As a child I grew up imagining Santa Claus. We would take visits downtown, and I would sit on his lap and be a little nervous. I remember the conversations of hiding so he wouldn’t see me if we were out driving on Christmas and a santa of dozens appeared throughout our community at their designated zones. I remember then there was no skepticism. And then my family experienced a dramatic change in philosophy. Or at least that’s what it seems to me today, I’ve never quite understood the entire story. I just remember my mom saying to me a few years later, during the Christmas of my twelfth year, we were going to celebrate Christmas in August this year, and I laughed and thought about it and I was okay with the idea. That Christmas, my twelfth year, there were no presents under the tree, because that would occur in August, so I could wait.
What there was in place was my entire family, my cousins, our friends, all my siblings, my parents, and my mom’s mother, Granny, whom we all revered much like we did her husband my grandfather who had passed years earlier. My father’s parents died when I was very young so I didn’t know them as well, but we certainly celebrated their lives. What we had this Christmas in 1972 was a wonderful dinner, with many changes ahead, we all looked into one another’s eyes and we recognized the greatest gift we could possibly give one another is love.
The years passed, and as I became a teenager, the impact of not receiving presents as a child no longer stung in the manner they did at first. I always wondered, but at the same time I began to appreciate this new message I could bring to my friends, who showered with gifts and tokens, would ask me and I would reply, I received my family for Christmas. Though at first it was sometimes difficult to mouth the phrase in specific audience, after time, I believed it because no matter where our lives were, we always knew where home would be. The locality changed frequently as we set up in different parts of the country, but the essence of home became that time when we could get past all the angst of the human condition and love one another and see peace in each other’s eyes as the balsam fir of a new Christmas tree emanated through the warm and fiery gathering rooms.
During that time in my life I began to recognize the many families that didn’t gather for the same reasons as we did. Oh, they exchanged gifts, and celebrated happening in each other’s lives, but they drove away as quickly as they could, having gotten through the torture of being around family for the couple of necessary days Christmas brought into their lives. I thought of them, but I thought more increasingly of the now today, millions of people across the world without a family, without a warm place, without peace of mind, except for the cold, torturing loneliness of another night alone.I wonder about how easy my life has been, and how callous it might feel to me to hear myself celebrating within earshot of a teenager using a cardboard box to shelter themselves from an arctic vortex this Saturday night. I wonder when I struggle to go on with my life, about those that given a choice they could check out at anytime, but they refuse to do so for so many reasons beyond my comprehension.
I wonder about the sadness that people will endure this holiday, while right next door, or strolling along the avenue, or in celebratory fashion our world clings to the notion they are loved, and they belong, and they deserve everything that comes with a material society celebrating a day that in truth only provides reason to give.
We are a take society, and I am part of that ruse, and so as I write this personal search for my reasons why I celebrate Christmas, I do try to remember those less fortunate than myself and I do hope that somehow there is some peace that might address their loneliness this holiday. I do hope we can all open our eyes, and try, hard as it may be to look beyond ourselves, and embrace each other, rather than wait to feel that touch.
Happy Xmas everyone! Peace.