUV-haters newly em-biled by a recent rambling column (gee, not a bit like this one). We are trying to come up with the perfect translation for the acronym: Stupid Useless Vehicle, Silly Urban Vanity, Sick Up Van, etc. Progress is being made.

One e-mailer stands alone. A scientist writes courteously to me about my definition of "biosolids," which she says is not "old sewage" as I once suggested. It is nutritious stuff. And let's be fair, she said. The contaminants -- asbestos, PCBs, dioxins, furans and heavy metals -- are not actually biosolids, but a ruthless invasion from which "sewage sludge" gets its bad name. Let's give it back its good name in time for Christmas, shall we? The whisper goes round: Heather calls for fairness to muck.

Am I going mad, or does it just seem this way?

Deborah Ross of the Independent, who does go mad at Christmas, tells carol singers, "Look, just piss off you bobble-hatted nitwits before I pelt you with the nuts, which we'll never eat because we can't be bothered to shell them, but they could take your eye out."

She is my heroine. I will now tell you an awful story about myself. We live on a hill and each year during the first snowfall, we open the drapes and watch cocky drivers (SUV drivers are the worst because they're on the phone as they crash) speed up and down the hill, careering, twisting like phone cords and finally making harmless friends with the snow bank should there be one. How we laugh.

This year, everyone made it to the side of the road, which would have been fine had not a car ruined everything by hitting the 15th parked car, causing a 16-car pileup, known in these parts as a Submarine Sandwich. The fenders actually fit together like angled hors d'oeuvre.

Frantic drivers stood on the sidewalk shivering, vainly calling insurers, tow trucks, husbands and other unhelpful types. I thought, if I'm showing seasonal goodwill to biosolids, surely I can be kind to humans. I made coffee for the first time in 15 years, and not out of the tap either, and called out to the stranded to come in for warmth, drinks, etc.

They were strangely reluctant. "But I made it myself," I said. "C'mon in." Perhaps the problem was that I kept showing up in different outfits. (I was making a speech to a bunch of lawyers, and modelling outfits for my husband.)

The drivers were unbelievably nice, two women plus a man who was being a gentleman, but what troubled me was that they said, in person and in their thank-you notes, that I had taken a risk. They could have been murderers, one said.

Who knew?

I suppose I could have thrown mixed nuts at them.

Murderers? We're very bookish. One guest even recognized me: "I didn't know you without your makeup on," was how he put it. (His girlfriend who e-mailed to thank me, take note, lady). I doubt we'd make effective killers.

Look, despite this year's rebirth of ye olde Soviete habit of poisoning political opponents, despite Darfur, despite the new Bushlet-izers teaching U.S. girls: "To admire a man is to regard him with wonder, delight and approval. A man feels admired when his unique characteristics and talents happily amaze her" (isn't Scott Peterson amazing?), people are good and sometimes their goodness touches you in the last warm place in your cold heart.

Please, come into my home when disaster strikes. Wouldn't dream of knifing you. Have a merry happy holiday, Globe readers. You have sustained me this year with your kind e-mail and I am grateful beyond belief.

hmallick@globeandmail.ca
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