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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas: Bygone Magic Rings and New Perspectives

"Time was, with most of us, when Christmas Day encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and every one around the Christmas fire; and made the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete."  

 --Charles Dickens 

At 63 years of age, I believe finding the magic of Christmas past is very difficult. For some very obvious reasons and for some reasons not-so readily apparent, the holiday ignites mixed emotions in me that I find disturbingly confusing. Now, new joys and old remembrances come together at the end of the year creating an ever-changing perspective of the season.

Dickens' quote reminds me of my fruitless search for a seasonal grail buried deep in the debris of the past. Despite colorful lights, beautiful music, and joyous celebration, I can kindle but a spark of the bright spirit I once felt for Christmas. Nothing now compares to the jubilation of those innocent Christmas seasons lost to time.

For my part, I now bring myself to the season with the assumed necessity of observation to tradition. All the while, my holiday participation is directed by the need to remain distant and yet cordial. As a younger person, I would dive headlong into festivities, never afraid to make a frolicking fool of myself with a hearty blend of "drink" and "merrymaking." But, these days, circumstances and relationships are much too complicated to risk offending anyone with revelry.

Increased obligations and sensible expectations have bridled the carefree celebration of Christmas. In truth, I find great relief after surviving my role in the holiday without much fuss and quarrel.

Sure, Christmas remains a reason to focus joy upon the youngsters by showering them with lovely presents and sweet goodies to satiate their fantastic desires. This is how it should be.

Still, even when observing the smiles and playfulness of children, I can't help but wonder if the required outrageous expenditures have not grossly exceeded not only our tight budgets but also their playful needs. So much is provided for what enjoyment? This kind of thinking only stiffens my resolve to remain too indifferent to the holiday.

How did I end up with Scrooge-like tendencies? I think my "limited world" as cited in the Dickens' quote has sped past Intimate, through Comfortable, and settled at Overwhelming. Like most everything else in my life these days, the "tight circle" of Christmas seems to have expanded to enormous proportions, and many significant changes around me have helped sour my tastes for a few fragments of comfort and joy.

I blame myself for this ugly transformation. I do not make excuses for my senseless condition. And, I do not wish it on anyone else. I certainly do not recommend it because of some kind of inherent worth. So, please don't think I'm looking for sympathy or seeking a redemption of sorts. Things change, and, naturally, so do people. I know I am one of those folks.

In fact, I am very fortunate to still have the nearly complete Christmas "picture" of family and friends at 63. Perhaps, it is the "shining reflection" in my eyes that is missing as a cataract of reality has tarnished my view. Perfection is an immature idea anyway, and I know it is impossible to obtain, but once young spirits have thrilled to the wonders of a holiday fairy land come true, all else is secondary at best. To conceive the illusion of the old magic takes away from every future prestidigitation.

To close, I guess I'm saying that nothing seems simple and enchanting about Christmas to an old geezer like me. The smoke and mirrors still put me in a state of wonder but the "wonder" these days is too full of incredulity about the actual celebration. The tiring season seems to begin in early November and rattle on until December 25th. What was once a crescendo at the end of the last month of the year now seems less a pinnacle of love and more a release of nervous emotions.

As I read my own words, I disdain them. I know the real reason for the season, and I believe those who pursue it are wonderful human beings. Yet, I think I carry the baggage of the holiday because I am unable to generate simple, loving emotions in the midst of a hodgepodge of frenzied, oddly coordinated celebration. By Christmas Eve, I feel strobe-drunk and drowning in "how I should be."

I apologize for viewing the holiday so sacrilegiously. I see my lack of affection for what I should love and respect as just another fault in my character. I hope you understand my awkward attempt to convey a truthful perspective -- a bad, pathetic perspective -- but, nonetheless an honest one. I promise to try harder to grow up and become better suited to enjoying something I used to love so much.   

Merry Christmas From the Family

By Robert Earl Keen

Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk at our Christmas party
We were drinking champagne punch and homemade eggnog
Little sister brought her new boyfriend
He was a Mexican
We didn't know what to think of him until he sang
Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad

Brother Ken brought his kids with him
The three from his first wife Lynn
And the two identical twins from his second wife Mary Nell
Of course he brought his new wife Kay
Who talks all about AA
Chain smoking while the stereo plays "Noel, Noel
The First Noel"

Carve the Turkey
Turn the ball game on
It's margaritas when the eggnog's gone
Send somebody to the Quickpak Store
We need some ice and an extension chord
A can of bean dip and some Diet Rites
A box of Pampers, Marlboro Lights

Hallelujah, everybody say cheese
Merry Christmas from the family

Fred and Rita drove from Harlingen
I can't remember how I'm kin to them
But when they tried to plug their motor home in
They blew our Christmas lights
Cousin David knew just what went wrong
So we all waited out on our front lawn
He threw the breaker and the lights came on
And we sang Silent Night, Silent Night, Oh Holy Night

Carve the turkey turn the ball game on
It's Bloody Marys
Cause We All Want One!
Send somebody to the Stop 'N Go
We need some celery and a can of fake snow
A bag of lemons and some Diet Sprites
A box of Tampons, some Salem Lights
Hallelujah, everybody say cheese
Merry Christmas from the Family

Feliz Navidad!

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