So there we were, an extended family of about one dozen scattered about the sectional couch, tentatively and collectively focused on the television across the room showing the final minutes of the movie Elf. The little ones had quieted down for a few minutes; for a scene or two we could hear the words instead of just watching the images flicker by.
Then, in the penultimate scene of the film, Zooey Deschanel gets up on a carriage and starts signing Christmas carols to… I don’t know, something about Christmas Spirit and an amount of it needed for Santa’s sleigh to take off – or an idea along those lines. On the corniness scale, this ranks somewhere past Nebraska in August. If Splenda could talk, it would tell this scene to tone down the sweetness a notch.
Yet, I almost had to leave the room. Came out of nowhere. No warning. For the handful of minutes after the mysterious flood of emotion, I tried to figure out what the hell that was. After ruling out low blood sugar (just ate) and menopause (have a penis) as potential causes, I realized why I got choked up.
For the practicing Christians of the world, the season brings a spiritual focus. The celebration of the actual reason for the holiday imbues it with its meaning. For the children still convinced of the existence of one Mr. Claus, older ones that aren’t, and plain old materialistic assholes, Christmas is about gifts and gifts and more gifts. It’s more of a transaction than it is a sacred event. For them, the day is most akin to a second birthday; only one with a nice cozy vacation from school and work wrapped around it.
For me, though, it’s been a couple dozen years since it was either of those things. It just sort of happened every year. I dug the lights and the fanfare and the slightly improved mood of anonymous faces during that time of year, but that’s about all I got out of it.
Or, so I thought.
Between that first Christmas I experienced without Mom three years ago and now, I’ve slowly realized retroactively how much it meant to me all the years I was oblivious to its value. By virtue of its placement on the calendar and availability of all my loved ones, it served as a de facto ‘reset’ button of my year; if not my life. For a blissfully detached handful of days, the bullshit of the everyday grind and concerns over all things “important” stepped aside so I could focus on all things important.
In that moment, then – the cheesy ending of the movie – I guess my brain wanted to revel in the comfort and innocence these days always brought, only to realize it wasn’t here anymore. Not now, anyway. It’ll be back, some day, a family of my own opening the window so recently slammed shut. For now, though, I still mourn the warmth that passed on when Mom did.
So tonight, under a hazy moon in the humid warmth of South Florida, I’m gonna go sit next to the pool and crack open a Yuengling. I’m gonna listen to some Beatles and Neil Diamond and smile and shed a few tears and have Christmas with Mom the only way I can, for now.
Whether December 25th has a religious significance to you or not, take a minute to go find a loved one and hug the shit out of them. Ask them how they’re doing; see what they have planned next year; sit down and have a beer. In a time that means many different things to different people, there’s still no greater present than their presence.