I think I am not alone in feeling a little melancholy around the holidays. Oh, hell, let's face it, if you read my blog you already know that I can pretty much find any reason to get melancholy. But the holidays seem to bring on another kind of reminiscence that is somehow deeper or at least more insistent. As I begin to pull out decorations and ornaments they feel more like fragments left behind from another time, not necessarily a better time, but one that has, none-the-less, passed. I begin to feel a little bit lonely; as if I want gather everyone together just one last time for a big holiday feast. Or, at least, a heavily rum-gladdened eggnog.
I can't seem to find a strong enough ritual to offset these sad-glad-tidings of the season. And even when I am excited about Christmas, which I usually am, these memories choke me like a sneak attack. So this year I tried to outmaneuver my own brain, tricky thing that it is, by facing my own memories head-on by playing every Christmas song known to man. I baked my mother's pizzelles. I sang along. I danced around. I welled up. I turned off Amy Grant's Grown Up Christmas Wish. Forced myself through Frank Sinatra's Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. But I still wasn't strong enough to listen to, and will probably never, never, ever listen to Christmas Shoes. I dare anyone to listen without crying or at least getting choked-up. Go ahead. Try it. I dare you.
But I still could not shake the wash of random memories which are so powerful a sense memory I just can't force them to stay asleep in my subconscious. No visits from ghosts of Christmases past, present or future needed. I am my own Jacob Marley. Eventually I will transport myself into my own seasonal view finder that clicks through scenes from my life like a categorized collection held in freeze frame.
The time I woke up at three in the morning declaring "Santa Came!!!" not realizing that my mother and brothers had just finished setting everything up.
The creepy Christmas elves hanging on My grandmother's tree.
The Christmas trees that always tumbled over just as we finished decorating them, crushing all of the glass ornaments and lights.
My father's trains; which was all I really knew of him.
Pulling slivers of glass out of my fingers from playing with the the angel's hair made of fiberglass on my grandmother's tree.
The deep fried Christmas cookies my grandmother made filled with chocolate, fruit and nuts.
Tinsel. Lots and lots of tinsel.
The year the doorbell rang and my 12-year-old brother stood there with The Disney Christmas album, ornaments he stole from my mother and a tree he pulled out of the woods because I couldn't afford one that year.
Still singing five onion rings like Goofy on The Disney Christmas Album every time I hear the 12 Days of Christmas.
Still feeling sad when Pyewacket leaves Gillian in Bell, Book and Candle.
Laughing when "the jig is up" in Christmas in Connecticut.
Crying every time Clarence gets his wings. Do I really need to say: It's a Wonderful Life?
The Christmas my daughter opened every present under the tree while we all slept, saying later "I was wondering why I got so many clothes."
The Christmas my mother-in-law was killed when we didn't want to open any of the presents she left for us.
My mother's lopsided nativity set and my grandmother's nativity music box; which was all I kept of her when she passed.
The year John Lennon was shot and I tied tiny red bows all over my tree while listening to Happy Christmas (War is Over) over and over and over.
The soup terrine and red table cloth I now use that covered my mother's table for so many years and her Lenox 12 Days of Christmas ornaments that I still cannot put on my tree.
Our grand-kids laughing at us for putting the yule log screen saver on our TV even though we had a fire going in our fireplace.
The pickles we hide in our Christmas tree for our grand-kids even though they are getting to old for the surprise.
The Christmas ornaments we have to commemorate each year we have been married beginning with Once Upon a Time.
The thing about memories is that they lie heavy and filled with all the emotion of the past. They never seem to lose their emotional weight. Even good memories seem sad when those we remember are gone. But as I said, I can find the melancholy in anything. And by now, I'm sure I've pulled you into the dark side too.
But having said all that, I have to say, I still love the promise of Christmas. It is my favorite time of year. The twinkle of colored lights that transform ordinary houses into enchanted cottages. The sound of reverent voices singing. The glint of compassion. The awe of rebirth. The hope of peace. The promise of a new year.