The Holy Days


This year is a special one that rolls around once every decade — Christmas (yes, that’s how you spell it) and New Year’s Day both fall on a Wednesday. This may not seem like much, but to some working blokes, it means you can piece together quite a few days off in a row with a couple sick days and a sympathetic boss.

For school kids, it represented a real opportunity for some serious vacation time — crucial to me, because I could get out of Brooklyn and come out to Sag Harbor for the duration.

Here’s how it works: It starts on Friday, December 20, when you call in sick or kill a relative off. Notice I am announcing publicly l am doing this because I know either my bosses don’t read this swill or I don’t really do much around here anyway.

That gives me F, S, S, M, T, W, Christmas; T, F, S, S, M, T, and Wednesday, New Year’s Day.

Some business owners and certain schools (I’ll get to that in a minute) insist on reopening the day after New Year’s Eve.

This is cruel and inhumane and should be outlawed. First of all, if you are any kind of true American, you spent New Year’s Eve dancing, frolicking, and drinking in excess. In fact, you didn’t get home until New Year’s Day. The hangover didn’t begin until noon, and it was only reaching a crescendo the next morning when the alarm went off.

New Year’s Day is also the day when they play 43 football games, and if you are like me, you feel duty-bound to bet on all of them. It is the only day of the year you will refer to the University of Manatowic or the Sniveling Gonads of Cascade College.

Most businesses just remain closed for extra two days, but the Catholic Church, in all its wisdom, would reopen the schools for the two lousy days. This was because the nuns had a really weak union. Put another way, if they tried to do that and Jimmy Hoffa was in charge, there would be a few more wreaths laying around.

That meant another lie to tell Sister James Miriam, the steel-willed principal whose office was referred to as “The Torture Chamber.” Since it was only once a decade, I felt comfortable telling her my grandmother had passed. That might have worked in a normal school, but at St. Francis of Assisi, the deaths of family members were recorded like the Black Sea Scrolls for just these occasions.

When I called in to inform about grandma’s unfortunate demise, it only took five minutes for the call back.

“Mr. Murphy, your grandmother died last November when you were supposed to take the State Standardized Algebra exam.”

“No, sister, that was my other grandmother.”

“You mean the one you killed off the morning after the Dodgers won the World Series because your block party was still going on at 11 the next morning?”

I ended up swearing my grandfather married quite a few women in his day. “He liked ‘em old and sick,” I said.

Do the math: With the extra four days added on, you get 18 — quite the holiday.

I went to Long Island University for college. You didn’t have to fight for days off there. Once you paid the outrageous tuition, the only requirement was you don’t miss more than three classes unless you had permission from the professor, which was pretty easy to get. I never met a college professor who couldn’t be bribed with a joint.

Our goal my freshman year in college was to basically never attend. It started off in mid-to-late September only to run into the Jewish holidays, closed for Thanksgiving break, closed for Christmas break, closed for winter break, and closed for spring break. With a couple of sick days and a bag of pot, you could go weeks without checking in.

I remember my father getting up for work every morning and trying to wake me. I would mumble something about having the day off and roll over. “Don’t you EVER have school?” he finally asked.

“Yeah, I think I’m scheduled for a day next week to try out for the baseball team.”

“But don’t you ever LEARN anything?”

“Well,” I said, after pondering the question for a while. “I’m learning how to make omelets for breakfast since you and mom have to work every day.”

“So, I’m paying seven grand a year for you to learn how to cook eggs?”

“And pancakes,” I pointed out, proudly.

I was going to ask him to pick up bacon on the way home, but I felt guilty. I mean, I could have walked over to the supermarket since I had off all day, but I didn’t.

I’d get my mom to pick some up on her way home.

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