Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy Christmas.

There's always been something lonely—and this is reportage, or confession, and absolutely not lament—about Christmas for me. Maybe I get it from my dad, who can be so, so present, and then jackknife back into himself around the corner of a dinner or a party. There's something about the deepening darkness of the season, the pressure of gifting, the need to celebrate in outward ways—lights, camera—that runs counter, somehow, to the way I've turned out. We loved Christmas growing up, made it from scratch out of state dinners and refrigerator-sized boxes of decorations. Or: my mother made it, would be the way to say this most accurately. It was her holiday, and they were her decorations. An embarrassment: once we were old enough, we boys formed a confederacy of mockery, teased her about the mice up the bannister, the holly on the mantel, but here and now I want to say I've finally come to understand it, wish I'd understood it then—she had to make the season into something that made sense to her, which is all any of us are ever trying for, right? There's what I think might be a communal loneliness about Christmas, about the bottom of the year—we say hello to one another walking dogs, hanging lights, but mightn't all the dogwalking and light-hanging be one more way of showing outwardly how badly we mean to be part of it all, but then, and still, how necessarily we must return to our own houses? How much we need to have our own trees, brought inside our own living rooms, strung with our own ornaments? I love this time of year, love what my parents gave me, which was an insistence, for instance, that they could hear Santa's sleigh bells on the roof, which would send us scurrying to bed—I love the memories of that full house at Christmas, the goose, the apples, the stockings, the oranges, the fucking Depeche Mode two-tape Live From Red Rocks that was the only thing I wanted that year—but I love, too, that first memory of sitting with my mom, or with my dad, in that late-night glow of the lights on the tree, the radio playing low, and then coming up, surprisingly, those first times, that first time, with an abiding sense of deep loneliness—of being alone, even as I sat with someone else.

Some gap opens up in me at Christmas. And I like it, like to remember it again—that gap is there all year, and I notice it all year, but in the shine of these lights, I feel like maybe I can see it more clearly. And more clearly still with these four inches of snow and sleet on the ground. This has been forever and always, even in the sheen of Diamondback bikes, a season of confusion, and I welcome it back here and now, tonight, this week, this month. Bring on the dog, the corn muffins, the pot of chili, the snapped push broom, ruined in an attempt at snow removal. Bring on this little hollow place. Bring on the abject sentiment and the recalibration that comes with that. Merry Christmas. Happy Christmas. There will still be coffee tomorrow, there will still be three meals. But you tell me if it doesn't, every time it comes around, feel different—if it doesn't feel like, regardless of your persuasion or affiliation, that there's some star, somewhere, that you're meant to set off and follow, not necessarily with any other companions, however wise, but on your own.

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