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The following material may not be appropriate for all ages and/or conservative workplaces.
If your child or boss is nearby, you might have some things to explain.
I’m from a small town, which is one of those things that can mean a lot of things, so I’ll try to describe it. There were 140-ish people in my graduating class. If you still live there after high school, you’re either a teacher or, like my parents, you’re working in one of the factories on the outskirts of town. Usually, my mom will run into one person she knows when we go to Wal-mart. We’re all basically Kevin Bacon, which is to say that we may not know each other directly, but someone always worked with someone whose kid played soccer with someone, so we’re no more than 6 degrees removed from anyone else in town.
As is required of every small town, we’re known for a couple of dumb things: Basketball (we were good in the 20s and 30s), our mascot (#11 on Buzzfeed’s list of ‘25 High School Mascots that’ll make you say ‘Wait, What?’’), and our Christmas lights in the town’s biggest park.
In case it’s not clear, there was no confusing my town for a magical Hallmark Christmas movie town called Snow Falls or something. My family is also not a magical Hallmark Christmas family. My mom was the most festive by far; my dad, my brother and I would mostly just roll our eyes as she filled yet another Santa-themed candy dish with fudge she made. But in 2014, I desperately wanted a magical Hallmark Christmas movie Christmas.
At the time, I was living in Oakland; I’d been there for 7 years and things had been coming to a pretty palpable end for a while. I had a job that had no promise of becoming a career, but I definitely didn’t have any ideas on how to replace it. All of my friends were moving onto the next phases of their lives — in Portland, New York, LA — but none of the places they were going seemed like the right place for me. I knew I’d have to make a decision about what I wanted to do and where soon, but any time I found myself even starting to think about it, I completely shut down.
So, instead of tackling those real problems, I had decided that I would create the perfect Christmas. Who cares that my town has only one mildly festive event? Who cares that I don’t care about Christmas at all? This was the way I had chosen to keep the spectre of my crumbling life at bay, logic be damned! Tree decorating, cookie baking, snowmen, a fireplace, matching red plaid pajamas, and the Christmas lights at the park. All of it would be memorialized on Instagram, of course. Everyone would see my perfect Christmas pictures, and if my life looked perfect, then it WAS perfect and maybe that little voice in my head whispering the list of decisions I had to start making would just shut up…
Eager to kick the holiday cheer into gear, I tried to rally my family into the car to head to the park as soon as I got home. My dad was an instant no. My brother had already seen them. It was just me and Mom.
My mom was thrilled by my Christmas cheer veneer and newfound interest in participating in the festivities. I told her on our way that I was going to take some video and that there was one display I wanted to get specifically, one I thought Instagram would DIE FOR — our town mascot: The Hotdog.
For sports, the standard depiction of The Hotdog is an angry-looking dachshund. But, for any festival or situation in which the town would want to appear welcoming to visitors, an alternate image was used: a vertical hotdog in a bun with arms, legs, a face, and a little cap. This version — my favorite version — was the one used in the Christmas lights display. I could see the Insta story in my head: driving through the tunnel of lights to land on this smiling, waving weiner in a tiny Santa hat.
But when we got there…
The hotdog wouldn’t wave.
The Hotdog’s arms stuck in one position for 8 miserable seconds. My instagram-perfect Holiday dreams died before me while my mom pointed out other new displays I should look at and then finally,
“Look! He waved ‘em!”
My mom’s earnest excitement got me. Failing so swiftly at having the Perfect Christmas was a combination of catharsis and a slap in the face. I knew that there would be no holly jolly hiding from my problems that year, that, just like every other time of year, they would find me. You can hear me start to laugh at the end of the video and I kept laughing until I cried all the way home.