By contributing writer Matt Murtaugh

Christmas is special time of year. A time for joy and jubilation and shit. Shit like confrontations, conflict and compromises. But even though going home for Christmas can be strenuous at times, it symbolizes everything that needs symbolizing that represents growing up. And that's why I love Christmas. It's the one time of year everybody gets together and forgets all their troubles, whether it's financial hardship, legal tangles, or why I can’t get a girlfriend. I mean you…or anybody. I wasn’t talking about me, okay.

Christmas break always starts the same. Everybody is studying for finals, half of them sitting in front of their textbooks twitching uncontrollably from doing coke or Ritalin all night long, half of them sitting in front of their textbooks listening to these people talk their ears off. But soon it all ends and all is said and done. You get the grades that you get and you go home to get yelled at and that's the way it is. I looked down the halls that were once so alive and well with the promising sounds of ugly people having sex, converted non-drinkers throwing up from excess, and bio majors just getting through the day. I asked why God why, why does this have to end. But this year, at least this year, I am going to have a merry Christmas.

Soon after my roommate cleared out, the phone call came. It was my mom, and she was outside waiting. “Fuck,” I screamed into the hall mirror, already broken by the second weekend on campus. The head RA, who was in the in the area at the time, came to see if everything was okay. He is a closet homosexual who regularly prances down the hallway with a smile on his face and his nose in the air, smelling for marijuana smoke. I didn’t need to be consoled by this joker, who kept telling me we were going to have a rap session someday. So I packed my stuff and headed down to the car—now more like a heap of scrap metal from my mother's road rage.

Road rage is a bitch, but at least the cigarette lighter still works.

As I got in, my mom wished me a merry Christmas and peeled out, nearly hitting the RA, who ran in front of us looking for a policeman because he thought he smelled marijuana in the fat kid's room. The RA curled up into a ball and my mom busted a U-turn and drove at 75 miles an hour out of my small college town.

My mom cursed a little more than usual this time. “Fuck you cocksucker!!” she screamed as she passed an old man driving the speed limit. Some moms have a natural way of shielding their children from such unnecessary vulgarity. I wondered what went wrong with my mom. Oh well, I wasn't letting some law-abiding geezer get in the way of my merry Christmas.

The drive home was insane. We were going so fast I wondered if God was going to let me see Christmas. If my mom tried to brake for anything we would have been killed. I pictured our bodies all zipped up, laying in the coroner’s office while dad was brought in to identify us. As they unzipped our body bags my dad wouldn’t say anything, he would just throw up and wonder what he ate for lunch.

“Did you get good grades?!” my mom screamed at me over the horns coming the other cars on the road. “They better be good!!” she yelled as she fired up a cigarette.

“They're fine, okay.”

“We're going to have a great holiday, just don’t steal anything from us okay?”

“Shut up,” I said.

After a two hour car ride that only lasted us about twenty minutes, we finally got home. I got inside and started to unpack my stuff. I thought this may be the best Christmas ever…if I could just have a good attitude this time.

Then my brother came in and called me a faggot.

“You’re the faggot!!” I screamed in his face.

“At least I can get laid,” he said, as he threw a wild punch at me and ended up hitting my grandfather in the face. My brother was filled with the Christmas spirit…so much he just didn’t know how to show it. My dad gave my grandpa mouth to mouth in the background.

After that, my brother and I were banned from the house for two hours. Good, I thought, I'll get some of the Christmas spirit from society.

“Totally your fault,” I said to my brother as we lay shivering outside of a neighbor's house.

We continued strolling around the neighborhood, talking about how life sucks during the holidays when we came across two reindeer lawn ornaments. My brother got an idea to put them in the doggy style position. I thought how childish and juvenile. But once the reindeer were in position I thought how funny it was. Not for long though. The owner came out and demanded to know who did it. My brother casually pointed at me and I was forced to run through the snow with a crazy disgruntled old man chasing me all the way home.

I banged at our door to be let in. My dad said our two hours weren't up, so I had to fight the man off. He was at least twenty years older than me but he was scrappy and he had heart. As my friends would always tell me, it's not the size of the dog, but the size of the fight in the dog. Those words rang through my head as I dodged the old man's vicious blows. Soon he got tired and slipped on a patch of ice. His head smacked the pavement and he was out cold.

My brother came right when he fell. I screamed in his face that I would tell on him if he didn’t help me drag his unconscious body at least halfway back down the street. The old man was heavy, but that's what brothers are for. We got him halfway back to his house and left him on the sidewalk. We laughed again at the reindeer in the distance, still frozen in the doggy style pose.

By then, our two hours were up, so we moped back home and plopped down on the couch in front of the TV. Just then, my mom and dad came in, exhausted from a long day of Christmas bickering. I turned the channel to TBS, and we all grinned as Ralphie screamed the f-word in front of his old man. And that was enough to make my Christmas story a merry one.