Christmas Tick

 (Photo courtesy of

Trust me.  It’ll make sense in a minute.

Had a pretty good weekend.  Hubby and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary with lunch out, some running around window-shopping for a new range, and yard work.  Some might not think that sounds like much of a celebration, but we view it this way:  The stuff we did — while, to some, not terribly noteworthy or celebratory or romantic — serve as yet another confirmation of the future we’re building together.

But about the yard work…

The new place we bought a month ago has around two and one-half acres of mixed woods, wetlands, and open area.  There’s wildlife in the form of all sorts of birds, hawks, deer, squirrels up the wazoo, chipmunks (known as “grinnies” in Pittsburgh), rabbits and (although I have yet to see them) probably skunk, opossum, fox, coyote, turkey and what-have-you.

Anyway, we were busy gathering up the limbs that had fallen in the “freak” snowstorm that slapped Connecticut a couple of weeks ago.  In the course of all this gathering, we began to explore the more wooded areas of the property, slogging through spring-fed trickles of water, shallow pools of same, shoving our way through brush.  Ed had just taken a load of garbage (old bottles, beer cans and the like) out of the woods to dump in the trash and I was slowly following with my own arm-load when I chanced to look down.

And ran like hell.

I blasted out of the undergrowth like my ass was on fire, flung the trash into the air, and began slapping at my legs.

“What’s the matter?” Ed called, starting toward me.


I know about ticks.  (I’d better, having lived in Connecticut for the past fourteen years.)  I know what sorts are out there and what they looks like and all that.  But somehow — with the weather hovering near cold — I’d spaced all that knowledge.  Besides, my knowledge of ticks has come bit by bit, one by one, an occasional tick taken off the dogs, a rare individual picked from my shirt or (worse) crawling on my skin.

This was a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

I was covered.  Dozens of pencil-dot critters were crawling all over me, climbing up my arms and legs.  There was one already inside the waste-band of my jeans and how he got there through a heavy coat and a tucked-in thermal shirt I’ll never know, but it totally creeped me out.  I swept myself as clean as I could, then ran to the laundry room, dumped my clothes into the washer, and raced for the shower.


Body and clothes have since been cleansed in as hot a bath as I could stand, but I still feel twitchy.  I hate those little bastards.  I know that every creature on earth has its place and purpose, but damned if I can figure out what good a tick serves other than as an entree for a chicken.  If you know, tell me, will you?


Okay, now comes the Christmas part.

As I wrote earlier, part of this weekend was taken up in shopping for a new kitchen range.  During the course of our journey to West Hartford, we stopped by a mall.  Those of you who know me well know my jaundiced opinion of malls — they’re awful, soul-stealing places with enough bad energy to rival a casino.  I particularly dislike them this time of year and this mall was no different.  In fact, it was worse than expected.  Not only were all of the Christmas decorations already in place in every freaking store, but SANTA CLAUS WAS THERE AND SEEING CHILDREN!

I kid you not.  We’re over a week away from Thanksgiving.  It’s not even close to Christmas, yet there was the Old Man of the North.  I wanted to cry.  (Let’s face it — what I really wanted to do was vault over the railing, plummet to the first floor, and do a Chuck Norris on ’em.)

But watching the crowd — the eddying stir of adults and children — it became clear why people find the holidays so overwhelming and stressful.  It’s because we no longer have separate holidays.  Everything is smushed into one big blur, a murky mud-puddle of so-called celebration that often carries precious little of the celebratory and far too much of the merchant.

Think about it.  Halloween candy appears in August.  Thanksgiving decorations show up in September.  And Christmas…

Christmas never goes away.  The hint of it lingers in the shops that sell ornaments year-round and escalates as the months progress toward December.  I have nothing against the Spirit of Christmas and I’m a firm believer in the quote from Charles Dickens:  “I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year,” but that isn’t what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about the merchandising beast that stirs sluggishly in its ooze and lifts its head in August.  The nostrils flare in September and by November…

Well, we saw what happens by November.

When I was a kid (that tried and true phrase of a grumpy elder who’s about to complain), the Christmas season was ushered in at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  The very last float in the parade was (and still is, I believe) Santa and his reindeer.  That one image put paid to Thanksgiving and threw open the doors to Christmas.  For the next four weeks, anticipation built and built until every kid thrummed like a plucked guitar string.

Nowadays, we’re so inundated with Christmas stuff that by the time the holiday actually rolls around, we’re too exhausted to appreciate it.  And that is, indeed, a great loss.


About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
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