Monday, December 21, 2009

gave thee such a tender voice

Nights lately I walk alone in the early dark, listening to choral Christmas hymns and realizing I am something of a holiday masochist. The ornament of my childhood Christmases shattered, I carry the shards of glass from year to year. I have preserved the perfect Christmas eves of Muppet movies, the sparkling mornings of cinnamon buns and der Bingle, the tree toppling with a swish and a tinkle onto the dog. I am the last keeper of those traditions. I put the playlist on repeat and fall face first into a sadness any rational woman would avoid.

Those Magnificats and O Magnums kill me every time. But, as if in defiance, I attempt to locate the same innocent hope I had processing though a candlelit chapel on a snowy night in December, closing my eyes to the suspensions and thinking it would all be okay if everyone were to just listen to Stille Nacht in the dark and try to be kind to one another.

Near the end, I was only ever forcing the point, battling for hours to surprise my miserable parents with a house full of cheer, but I never stopped believing it could work. Every year the day would lose a little of its luster, but if I could fix the harm we all did to each other with one plate of cookies and a carrot, goddamnit, I would try. Those days I would prostrate myself with tinsel and Danish butter cookies until a miniature Santa stared us down from every end table. Now, after all we have done and learned, I am stronger for the wear. I do most of my decorating on the inside.

I know my father reads this. He will say, "one so young should not sound so sad," but he must know by now this is just the way I am. A merry melancholy mess. All alone in my own head.

I was singing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" when we got the call about his heart stopping. Nothing has been or ever will be the same. So I listen to Vespers. And each time it gets a little harder, but it would be so much worse if I didn't. Because that was when I learned privacy. That was when my heart started seeping out into my chest, past its own valves and atria and into the void. I hid a chunk of me—concrete, containable childhood me—in that chapel, surrounded by poinsettias, singing in the cold. I retreated into the music and if I don't go back to check on those missing pieces, I'm afraid I'll disappear. No matter how strong I pretend to be.

So this holiday sucks. Sad that I cannot spend it with my parents, sadder still the alternative. The only thing I can say for myself is this: I did know what I had when I had it.

I don't mean to sound ungrateful. My family, chosen and given, is healthy and well. We will all spend Christmas with people we love and everything will return to normal on December 26th. I have it fairly easy, let us not forget that. Shit could be a whole lot worse.


Anonymous said...

this is so sad -- and one so young can be so sad.

The past is non-negotiable, but if you work on it you can help shape your present, your future. And maybe you need to let your parents know you'd like to be with them, that they haven't been replaced by Peter's parents. [I've been following your blog for awhile]. Merry Christmas

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry. You deserve the world but it can be tough. Seems several hearts stopped beating to "Hark the Herald Angels"