Every year my reaction to the holiday season comes to me slightly differently. One year I'm Santa, and I just love cutting through the last minute stress to surprise someone. I've time-traveled to the Middle East of long ago, and listened for the murmurs of worshippers -- listened also for helpless yet noble cries from within straw and weeds. But do you know someone who just can't stomach Christmas, for whatever reason, a soul temporarily deadened by the festivities, rather than enriched by them? That has been me too. Each year I'm someone else in winter, if only slightly.
But I'd never cross the line into amnesia of the season. That would scare me. It would hurt, like losing an arm or an eye would hurt, both immediately and consequently, each in a different way. If only to insult it somehow, I'd keep my ties to the season's festivities, though usually the feeling is deeper and the significance more positive. It would be like self-amputation to let it all go, and in doing so I'd color my childhood crawls a darker tone, and the passionate young years would be thin cardboard instead of ribboned packages wrapped in silver and gold. Don't we all like gifts?
It's night time, Christmas day, and I'm coming down. This year I was father-trying-to-make-son-happy, and a few other minor characters. No cynicism, but no real depth of emotion either. It was good, a regular year, maybe better than a regular year. Whatever spell began in December now slowly begins to slip away. As it fades, I sense it better than when I'm lost in its soft murmurs and expanding cheer. In these quiet moments after the holiday I am always the same, and no matter what happened where to whom that year, so is the mystery of Christmas.
See poetry in Slow Trains Issue 3
Imagine me speechless, stunned to silence. Talking all day, all night--- what's wrong, where are you, we'll be right there, go there, go there now, go there faster, go, go, go….
Jaded, cynical, not happy about working Christmas and New Years, bah humbug me.
What could possibly shut me up?
I had asked my gangsta-rap, ass-hanging, jean-dragging, more often than not monosyllabic son where he was going.
"To the mall," he said. "To buy Sean a present."
"You're buying your boyfriend a Christmas present?" I say this just so he'll respond, slowly and clearly so I'll understand, being in his eyes old and thick as a plank.
"Mother - he -- is -- not -- my -- boyfriend." He makes those little air quotes when he says "boyfriend" to be sure I've got it this time. "We have "Secret Santa."
"Secret Santa?" Hmm…The Bloods, The Crips, The Secret Santas? They dress up in long white beards and balaclavas then run about knocking off convenience stores and stealing little old ladie's purses?
Hormone-fueled "Ho-ho-hos" echoing down the snowy side streets that are their winter turf.
"We draw names so no one knows who's buying for who. I've gotta go. I'll be back."
I stand there speechless, head cocked like one of those little bobble-headed dogs you used to see in the back windows of cars.
But I'm thinking now -- not talking -- thinking. I'm thinking of diapers and baby powder; of faith and innocence. I'm thinking of a pair of shoes at the top of my closet; size one, scuffed on both toes. I'm thinking of Ninja-Turtles, Transformers and Lego. I watch him walk up the street, and I'm thinking I'd like to pull those pants up like I used to when he was two. Just one finger in that back belt loop and I could yank them babies right back up where they belong.
Mostly I'm thinking I'd better get a move on. Christmas is coming and I'm not anywhere near ready. And maybe I'll wear those fake reindeer horns to work on Christmas…..
The Winter Issue of Slow Trains
arrives on the solstice, packed full of gorgeous writing, ranging from a Hangover Sestina, to a visit with Theda Bara, to a remarkable childhood memoir in the Temple of Air.