Dear Mr. Grinch,
I get it after all.
Why you, why some people simply hate Christmas. It all makes sense now.
I’ve never been one of you. I may have been an elf in a former life, or a Who at least. I love the lights, ornaments, carefully picking out presents, writing Christmas cards, hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows. If it was up to me, I’d be celebrating Christmas all year.
Not just because of these little things I just listed of course, also because – most importantly – Christmas is about spending time with people you love. And I suppose that’s where it gets complicated, unbearable even, for some of us.
This had never occurred to me until one particular conversation with a colleague some time ago.
Me: Aren’t you looking forward to Christmas, too? It’s my favorite time of the year!
Me: … oh … how come?
Her: My father passed away on Christmas.
Me: Oh, I’m sorry … then that’s understandable of course …
The thing is, though, I didn’t really get it. I just thought I did. Besides, it was the only reply I could think of that made a little sense when someone tells you something awful like this.
Two days ago I got a phone call. It was my dad. I’d just sent him a picture of the heap of Christmas cookies I’d been making with my roommates. There’s no way on earth I could have seen it coming.
His voice gave him away immediately, though: shaky and sort of muffled. I felt my heart sink, right past my stomach, down to the very tip of my toes. Your dad isn’t supposed to call you in a shaky and muffled voice. If anyone, it should be your mom. My dad doesn’t give hugs unless he’s forced to. He’s a practical man down to his very core. When my sister told him she was pregnant (sort of a little too young, sort of not at the right time), he just shrugged and said: Things happen. He doesn’t f***ing talk like this unless something’s really wrong. And it was.
A death in the family or within your closest group of friends always feels like a smack in the face. This one felt like being punched with a crowbar. I sat down and mumbled something along the lines of I can’t believe it, this is terrible, I don’t know what to say. Then my mom took over the phone because, clearly, my dad was in no shape to continue this conversation; especially with me being the eloquent dialog partner that I was at this very moment.
I spent the rest of the night sorting through all sorts of emotions, fairly unsuccessful. I was trying to come up with a brilliant message to send to my sister, because this terrible piece of news hit much closer to her home. I didn’t want to call her because if I could’t come up with a couple of words in writing, how was I supposed to say something remotely resembling a sentence. It took me hours and the words still felt inadequate and silly and unhelpful. I sent the message anyways because I wanted her to know that I was thinking about her. Because I was, all night.
I still am. I’m thinking about her and her husband who’ve been through so much already. I’m thinking about my two wonderful nephews, in particular the older one of the two, who’s already had so many losses to claim in his short life that it’s breaking my heart whenever I think about it. I’m thinking about my dad’s voice. I’m thinking and thinking and it all seems so horrifying that at times I catch myself wondering whether none of this has actually happened and it’s all just a terrible nightmare.
I’m thinking and thinking –
and I get it.
At the same time, I don’t feel like it. I still love Christmas. I’m dreading this year’s holidays but I’m hoping they’re going to be like a little break from the days filled with grief, confusion and anger that are lying ahead.
This is not an anti-Christmas manifesto. If anything, I hope it’s a reminder for all of you to be grateful for your family and friends, a reminder to let them know how much you care (more often, we should tell each other every single day), a reminder to be there for each other, especially during the hard times.
Have a wonderful Christmas filled with laughter and love
Post-holiday musings on yellow phone booths (or: How my grandfather didn’t have a phone for a long time).
Christmas has passed, on quick and quiet paws. My parents and I went to see my grandfather for the holidays; I can’t even remember the last time we did this. I usually simply spend Christmas at their house. The last time I’d actually seen my grandfather was a year and a half ago: my grandmother’s funeral. When I was little I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, yet somewhere between moving to the other side of the country and growing up, there was only little time left.
Long story short: I was really looking forward to the trip. Because of my grandfather, but also because it meant getting away from everything else for a couple of days: restricted internet and cell phone use, please! Merry Christmas to me. However, the 21st century quickly caught up to me. As much as I’ve been trying not to give in: Santa replaced my
somewhat crappy vintage phone with a brand new smart phone. Gosh, thanks Santa! I kissed my old phone good-bye (and, possibly shed a tear or two) and welcomed the new one into my life. My software’s never felt more updated.
As my dad tried to explain the basics to me, my grandfather seemed somewhat bemused. He looked at the little device and shook his head. When I still worked at the jobsite, it took me half a day just to place a call, he said, only collect calls back then, and there was only a phone at work. He shrugs, worked fine for us. The government had been too distrustful, cheap – or simply too incapable to provide phones for every household, that’s his explanation anyways. And then in the end (when the government didn’t make these decisions anymore but the big companies did, much like anywhere else), I even got a phone before you, my mom smiled.
I remember how we used to walk to the yellow phone booth together to call my grandparents. How I sat huddled between the phone and my mother as she was talking. I don’t remember, though, how, before the yellow phone booth, my mom had to go to the post office to send a telegraph (like that one time when our car broke down and we couldn’t go see my grandparents. Because it was a Saturday, of course, and the one repair shop was already closed). In times of text messages, e-mail, twitter and the like, it’s hard to imagine such a thing.
All of this makes me thankful. I’m thankful than the idea of sending a telegraph somewhere is only familiar to me from books and movies. I’m thankful than I’m able to prevent people from having a heart attack when I don’t show up when and where I’m supposed to in the blink of an eye. I’m more than thankful that I’m able to communicate with people spread out over many countries (continents even) so easily.
Yet, I’m also thankful for some perspective: I put my smartass phone away at once – it’s back to restrictive internet and cell phone use. Because between moving to the other side of the country and growing up, there’s too little time anyways, and with the important people right in front of you, for a while, you don’t really need a phone, I guess.
I) January, 8 – in prose…
The New Year (capitalized, to show it’s genuine importance!) is already a week old by now and therefore slowly taking off all the holiday make-up and fancy clothing – a very un-magical moment. It’s always a moment that leaves me missing things: all the Christmas lights, the smell of cinnamon and the anticipation in the air. Because, of course, by that time I’ve already pushed aside the rush and grumpiness of the few days before Christmas, along with the exhaustion of the let’s-visit-the-entire-family-and-all-of-our-friends-in-less-than-24-hours-marathon (while, year after year, thinking: how sweet it would be to catch a ride on Santa’s sleigh). However, what is even worse is the feeling when there’s someone you can’t visit, for whatever reason. Then, the missing hits in early – an even less magical feeling. The least magical I can imagine.
This Christmas season, the missing did hit me quite early, it just snuck up on me behind my back and suddenly there it was, rearing its ugly head out of a pile of Christmas wrappings. It’s been living with me ever since. I don’t mean to complain, I’ve been wanting a roommate since I moved into a new apartment last summer (but I’d really prefer someone less sneaky, Santa must have gotten me wrong there…) leaving behind three roommates (a school, a city, a country) in the process – coming back to what I’d left behind a year earlier to find that I couldn’t have it all back, not the way it was. Of course, you never can – but, of course, you always hope.
I think, it might have been already then, that this idiotic thing moved in with me, hiding in my luggage – the little parasite. Or maybe, I brought it with me from my holiday visit to one of my beloved roommates a few days ago. Anyhow, I’m planning to kick it out soon. I think, it has to go with the decorations and the last bits of candy (ha! I ate the last cookie this morning!). It’s really a poor replacement for all I’ve left behind.
II) January, 8 – in poetry…
I know: it comes like breathing – unconsciously and delicate.
An inflating and deflating, rhythmical, in four-four time almost:
Say, is it dancing, can you feel your heart dancing?
You know, it’s the dance of death, or at least
the dance of coma – a deep delusional sleep:
you’re only imagining things, always.
It’s tiring, truly exhausting – and there’s nothing that can be done.
I’m afraid it’s not a mood, it doesn’t come and go like seasons do.
It’s a state, it’s something chronic – the diagnosis?
Well, it’s not yearning, it’s less dramatic; nothing emotional, I think.
It’s quiet like falling snow and just as cold and it
also muffles all the noise coming in from the world outside:
You must be missing
III), January, 8 – in song (thank you, Miss Madeline Ava)…