How a mute neighbor girl taught me to fight Christmas cheer

Wearing a look of disgust on her face, Olive crept into our home. She surveyed our professionally-installed Christmas decorations and sneered, striking my heart with shame. Again, she perceived something invisible to me.

I led Olive to our large television room and gave her the best spot, on the leather recliner my mother had bought from a master Amish craftsman. I created an ambiance by setting out some ginger cookies and non-alcoholic eggnog, and I turned on the Christmas tree lights.

Snowed in and alone with a teenage girl, to what task does a teenage boy devote his energy?

I wanted to watch the comedy “A Christmas Story” with Olive. The movie offered ample holiday cheer for me, and for Olive, an abundance of black humor and cynicism. I was sure she would love it, but from the moment the credits rolled to the song “Deck the Hall,” I saw that Olive was on edge, wondering what she had gotten herself into. I promised her the movie was not a normal Christmas movie.

“It makes fun of Christmas,” I said.

Not once did Olive crack a smile. While I was laughing at Ralphie’s fruitless attempts to get a Red Ryder BB gun, Olive was seething with fury. She stopped the video and stood before me.

“Christmas,” she said, “is a nonsense tradition created by a gang of desert misogynists and perpetuated by blood-sucking capitalists preying on the blind, and if you don’t know that then you’re more of an idiot than I thought.”

She could talk! I was speechless.

“It’s people like you,” Olive said, “who keep the oppressive practice of Christmas alive — you and your family, with your meaningless decorations and movies and cookies in the shape of reindeer. Christmas is a blight on intelligence, a silly myth devised to cover up an illegitimate birth.”

“You’re not mute,” I finally managed to say.

“Of course I’m not mute, you cretin,” she said. “You’re just so mundane, I never bothered wasting breath.”

For ten solid minutes, she continued her magnificently pernicious rant about Christmas being the source of more misery, pollution, sadness, death and global poverty than any other tradition in the history of humankind.

I was completely taken aback. As far as I knew, Christmas had been invented by Macy’s and was sponsored year after year by Coca-Cola. I thought Christmas was an innocent, fun affair. I tried to cover up my ignorance by blaming my absentee parents, my doltish teachers, my country that had misled me, but Olive knew the truth. I was lacking basic knowledge to which she and others in her class of brain power were privy. Even worse, I was ignorant about the source of my own happiness.

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