When I was six, I got drunk on rye whiskey over the Christmas holidays.
My grandfather had enlisted my help in serving drinks to relatives, and, like a mischievous alter boy, I decided that I should sample the offerings.
So it was one shot of rye for cousin Butch, one shot for me, straight from the bottle.
I'm not sure how much I had, maybe only a couple of shots, but man, they tasted good. Made me all warm inside.
Set me up for the adult years. Thanks, Grandpa!
The family was having so much fun that they hardly noticed a six-year-old weaving around in the background.
That was one of my earliest memories of my Simpson family Christmases.
Living on the farm, I was a pretty lonely child. There were no sisters to play with, only older brothers to watch, consumed as they were with hockey pick up games on the homemade rink in the backyard.
There were no friends within miles and all the adults except my mother were in their 70s.
I was just a background player, an extra moving around unnoticed while adult business took centrestage.
I have said before that I was raised by the television, which was my constant companion during my childhood. Christmas was prime viewing season.
I immersed myself in Christmas television specials, with their black-and-white scenery, war era songs and manufactured joy.
Andy Williams and Bob Hope were my favorites. The specials were so warm and loving, and the players made me feel like I was part of their families.
That's why I usually take time to watch White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Scrooge -- all the golden oldies that they still play on television.
This year, I admit, has been different. I've taped White Christmas but haven't watched it. I saw the Jim Carrey version of The Grinch but not the cartoon version. And I haven't watched a single Christmas special featuring ice skaters and celebrities in warm cardigans.
I've also avoided the malls.
I'm not in the mood.
Being a freelancer is a tough business, even in good times, and none of my money has arrived from the jobs we've done over the past two months. The magazine I work for in France just changed owners, so I've been advised that the Euros won't be flowing into my bank account any time soon. I pleaded with the new managers, who are leaving for the holidays, to spare a thought for one of my freelancers who covered a conference back in October and hasn't seen a dime.
Give the man a break, I said. You might make a difference between him having a nice holiday, with food and wine, or him taking his family to the Food Bank.
We have another client, a government client, for which we did a rushed job a few weeks back. She sent us the paperwork, asked us to mail it in, and Canada Post failed to deliver it.
Thanks, Post Office!
I'm glad I didn't mail out any gifts this year.
We're muddling by on Scott's salary from selling Japanese cars. What a terrible year it's been for the poor people who toil on behalf of corporations working in the earthquake and tsunami-ravaged Japan. I can't imagine what it must be like for the Japanese people.
Being a car salesman is one of the worst jobs you can have around Christmas. Scott's having to work six days a week for the same pay, selling phantom cars to no one.
The good news is everybody buys his brand of car in the New Year because it's the safest. By the middle of January, there is a lineup of people who come with insurance cheques paid out after their cheapo cars are totaled on holiday roads.
But that doesn't help us right now.
We took a page from the playbook of my ancestors this year and squirreled away all the food for our Christmas feast in advance, the way we used to on the farm. Farmers know enough to save for the snowy days ahead, and that's what we've learned to do over the years.
My family taught me well.
But I've added my own spin to the holidays.
I've told my kids they'll be getting I.O.U.s for Christmas.
Maybe we'll have a whole other celebration come mid-January when the cheques finally arrive.
Pretend Christmas was just a dream. Let the real holidays begin.
Sometimes, I long for those days back on the farm, when I didn't have to worry about those things.
At six, I only had to concern myself with getting to bed and facing a hangover in the morning.
No much has changed, I guess.