Now that Christmas is over, there’s a tree to undress, to toss curbside, wrapping paper to recycle, a New Year’s resolution to avoid. Oh, and the returns, money back, do-overs. Lines, all without the mistletoe or merriment. People become grumpy. Except for those of us who stay afloat with cocktail and dress dreams for the midnight kiss that will turn out to be the great let down. On New Year’s, I think we all feel like middle children, as if the truly good moments are happening to someone else. New Year’s Eve never lives up to the magic behind it.
This past Christmas was magical, strung up in TCM films, black and white, tears streaming my face, Holiday Affair a new favorite. Movies have a way of marking our memories, and these films in particular make me feel cozy and hopeful, romantic and traditional, thankful.
We picked out a fresh tree, rigged it up in a no-fail stand. The next day, as I was in the kitchen having breakfast with the beans, we heard a tinkering then a whoosh, thud, crunch. The tree was sleeping on the living room floor, broken ornaments, crumbled spray snow. The Leaning Tower of Pine it became, leaning crooked against the wall. Jingle balls.
Snow fell like feathers on Christmas Eve. Cookies made for Santa, carrots for the reindeer, special jammies worn just for the occasion. I don’t want to take the tree down. Somehow, this year Christmas came and went too fast. I didn’t listen to enough Christmas music, despite feeling at one point that I’d overdone it. The way I had one summer, when I devoured too many oysters, to the point where they turned me off. I had this thought about Taj Mahal’s “Lovin in my baby’s eyes,” a song at the beginning of a CD I had in my alarm clock in my first apartment after college graduation. This season I almost overdosed on The Best of Stevie Wonder Christmas Collection. It’s my all time favorite holiday album, ever. Sorry, Bing.
The one overwhelming feeling I had this Christmas was what I’d describe as Sugar and Spice. Lots of sweet moments but all laced with spice, the kind that stings your tongue and makes your eyes water. I’m mindful this year, above all others, of what other people are enduring. While I’m belting out songs with my beans, there are other parents in waiting rooms, elbows on knees, heads bent in prayer and exhaustion. There are people mourning, friends holding the hand of another friend, across the country, a friend in a medically-induced coma. Fathers pacing. Babies delivered too early to survive. Marriages breaking. People in pain, suffering. They’re all in my thoughts.
We all suffer at some point, whether we bring it on ourselves or whether it’s dealt to us unfairly. It’s why we need to relish the moments meant to become memories, however small. Snowfall, black and white movies, Christmas music and pajamas.