A few nights ago, I was out taking Jack for his nightly business. I looked across the street and saw that the giant inflatable Santa in my neighbors’ lawn had totally deflated.
It laid there, in a rumpled heap on the frosting grass, flat and kind of hopeless.
The next evening, my neighbors had reinflated that plucky Santa…but somehow he got knocked over by the wind. He laid there, face down in the dirt, flanked on the left by a much smaller blow up soldier and, on the right, a round little snowman.
Santa was, meanwhile, humping the ground with gusto every time the wind blew…and it was pretty breezy that night.
Today, I look out my office window, and I see that he is, once again, just a pile of sad, wet, red and white plastic, limply sprawled across the flowerbed and the lawn.
I hate to say it folks, but that damned plastic Santa is pretty much a fitting metaphor for how I view holidays at this particular moment.
I don’t really celebrate Christmas anymore. I haven’t been full on in the spirit for many years, to be honest. My kids are all grown and have been for over a decade now, my last remaining kid moved up to Washington this year, my only grandchild is half a continent away, and things really just haven’t been the same since my mom died in 2017.
When I take into consideration the fact that my fiancée is still working through some very predictable grief triggers regarding the loss of her sister just a little over a year ago…well it all just kind of compounds into a big, soggy, grey ball of meh.
I know some folks who kind of delight in being Grinchy McScrooge. I can look at those curmudgeons, chuckle, and love them…but I, myself, don’t want to be that person.
I miss celebration. I come from a history where holidays were celebrated with a lot of vigor and excitement. While the years have made me a bit jaded around the practice of Christmas itself, I’ve had small sparks of eagerness over the past few years in regard to establishing Yule traditions for myself. I don’t find authenticity in Christmas, I’m afraid, but I do find it in Yule.
In terms of sociocultural practices I truly feel that people need events such as this. Life is hard. Community is a necessary thing for many of us. For people who live in regions of the world that grow very dark and grey during a quarter of the year, I think gatherings that focus on light and levity are especially important. I don’t care if you call it Christmas, or Yule, or Kwanzaa, or Hannukah, or whatever other term you may choose to wrap it in…it’s the community that’s important.
Things have not been entirely bleak. Please know that I don’t live in a black and white world. I have things to be grateful for. Things such as…
This year, Alicia made a beautiful garland and crafted some decorations to hang from it on our mantle. She and I also had a beautiful, meaningful, intimate evening together for Solstice. This was a first practice for us. It meant a lot to me.
My middle sister and brother-in-law made it up from California. I got the opportunity to see them and spent some time with just them, our little sister, and my pops. Middle is a burst of crazy energy, with a dozen baked goods, charcuterie, and a pot of pasta on the stove. My brother-in-law was talkative and bright…he and I have reached a new space in our relationship and I love seeing him, always. Pops needed this and so did Little, and so did I.
Today, my future in-laws will be joining us from North Bend. Pop is Jewish and celebrates Christmas the way that New York Jews do…by ordering Chinese food. So we’re having Chinese dinner today and just spending time together before they head up to Portland to see the rest of the family. The big freeze wrecked our original holiday plans, but we’re trudging through and this will be a happy time.
And my youngest kiddo just texted me to wish me a Merry Christmas. He and his wife are just getting started with cinnamon rolls and gift exchange at her parents home. Tay is with good people. He married into a wonderful family and I’m thankful for this.
I still miss him. I miss my oldest son and my grandson. I miss the step kids I raised for a decade.
But life changes. We adapt. We move forward. We experience sadness and joy, sometimes at the same time. Discovering gratitude and the intentional application of it is one of the ways I’ve learned to navigate all the grey that lives between the black and white.
Today, I am grateful and kind of curious to see whether or not the neighbors will pump that Santa up one more time. I kind of hope they do.
Season’s Greetings, folks.