I’m not going to candy-cane coat it for you. The outlook for the Johnson Family Christmas this year is grim. As you know, one of our family’s most treasured holiday traditions is for me to use my skills as a certified public accountant to calculate an exact dollar amount that reflects both the total monetary value of your Christmas gifts and how much I love you.
Ethan, son, as of today you are worth exactly $148.57. If you’ll recall, a year ago at this time you were sitting pretty at a holiday value north of $550. What happened? Well just this morning, for instance, when I said I might fix the sink in the guest bathroom myself you snorted quietly but derisively into your orange juice. Perhaps you thought such a subtle display of faithlessness went unnoticed. It did not, and your Christmas stock dropped accordingly.
Other decisions that dinged your holiday valuation include not being more enthusiastic about burrito night, rolling your eyes when I bought us tickets to the Everclear concert that other more grateful sons only wished their dads were alt-rock enough to know about, and that time I came home excited about my new jeans and you said, “Sick butt flaps, Dad.” I could tell by your tone that you did not, in fact, believe my butt flaps were “sick.”
Emma, you’re doing better, but not by much. Which is a shame. A few months ago when your grandma called, and you went a whole five minutes without saying, “I think daddy wants to talk to you now, Me-Ma,” I would’ve predicted this to be a banner Christmas for you. A new iPad, maybe that expensive Sephora eyeliner set you’re always talking about but I’ve refused to buy, in part because I still have unresolved anger toward an ex-girlfriend who wore a lot of dramatic eye makeup. (Your mother knows all about her, sweetheart. We discuss it every week in therapy.)
But right now you are resting at $198.75, a six-week low, and I honestly can’t say if it’s going to go any higher. If you’re wondering what happened, well, I can tell you right now your new boyfriend Rick certainly isn’t helping things. Here’s an insider tip–stop calling him “Hot Rick” all the time. Am I right about this, Ethan? For weeks I thought you were dating Hautrik– some nice Indian boy. Then this half-starved haircut in a tank top shows up in my kitchen asking if any of our food is “humane,” and I’m like, “Who the hell is this young gun?” Now your brother won’t even touch his Dino Buddies nuggets, and your brother loved his Dino Buddies, Emma! He loved them!
As for your mother, well—in all my years of Johnson Family Christmas forecasting, I’ve never seen a trajectory like this one. If current trends hold she could easily end up with the house and 40 percent of my annual income. If you ask me, that value has been artificially inflated by her tenacious bloodsucking lawyer, but I’m working on turning it around. If everything goes according to my action plan, come Christmas morning the love of my life will receive her usual Lands’ End sweater, a bottle of her favorite perfume, and the warm embrace of a husband whose touch no longer makes her, as she put it during one of our recent counseling sessions, “curdle and die inside.”
You know how much I love Christmas, kids, but everything just feels… off this season. Usually nothing makes me happier than sorting the various neighbors and coworkers we’re obliged to exchange gifts with into the $10 and $20 gas card piles. Except this year when I downgraded Mr. Radner because he let his hedges go all to hell, I didn’t start humming “Jingle Bell Rock” like I usually do.
Maybe it’s something your mom said last week that’s stuck with me. She said, “Bob, everyone thinks you’re a total dick.” I’m starting to think that maybe she’s right. Christmas has always been my 4th of July. What could be more American than putting an exact dollar amount on the value of your friends and loved ones? But I’ve been so busy evaluating other people, I never stopped to consider what they might think of me. Like last year when I unwrapped my gift from you kids and it was a half-used container of Folgers from the kitchen: You were probably trying to tell me something, huh?
Well, I’m listening now. Screw the Johnson Family Christmas Financial Forecast! I love you. I love your mother. So whatever you want this year, you’re getting. The sky’s the limit! I’ll just do the most patriotic thing of all—go into a shit-ton of debt.