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Monday, November 29, 2004

so this is christmas

i'm not sure what grabs me this time of year, every year, but it always does and with such a firm grip that it often startles me.

i understand the idea of sentimentality, the plastic, mass-produced holiday spirit that's infused through our daily rituals. it shows up on the streets as each small town is transformed into a quaint Christmas Carol-esque village. and again on the radio station, sandwiched between some Kelly Clarkson and fucking Celine Dion; an Elton John tune that you didn't even realize was a Christmas song until you heard yourself singing the lyrics. what's troublesome are the spots where it seems so contrived that you literally grimace. starbuck's pushes the spirit of the goddamn holidays with cutesy phrases like, "it's time for dancing hearts."

ahh! dancing hearts! so THAT'S the spirit of christmas!

and then, in the midst of this sticky sweetness and buried under my cynicism in true Grinch fashion, i find something pulling me.

it could just be watching some child smiling in the post office, eyeing me playfully through his little-kid glasses as his mom buys those cutesy christmas stamps. or hearing those rumors spread around the office about the first snowstorm, even amidst the groans of anxiety over the commute impeded by such wintry things. and sometimes it's just a commercial for the annual showing of Rudolph. or hearing that one song...that one christmas song, for the first time that year...

So this is Christmas
And what have you done

...what have i done? fuck. what have i done? now i'm caving in my chest, thinking of how little i've done. those images of starving children. remembering my cousin when she first came to us from Cambodia, her skin sagging. the abuse, the fear, the terror, the agony. all of it floods to me and it's instant guilt. why the hell am i not over there?! over somewhere, doing something?! surely what occupies my time now is not nearly as important as just helping even a single person through all that misery. what have i done? god, nothing. i've done nothing.

and then the DJ interrupts or i swerve to avoid another reckless driver, breaking the thought for just a moment. just long enough for my mother to slip some laughter, obviously not aware of the song that's scolding me through the speakers of my sport utility vehicle. she explains her sudden giggles, recalling an incident earlier in the afternoon as we were decorating our "upstairs" christmas tree.

i'd totally forgotten about that ornament!

oh god, yeah...i say quietly, a smile creaking the corners of my mouth. i now bring myself back to that moment, pulling the blown-glass pickle from the ornaments box.

i call it our obscene pickle! more laughter. my mother's laughter always makes her so young, if only for that moment.

i laugh quietly and scratch my head. it most certainly looked like a penis. it was an ornament that my ex had given to my family several years ago. i think i'd even helped him select it from the gallery. it was unique and artsy, i was probably thinking at the time. never once did the ornate, iridescent, greenish pickle appear phallic.

but now it was hard to even hold the thing without feeling foolish and grossly inappropriate.

the next christmas song comes on and my mother starts singing like a silly child, changing the lyrics to poke fun at either me or a goofy looking pedestrian. i join in, belting out our new tunes with screeching inaccuracy, catching more laughter from passing cars.

and so this is christmas.


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