Our Misplaced Quest for Yuletide Perfection

Christmas fare

I’m thinking now of Christmas past and the fact that if a painter were to depict any Christmas with my family, he certainly wouldn’t be Norman Rockwell. He would more than likely be Salvador Dali. Ah well, Neither artist would really be painting anything or anyone. They’ve both been dead for years. Yet I’m not sure there’s any other time of year more nostalgic than Christmas. Autumn comes close in summoning the melancholy images of times gone by, but it is Christmas (and perhaps Hanukkah for many) that takes us back to the remembered, if sometimes romanticized, anchors from childhood in a plethora of sensory stimuli from balsam trees to peppermint candy canes, the sounds of yuletide carols, and the tearing open of wrapping paper that early morning.

insane family

Though it’s also a season tinged by crass commercialism and of unabashed sentimentality, it is also an unapologetic sharing of recollection with family, friends, and even the occasional stranger. It’s a time of innocence and the letting go of some of our crusty, brittle sophistication that manages too often the rest of the year to blot out the child in us.

christmas spat

All of this sugary bliss has made me wonder, regardless of our social circumstances on the old ladder of affluence, if there isn’t inside each of us a time and place of true peace and joy, maybe moments tucked away in our psyches, sensations of happiness we attempt to bring back with varying degrees of success all the subsequent Christmases of our lives. It is a time of new experiences too (i.e. with grandchildren), but at its heart, Christmas is, I believe, a reassembling (like old Lincoln Logs?), recreating, and attempted retrieval of something lost or at least far away during the rest of the year. That’s why it’s so important to savor this season with friends and relatives but without wildly unrealistic expectations of perfection, which can reduce Christmas to the trimmed neatness of a greeting card or smug TV commercial. It doesn’t matter if the Parker House rolls are a bit burnt, if the green beans are overdone, or if your grandchildren did a finger painting with chocolate pudding on the dining room wall. Look at what is really important, remembering the echoes of Thanksgiving  just a month ago.

funny family

Let the best part of Christmas come of its own accord but through your gentle efforts perhaps to be a better person than you are the rest of the year. And let the cat and dog eat the strung popcorn off the tree.   JB

bearded family

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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