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Daze of My Life/Iím Dreaming, Too

by Kenneth B. Lourie

On Nov. 19, at 8:25 p.m., the 2003 Christmas season officially began, for me anyhow. The confirmation came the following afternoon, Nov. 20, at 2:47 as I was driving home from Gaithersburg. And though I had previously noticed Christmas gift wrap for sale BEFORE HALLOWEEN at a CVS Pharmacy near my home in Burtonsville, it wasnít until I heard Bing Crosby crooning about and dreaming for a ďWhite Christmas,Ē twice, on radio station WASH FM 97.1 - BEFORE THANKSGIVING - that I acknowledged its early arrival. And so I thought I would sit down and write a column about a recurring problem that I and hopefully others have, beginning every year around this time.

It seems like only yesterday that I finished paying off some of my credit cards that still had Christmas activity, shall we say, on them - presents, gift certificates, food, beverages and travel expenses - as part of their outstanding, and still accruing interest, balances. In fact, it was yesterday. I remember it well. Eliminating credit card debt and in turn reducing monthly obligations is one of my favorite indications that financial improvement is indeed possible. But hearing Bing sing those all-too-familiar verses snapped me back to reality. Christmas may come only once a year, but some of its effects - financial, emotional and familial - may be felt for years.

As a Jewish husband in a mixed-religion marriage, I admit that itís easy for me to get maxed out, emotionally (and financially), during the Christmas rush.

I donít know how I can be expected to embrace traditions and feelings with which I have no real history or connection (other than singing Christmas songs in elementary school). Itís sort of like rooting for the home team after youíve recently moved into the area. As a Bostonian who attended college in Maryland, I wasnít about to trade in my loyalty and commitment to Bostonís sports teams simply because I relocated 500 miles away. Iím no quitter, and besides, I was proud of my affiliations. I saw no reason to change.

When the sights and sounds and bells and whistles of Christmas return, I know itís only a matter of time - nanoseconds most likely - before yours truly will misstep and misspeak and accidentally stir the wrong pot. I donít think I mean anything by it, other than it matters less to me than it does to others, but the effects, nonetheless are still the same - stress and/or hurt feelings.

Simply stated, Iím not nearly as comfortable and compatible with the seasonal swings as others for whom this holiday experience is more ingrained.

But how could it be? I wasnít born yesterday. I was born in the í50s, so Iíve lived a lot of years already, becoming - certainly not perfecting - who I am and believing in what I do. And itís not easy casting aside (even for just a few weeks) long-standing and fully developed instincts.

Look, Iím not exactly a light switch. I canít be turned on and off. Iím more like a dimmer. I can be adjusted and I can accommodate different situations, but I canít be something Iím not. However, if you handle me correctly, you might find the perfect setting. Iím not making any promises, just providing a little insight. Iím not there yet, though. Still I have hope, that one day, in the not-too-distant future, when I hear ďWhite ChristmasĒ on the radio, Iíll smile rather than frown. After all, Christmas ďtis the seasonĒ to be jolly, right?

Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.

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