Monday, December 24, 2012

So This is Christmas

Christmas is a family time. That's what sometimes makes it blue for people.

But even if your family is unusual or very different from what it once was, my advice is to embrace the season as much as you can.


I don't remember much about the holiday before I was a teenager. I remember that my mom used to make the holiday very festive. She would decorate the house in an amazing way... of course a beautiful real tree and a variety of ornaments and lights. Then she'd hang wide satin ribbons from the ceiling and hang ornaments from those as well. Cards sent by family, friends and well-wishers were throughout the house.

Mom also sent what seemed to be 200 cards to people on a big list. She hand-wrote notes in each card. Quite a task, but mom's a determined sort.

When I was 11 or 12, we began a tradition of annual visits to Michigan to see my beloved aunt Becky. My brother and I usually flew up on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. It was a huge treat for us.

I know for a fact we flew up there late on Christmas Day 1971. There was a historic overtime football playoff game that day that I remember listening to the finish on the car radio as we headed for our flight.

I don't recall us ever being deprived, gift-wise, at Christmas, but other than the year I got both Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" and The Who's "Quadrophenia" albums, the trips to Michigan were the best presents. Well, there was the year I got "Songs in the Key of Life," that was pretty great.


In my college years, coming home was a big treat. But like most kids that age, I was a fairly clueless dumbass. I didn't appreciate it as much as I should have. For my family, the big "can't miss" holiday was Thanksgiving, so Christmas was special but different.


Over time the dynamic changed again and I had a family of my own. Christmas then became something  different again; it was about the children. My daughter was born just days after Christmas. Right before she turned two, she didn't know what the holiday was about other than an opportunity to tear up wrapping. It was charming... the gifts were great, but clawing off that pretty paper was the most fun ever.


During some of those missing periods between being a young dumb twentysomething and a married guy, or being a divorced guy and unsure of the future, the holidays could seem bleak. In both circumstances, a time associated with family hurt a little, or a lot, when it seemed like there was no family any more.

This happens to people all the time, and it's perfectly understandable. People can get blue recalling what they no longer have from childhood, or what they no longer have from adulthood.

But that's actually the wrong approach and the wrong way to feel.

Because Christmas isn't about what you don't have -- it's about what you DO have.

And for those "Ghosts of Christmas Past," what I have are special memories of people, places and events. My high school girlfriend getting me a cereal assortment. My brother and I throwing Christmas boots through a wall in a fight, then banding together to cover up the crime. Going to ornate Midnight Masses with the Catholic side of my family, and the crazy, hilarious "White Elephant" gift exchanges we had. Traveling with high school friends to see the amazing Christmas lights in Highland Park or this house somewhere off Military Parkway. The breakfast sandwiches Justin and I used to plow through.

All those things are gone now, and there used to be holidays when I felt sad that they were gone.

But right now, despite many uncertainties, I find myself in a new town, far from my original family. And I have M. And I have three mangy dogs. And I have a place in the thoughts of many people.

And I really have... everything.

I'm not gonna lie, of course there are melancholy moments of missing certain things, but it's better to treasure what that was and embrace what is now.

Along my path, during a previous time of great upheaval and worry, M told me to stop freaking out and accept what I had wrought. To embrace it.

It was typical excellent advice. If you don't enjoy your life as it is now, you're doing something wrong.

I don't want to be blue. I want to live and love and make every day I have here a good day.

There are a lot of people with legitimate reasons to be sad right now. I'm thinking particularly of certain families 150 miles from here in western Connecticut, but many people have real hardships in their lives.

And really, I don't have ANY hardships in mine. I've freaking got it made. No full-time job? No big deal. That's my worry? Really?

Nope. Every little thing is going to be alright.

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Peace on Earth, Good Will toward men. And women.

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