Holidazed by Tracy Curtis
I got my Christmas present early this year: an advance copy of Tracy Curtis’s Holidazed. It’s a collection of 30 holiday essays by the Charlotte Observer Humor Columnist, and it will be for sale locally at Park Road Books. Definitely check it out if you’re looking for a good girlfriend gift.
Christmas. It conjures up wholesome, happy images, doesn’t it? Pink-cheeked tots jumping in delight in front of a beautifully tinseled tree; a picturesque colonial home, adrift in snow and festooned with lights; a fat man in red, munching homemade cookies and distributing cheer. Families and food and alcohol. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, nothing, if you’re me. My holidays are perfect. But it dawns on me as I chortle my way through Holidazed that maybe not all festive dazzle goes as planned. In a series of pithy, hilarious and often poignant essays, Curtis shines a light on the frantic weeks between late November and New Year’s Day. Facebook Killed The Christmas Card. Yep, that’s true. We see everyone’s gorgeous, perfectly dressed families within two seconds of anyone having a professional photo shoot these days; you don’t have to wait for the holidays. But hold on a sec…Video Killed The Facebook Card. This essay is about that irritatingly telegenic family from Raleigh who put out a video of themselves rapping in their cute coordinating jammies. Curtis’s clean sentences and dry wit perfectly capture the emotions of the rest of us when we realize the ante has been upped to the point of expertly choreographed dance moves on our “Christmas Card.” I’m nodding like a bobblehead doll as I read her words. Whoville or Bust…anyone who’s ever tried to lug a child and all 35,000 pounds of their travel gear through an airport can relate to this one. And best of all, there are two elf-bashing essays: Suffering From Low Elf-Esteem and Regaining My Elf-Control (you know you hate moving those stupid things, admit it.)
Most of Curtis’s essays are funny enough to make you snort eggnog out of your nose. But a few of them will make you ache, too. I Kidney Not, about her sister donating a kidney to their mother is both amusing and sweet. And Love Now…A Tribute, written after the deaths of Curtis’s friend’s entire family in a plane crash is so touching I ran home after reading it and nearly strangled my family in a fierce hug.
I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my favorite essay, Carol Needs Song Lessons:
How is it possible that with Christmas music starting in October every year, I still don’t know the words to the songs? I pretty much sing everything like this:
“Joy to the world, ba-da, di, dum. Let earth, da da - di da. Let ev-er-ry-y heart-r-rt, bleh bleh bleh bleh bleh – bleh – bleh bleh.”
And my favorite:
“Hark the herald angels sing. Ba ba ba – the newborn King. Peace on earth – ba dum di duh-uh. Mmm Mm Mmm, di-da da daaaa.”
I’ve got a real problem now, because I have a son who’s playing Joseph in a nativity pageant. And because I’m his mother, he only knows the first quarter of each of the five songs he has to sing.
But these songs are so confusing. Christmas speak is totally different from normal speak.
You becomes Ye. And everything starts with “O” – “O Tannenbaum,” “O Holy Night,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “O Christmas Tree.” And if that’s not enough “O’s” for ya, try “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” O-verkill.
We say things like yonder and yon. Yore, troll and don. We hail and hark and come a-wassailing. And a-caroling. And lords are a-leaping, and maids are a-milking, and swans are a-swimming and geese are a-laying.
Bells jingle – and jingle bells rock. But bells on bobtails ring. Nights are silent - halls are decked. And there’s a lot of glistening from both snow and treetops. Yule-tide is gay. And so is apparel. Heaven and nature sing. And for some reason, pudding is figgy.
In a shameless display of nepotism, this week’s interview is with a member of my beloved writing group. She’s one of the most engaging people I know, producing witty and hilarious columns, blogs, and even books the way other people produce carbon dioxide. If that’s not enough, she’s raising two boys apparently without aging at all. Please meet…Tracy Curtis.
Children: Two sons: (13) and (9)
Years in Charlotte: 15
Originally from: Greensboro, NC
Alma Mater: University of Georgia
Kimmery Martin: Tell me about your pre-Charlotte past:
Tracy Curtis: After graduating from UGA, I spent 15 years working in radio, television and film, which included producing for CNN, Field-Producing for Entertainment Tonight, working on movie sets in LA and managing radio stations in Charleston.
KM: Any celebrity dishing you can share?
TC: Well – Melanie Griffith can drop an F-bomb between syllables; Tom Hanks is the nicest person in Hollywood and prefers to eat with the crew; Rosie O’Donnell will never eat Wendy’s again after being food poisoned on the set of Now and Then; John Cleese really is that brilliant; and Kyle Chandler is a good kisser (summer stock in the 80’s - but he kissed all the girls, he was the only heterosexual in the cast).
KM: How did you become a writer for the Charlotte Observer?
TC: Total fluke. Ten years ago, I won a local Fox TV contest and was sent to cover the American Idol finale the year Carrie Underwood won. The Charlotte Observer asked me to blog from behind-the-scenes and when I got back, they told me I was funny and wanted me to blog about being 40 and pregnant. Once that blog ended, they offered me the opportunity to write a weekly family humor column and the rest is history.
KM: It’s hard to write a family column without mentioning your family. And having two sons must be an endless source of material. How do they handle being the subject of articles and blogs read by thousands of people?
TC: I think they get a kick out of it. They enjoy their celebrity by association, but honestly they rarely read my stuff. I remember the day Fletcher asked me what sarcasm is and I knew it was only a matter of time before he realized he was drowning in it.
KM: Tell me a little bit about your upcoming projects.
TC: I just published the first book in my Humor Me series, which will be a series of gift books, all collections of past columns. Holidazed is a collection of Christmas essays. Next up, Trophy Mom, to be released Mother’s Day; Beach Bummed, coming this summer; School Dazed, will be a back-to-school release and then Holidazed will be refreshed and re-released for Christmas. Whew.
KM: What’s a typical day for you?
TC: A 6:30 alarm starts the day making two breakfasts (at different times) and then two lunches (at different times) and putting kids on two buses (at different times). An hour workout, coffee, and then I start writing something until the boys get home (again, at different times). Then I drive sports carpools (at different times) and we hopefully all end up at home for dinner together. Unless it’s Tues or Thur, in which case dinner is – you guessed it – at different times.
KM: Favorite reads?
TC: Honestly, I read more columnists than authors due to time constraints (see above). I love Maureen Dowd and Gail Collins, both of the New York Times, and of course, Dave Barry of the Miami Herald. And I enjoy biographies that give me that feeling of I’m not doing anything with my life. It motivates me.
KM: What’s the best date spot in Charlotte?
TC: I fell in love with Andrew on Vivace’s outdoor patio, so it has my vote.
KM: And no article about you would be complete without a mention of your insanely brilliant writing group. Please share your thoughts:
TC: Well, it’s not a writing group. It’s a sisterhood. It feeds, supports, inspires and motivates me. Creative people are fragile, insecure, self-loathing crazy people, so we need each other. We lift each other up when we beat ourselves down, and without this group I’d be down below the street pavement. I’m serious.