You know what really makes me tired and stressed this time of year? Hearing all about how tired and stressed people are this time of year. Enough already, out out outta here with your abject tales of how rough you have it from Thanksgiving through the New Year! This is what you want to spend even two cents of your emotional capital on?
I know, I know, families can be complicated (religion even more so), rampant consumerism carries a lot of baggage (and too damn much crazy packaging!) and the cost of a Christmas tree seems to have gone as far north as the North Pole.
In the sum total of such things, we celebrate so very little in this life of toil and loss and worry that our team will yet again miss out on the World Series next year.
And if your vote is to cancel five or six weeks of this darkest time of year, when basically all of your ancestors stretching back to the Caveman Boulevard days somehow found the gumption to rub a few sticks together to cast just a smidgen more light upon their beleaguered dark days, then when exactly were you looking to light up your life and the lives of those around you?
For a few hours around someone’s birthday next September? At some resort bar in Cabo on cinco de mayo?
My own tradition from my Hungarian parents was that Baby Jesus, with a huge assist from his Squadron of Angels, would come flying into our and a few billion other homes around the world with armfuls of presents on Christmas Eve.
Only, that is, if we had been more good than not through the year, and most particularly on that very night.
That’s when the four (later five, and then six…) of us got locked into a back bedroom with board games & such, there to while away the anxious few hours that would allow the descending band of gift hoisters to get themselves, our gifts, and our Christmas tree in though a living room window. Our parents were tasked with helping them decorate the tree.
Meanwhile, in the back bedroom another miracle altogether was unfolding.
This most blessed night also featured the one span of time in the life of all us younger siblings when our oldest sister did not dedicate her own life to torturing us in the multiple, diabolical ways that she had buffed to a fine sheen on every other day of the year.
Believe you me, that fact alone had me believing in the magic of Christmas.
In any case, when Baby Jesus and the angels’ work was done, they rang a bell and then loudly slammed the window on their way out.
That prompt led to us kids to somehow manage not piling up and asphyxiating one another in a raucous stampede through the doorway, make it down the hall, turn the corner into the living room, and…oh, ohh, ohhhh, wow…
Here’s the image that is emblazoned upon my memory from those moments (was it but one moment in one year?…multiple, nearly identical moments over multiple years?…who knows, who cares, the emblazonment is there and so very alive today):
Dazzling, almost blinding-but-peaceful light from the tree.
Colors upon colors of wrapping on gifts piled around it.
Our beaming parents.
And before the mayhem commenced, a sense of profound wonder at this most glorious display, and of all the forces that had brought it to me in this suddenly, renewedly beneficent universe.
So these decades later, jaded and grizzled and stripped of literal belief in angels and gods and the possibility of the Giants getting back to The Show next year, I’m supposed to Bah, Humbug! my way through the one time of year that is dedicated to proclaiming, “Stop it, NOW! Get over yourself, get out there, spread some joy— if only so you can feel it, too!”
Because here’s the thing: We are programmed for it. Yeah, I know, we are also programmed for fear and conquest and I Got Mine.
But eons & eons ago, the ancestors we have all—ALL!— descended from got out of their caves, lit a few sticks and started us all—ALL!—on a trajectory that has led us right to here: to the ever-present possibility of joy, of calling on the light living deep within us in an often torn and tempestuous world whose inhabitants too easily fall prey to dwelling in darkness.
After all, it wasn’t just me turning that corner and beholding the light and colors in the seeming miracle spread out before me.
Those lights and colors live within all of us as a birthright, yes they do. And we are mighty fools indeed not to surround ourselves with them at every grace-full, well-lit, love-infused opportunity.
Had tickets to see this show a few days ago in Chapel Hill, but alas, circumstances intruded. Yet: the light shines!
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Deep appreciation to the photographers! Unless otherwise stated, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing.
Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.
Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: email@example.com
Christmas ornament by “Photographer,” Columbus, Ohio https://www.flickr.com/photos/fensterbme/
House photo by Andrew Hidas https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewhidas/
Joyous Grandson photos by Joyous Grandson’s daycare providers, Ana and Juan, long may they flourish and spread the joy they do!