Laid Off Christmas

Photo by Markus Spike

Finding a holiday in the ruins.

Books and socks. Everyone gets a book and a pair of socks, that’s it. Maybe a stocking. I could probably build a stocking cheaply if I go to the drugstore and buy tiny things that say “we care” but also “so practical.” Mickey Mouse bandaids. Store brand toothpaste. Something Fruit of the Loom. No more chocolate espresso beans and organic kombucha. No more high end jerky sticking out the top.

The food will be trimmed — plenty, but cheap. It can be done. The paté de foie gras will yield to Vienna sausages — perhaps there’s still some mustard in the fridge. The lack of fancy cheeses will be a boon for the arteries. No more dry-aged prime rib au jus. Here comes canned ham with canned pineapple rings. Porcinis and pancetta will be absent, as will anything with the word “truffle” on the label. No more of my signature candied pecans — more than ten bucks a pound for those silly nuts! Dessert can be missing the fine chocolates and the cream, but sugar is cheap. Sugar is easy. Too easy.

The wine will be boxed and the champagne will be a fond memory (or maybe just one cheap bottle of not-champagne with embellishments just for me, because … hot flashes and Christmas). The eggnog (can we have eggnog?) may be lacking its rum supplement. Or brandy. Or bourbon. Perhaps the neighbors will come through with a bottle.

The dogs are screwed. They can feast on visions of pig ears and Greenies. It will be kibble and dinner scraps this year. Same for the cats — catnip mice and kitty cookies are but a fond memory. Those were the days, my friends!

Shit, the tree. We’ll need a small tree. A very small tree. Small trees aren’t necessarily cheaper than their larger kin, but something tells me to keep everything small. Small tree. Tiny lights. Few ornaments. No balls. Be very very small. And very quiet. We are just a whisper, we’ll be fine.

I’m finding all the melancholy sadness that was always there in Charlie Brown’s “Christmas Time is Here”. I think it’s that elegant minor key thing and the percussive brushing. He had a very small tree. The smallest.

Building a holiday on the heels of a layoff is interesting. A new thing. Less fun, but it works the creative muscles. The raw, fresh reality, after 20 years of a reliable income, is stunning. Christmas, only weeks after the hammer, is like a train in the fog. I can hear it coming, I sense that it could mean danger. But it also suggests a sort of eerie magic, a lovely whistle in the distance. The great hulking body of the thing is not yet visible. I’m distracted and peering hopefully into the dark, hoping there’s an answer. If we didn’t have children, I think we’d drink too much and binge-watch escapism, bury our two bruised brains in the comfort of shared minor tragedy.

The kids are old, though. They will help. They will bring gifts and food and make us feel guilty and vulnerable and, also, grateful. They will each get a book, my favorite gift to give. And a pair of socks. Maybe a stocking, with Tic Tacs and cheap soap. No more of those fancy mints and creamy French products. The ghosts of tiny hip appliances will mock us from the circulars. We will laugh and cry and commiserate. I will rave entirely too much about the current world order and the kids will agree and argue and probably fret silently. Everything we consume will have a phantom dollar sign hovering, reminding us of the accounting. This is probably not a bad thing.

Gratitude, practice gratitude. A new reality, a fresh canvas, a clean start. Out of crisis comes opportunity, or some such feel-good, inspirational shit. Christmas — the Grinch stole it, sort of, but remember the Whos? They ran right through that red light, didn’t they. They sang and they swayed and they made soft eyes at each other. It came without the trimmings, sans artifice. It came without cash or credit. It comes. Bring it on.

Merry Christmas.

Whos singing, come what may

Lisa Renee is a freelance writer living near a Finger Lake in New York. She is also fiction editor at

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