The first ghost took me to a shopping mall, where harried retail workers worked ten, sometimes twelve hour shifts, six days a week, frequently having to skip breaks to keep up with the volume of shoppers passing through. I watched them, separated from their own families and wishing they could spend their holidays at home, stagger through day after painful, repetitive day, helping strangers they knew would never appreciate their hard work find the perfect gift…
The second ghost was different. He showed me a family dinner, where people who loved one another realized they didn’t like one another nearly as much as they could. They tried their best to keep it civil until the night was over with, but as the drinks flowed tempers flared, as they must, and by the end of what was meant to be a family meal the veneer of civility had given way to open, passive-aggressive hostility.
The final ghost was, perhaps, worst of all. It showed me a wasteland of gifts, bought, opened and forgotten. Perhaps some might be used, or at least re-gifted next holiday season, but the majority would languish in closets and storage rooms until, finally, winding up either at yard sales or in landfills. Money wasted, time and effort unappreciated. Tokens of affection given, received and ignored.
The ghosts had visited to bring me an important lesson on the true meaning of Christmas, and waking up the next morning I realized that yes, the lesson was both true and important to remember at this time of year.
…oh yes, I learned my lesson, and I learned it well.
Christmas is the worst.
Also: Ghosts are kind of dicks.