Tag Archives: Christmas

Oh, Joseph, I’m So Tired

mangerDo you think that Mary-the-Virgin-Mother-of-God ever looked to the heavens after traveling a million miles through desert and bumpy terrain on the back of a saggy-ass donkey passing Inn after Inn with No Vacancy signs but Joseph insisting they can’t ask anyone where the next empty Inn is because he’ll find it himself then they finally end up in a filthy freezing cold manger and she has to give birth without an epidural or even a friendly female face who gets that she’s going through the most painful and terrifying thing in the world and instead there’s bloody straw and a nosy shepherd and three old men with ridiculous gifts when she really needs something useful like a baby wipe warmer or a binky and she says, I hate my life?

Or was it later, with Jesus sneaking off to the market hanging out with hookers and heading up a gang of Apostles and busting up temples and telling everyone he was the son of God and Joseph always working working working fixing other people’s houses while their kitchen cabinets looked like shit and she could never get the utensil drawer open without a fight and her health was going to hell in a handbasket because of stress and poor diet and she was always the one hosting the Seder taking Jesus to play practice making the dentist appointments and putting the toilet paper in the holder and not just sitting out on the sink. Do you think she sat down at the end of the day with a glass of Mogen David and said dear God give me strength?

Christmas. The mother of all holidays. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas there is this eerie residual affect, a dusting of angst that coats your skin and makes you sneeze. So much tinsel and jingling and debt and old wounds. Enormous sighs of disappointment. Frenzied sugar highs and lows. Tender hopes and dreams bruised and buried deep inside. Impossible expectations and global jealousy and utter fatigue. We love it, we hate it, we wrestle it to the ground and strangle every ounce of beauty from it year after year trying, forever trying, to get it right.

I made it through in the usual condition. Gained weight, landfill of trash from wrapping paper and packaging, cookies sitting in tins still not delivered to neighbors, a few spot on gifts and lots of pajamas, missing friends and family who live too far away, didn’t send out cards, feeling hollow and tired, wondering if I’ll ever get it right. How did you do this year?

PS  I stole the title for this post from Richard Yates. Read this short story if you get the chance.

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Time it Was

An orange in the toe of our stockings.  

Peering around the big green vinyl chair that was used to block the entrance to the living room so we couldn’t get to the tree before my parents and open all the presents.

Ribbon candy.

My name scrawled with black marker across faded thin wrapping paper in my mother’s handwriting.

Alvin and the Chipmunks singing Christmas songs from a scratchy vinyl record.

My hair in curlers.

Silvery flakes of wrapper from the miniature chocolate Santas.

Snow. Always snow.

A plush Santa shaped like a cone that played Santa Clause is Coming to Town when you wound the metal key on his side.

An Easy Bake Oven, Battleship, Rock Em Sock Em Robots, Baby Boo, Mystery Date, Francie (Barbie’s “mod” cousin), paint by numbers, a potholder loom.

Lasagna.

Sneaking cookies from the tins my mother hid under her bed to keep us from eating them all before Christmas day.

Visiting the Aunts on Christmas Eve and watching the cold black sky on the ride home for a glimpse of Santa’s reindeer.

Wearing tights that pinched and sagged and scratched.

A wooden manger with an angel tied to the roof, real straw in the crib, one black wise man, a lamb with a chipped ear.

Pounds of silver icicles draping the tree making it look like a birthday cake.

Driving around the neighborhoods to look at the lights.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. For magic.

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Just Like the Ones We Used to Know

I think the magic is gone. I don’t know how to find joy in this holiday season anymore. I’m trying to put up a good front on the outside, but I’m a regular Bah Humbug on the inside.

And aren’t we kind of set up for this from the get-go? We believe in this guy Santa, then we are told he doesn’t really exist, then we watch a million movies where grownups don’t believe in him but end up converting back to believing in him. Then we lie to our kids about him and recreate the whole fantasy, only to have to watch their crushed faces when the sad realization that he’s a myth sinks in.

The expectations are so high. A White Christmas, a kiss under the mistletoe, friendly gatherings with delectable appetizers and drinks in festive glasses, finding the perfect gift for everyone on my list, making crafty decorations, trimming the tree while listening to Christmas music, baking artful cookies that look too good to eat. Feeling all holly and jolly and gay.

At least I feel gay. But that’s only because I am gay.

So with only 9 days left I’m not really counting on holly and jolly. I wonder if it is better to be a person with low expectations, so you feel surprised and happy when something good happens, or to be someone who gets their hopes up, gets excited about all the possibilities, only to have reality fall short.

Maybe it’s better to be Jewish at this time of year, eating Chinese and going to the movies. Or is the glare of the Christmas season intrusive, annoying, demoralizing to everyone?

The irony–I love Christmas. I still have that child’s wonder and hope inside. I still want glistening snow and twinkling lights and a deep blue midnight sky holding the promise of magic.

But I will settle. For minimal dysfunction and weight gain, for the smell of pine tree in the family room, for a hug from my kids, for a bank statement that doesn’t give me angina, for yet another candy dish from a coworker, for a moment of silence and peace and goodwill to all. Just a moment.

And do I even hope to write in the midst of all this? To grapple with a scene, discover something new about a character, nail a section of dialogue, fix my improper use of tense, fall into the writer’s trance and surface with new material?

I do hope. Sometimes I even believe.

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