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.
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.
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.
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