Wednesday, December 17, 2008

in the bleak midwinter

As an unabashed fan of Christmas I realize that this year 'tis not the season. The economy is toilet-bowling, people are hurling their footwear at lame duck heads of state, and New York City has decided to do everything but chase its wanton citizens into the suburbs with a budget full of absolutely criminal tax increases. Meanwhile we've pissed off enough world leaders that I won't be half surprised when some nation, rogue or otherwise, points a nuke at us and calls it a night.

Not to mention the bills, the debts, the rising costs, and the families who can't afford to feed their children. Or the insurance companies who drive up the cost of basic procedures and then refuse coverage. Or the lack of jobs that pay just enough to afford apartments that cost just too much.

To top it off, the weather oscillates between seventy and seventeen degrees. All snow promptly turns to sleet. The streets and stores are filled with shoppers who plod through by rote. We do this because we've always done it; we cut down trees, drag them into our living rooms, try to keep them alive until New Years... We drink too much, we overindulge on cookies and cocoa, and we spend our feebly accrued savings on gifts. Lather, rinse, repeat. And we grow lonelier by the year. Is there not a Cindy Lou Who in all of us wondering "Where Are You Christmas?"

Meanwhile, sensible people turn away from all this pageantry. They don't deck their halls, they don't wrap their presents. They say the whole holiday is just a greeting card frenzy, an annual offering made to appease the retail gods. So they spare themselves the sadness of trying to recapture their childhood suspension of disbelief. Cheers to them; I wish I were that sane.

Humbug. This is the season of hope. Of twinkle lights. The summer of the soul in December. When we try to be the people we wish we were. We owe it to ourselves once a year to be as good, as generous, as kind as we can be to the people we love. To let ourselves feel a little smaller. To remind us that we are more than mere mammals.

Christmas has never been easy for me. I've always had my heart broken by my own bungling hand in trying to make myself believe: in Santa, in flying reindeer, in brass choirs. In mistletoe and love triumphant... but more than that, in the human capacity for goodness. It's not even about Jesus—I'm not particularly religious and anyway his birthday would be in April—it's about us. And we're in trouble.

Every year our illusions are peeled away until, aging gracelessly, the world is bare and we become lost in it. Here I am, twenty five years old (and not particularly thrilled about it), living in a city I hate, a flop of an actress. My father just came out of ball surgery and my mom is hundreds of miles to the South living in a swamp with a bunch of senior citizens. My family fell apart, my dog died, and I've made so little of myself so far. But, goddamn it, there is still this resurgent effervescence once a year. I still am overcome with the urge to spoil the world rotten, come ruin or rapture, and that gives me hope for myself. I am a good person at Christmas. That much I have.

So I hang my socks on the fireplace. I watch cheesy movies. I cry at the same old swells in the same old songs. I leave cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve and I pretend I'm not aware of who makes the bite marks and drains the eggnog. And someday when I have children of my own, I will make sure they never feel this way.

1 comment:

Makenna Held said...

and here you have me. who was partially convinced to move to said "city you hate" by none other than you. isn't it funny?