Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Tidings of...What, Exactly?

"It was late November, I think, and I was thinking about the whole Christmas thing: the birth of Christ, the Wizard of Oz, family murders, and quite frankly, I was depressed." -- from In the Bleak Midwinter.

Odd time of year, this--Christmas, I mean. I suppose it's very little fun for you Israelites and Mohammedans and atheists and other such abominable heathens who dwell among us, but for those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal savior (and are thus spared the eternity of hellfire that awaits the rest of you, ha ha), it's really not much better, oddly enough.

You all feel excluded by not being invited/able to participate, but there's an internal exclusion, too. See, it's actually a holiday for children and for people who have children. Those of us in-between those happy times look at all the decorations, and listen to the songs, and most of us, I think, feel a little empty. There's no Santa-Claus-based magic to experience or to bestow on precious young minds/hearts, and apart from maybe getting together with family--which we already did the week before last, at Turkey-fest--there's a sense of a time that used to be special, but isn't anymore, and it's a bit dreary.

Which sounds like more depression, except that--I hope--I'm speaking for more than myself. Myself, I'm not particularly blue--like my birthday, I don't set much store in Christmas--you get your presents early on that morning, never get what you want (because what you want isn't a gift, but the feeling of magic that attached to the gift back when it was made by elves and flown in by reindeer express) and then the rest of the day is just Thanksgiving dressed up in Red and Green. (Oh, and in my house, people asking me to read Dickens, which I usually give in and do--and very well, thanks. And don't roll your eyes--it's a remarkably well-written work; I've actually given a brief lecture on the argument that "Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it" is the most perfect sentence ever written in English fiction. But that would be a disgression.)

But I do remember, quite vividly, the time when Christmas--the whole month of December--was a time of excitement and joy and suspense and just...fun, when each window opened in the advent calendar was a moment of triumph and and disappoint and hope for tomorrow, because each day brought the season closer to its end, but also closer to Christmas Eve, that sleepless night of tormented anticipation and wildly happy excitement. But that time seems to be over now.

Also, I suppose I'm going to hate being alone quite a lot this month--more than the supposedly notorious Valentine's Day (which is so much of a joke that anyone with a scrap of self-esteem can laugh at it and move on), Christmas is a time when one misses love and comfort during a season that really shoves down your throat the idea that those are the only things that matter. And this year, such things are lacking...Ah well. Could be worse. I understand that Hannukah's even worse agony--and a fire hazard, to boot. And you've gotta fast during Ramadan. Yeesh...


Blogger phd me said...

I'll let you speak for me, too. I still enjoy Christmas - perhaps it gets the "favorite holiday" award - but it is a holiday made for, endorsed by and celebrated for children. I still remember how completely magical the Christmas season was for me as a kid (love the line about elf labor and reindeer post). Christmas Eve: Mom would have a party for us, with snack food and lime sherbert punch; we sat in front of the fire and got my dad to read The Night Before Christmas and the Christmas story from the Bible; then the kids opened one present from under the tree before going to bed to stare wide-eyed at the ceiling until we popped up at 4am to run downstairs to see what Santa brought. And we were still doing this when we were much too old to believe in Santa.

Without my assorted nieces and nephews, I definitely wouldn't enjoy the season much (although I do appreciate that my dad's side of the family gets together for some serious over-eating and the swapping of silly $1 gifts - really, great fun). Being alone is so much harder to tolerate when it appears that everyone around you is swaddled in the love of some significant other who showers them with worldly declarations of love and serious mistletoe-induced slaverings. Even though you know appearances are deceiving. Even though you're much too intelligent to believe you're better off with someone. Even though...

Ah, I suppose we bloggers must create our own little Christmas community. I'll bring the virtual eggnog!

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not so lacking in self-knowledge as not to know that there's something slightly desperate about trying to cling to the last scraps of that remembered magic by decorating excessively in a house where the youngest person present is 26. And even fine Holiday Blend coffee and a delicious panettone can't change the fact that waking up on Christmas morning hasn't been exciting, per se, for years. But if we can't recapture the feeling vicariously through children, at least there are other good things to be had. Consider having a very nice glass of wine with friends late on Christmas evening, or enjoying a delicious meal with a free pass for the day from worries about calories. Perhaps excitement is replaced with contentment, but it will still be a special time as long as everyone present thinks of it as one. Consider also that this year Christmas is on a Sunday, which means Monday is the holiday, which means we don't go to bed Christmas night knowing we have work in the morning, which makes this year at least better than next year. Oh, and notwithstanding anything I've admitted about knowing how tenuous the "Christmas magic" is at our age, you're still expected to go with me to the neighborhood Christmas party tonight.


PS: oh, and I recommend having someone cute sleep over on Christmas Eve -- it makes the next morning that much neater.

3:44 PM  

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