December 19 – December 30
I tried my hardest, God knows I did. but this was not to be the Christmas I envisioned for some redemption of the dark ages to be known as 2016.
Everything is as perfect as it should be for a Christmas by the Bay, and even more so for when I am home in the outskirts of Concord, California. My mom’s wrapped the banisters of our strangely layed-out 1970’s home with multicolored twinkle lights and red tinsel garland, and she’s using the massive white paper snow flakes I created three years ago as mats on which to set her eclectic sets of Santa trinkets in the family room; the smaller red glittering ones for the whitewashed brick fireplace mantel downstairs by the 9 ft. tree that she always needs my dad’s help putting up. It’s not the only tree in the house– the old 7 ft is adorned upstairs with old wooden ornaments that look like candy and and cheap new ones from the 99 Cent Store on Clayton Road in the same strip mall where I later discover she’s bought some of my Christmas presents (black skinny jeans, a metallic notebook with a bicycle on the front) at their TJ Maxx. The tree’s red lights accentuate the warmth of the red decor against he off-white walls of our home and all the Santas and snowglobes within. Santas are the usual motif, even though my mom says she will change the theme every year. There’s some plaid on the coffee table runners and the rags that drape the oven handle in the kitchen where she’s put on display my red candle that’s burnt out and surrounded by nuts and twigs hot glued to a block of wood, a masterpiece of my CCD classes in the Second Grade.
This is the Christmas scene of our home these past nine years.
And to fit these embellishments so have the memories of Christmas past– for the most part. The early morning coffee treks to the Clayton or Oak Grove Peet’s at six in the morning, shaving down the Christmas lists as we shop in Walnut Creek, rewatching The Bishop’s Wife as these gifts are wrapped by the fireplace. There really is no place like home for the Holidays, the familiar and comforting feelings that they bring– but they were gone this year. God knows I did try to find them.
For the full week I had taken off from time and work in the City I only wanted those comforts. With the fondness I could recall from last year’s Christmas and the year before that, you could only anticipate what this time would bring. A natural human default is wondering how things can always be better, just as overthinking is another one– it was in the latter that I believe my turmoil started. A sister absent on Christmas Eve to be at the Raiders’ game with her boyfriend and too drunk to drive back home from his place in Lodi. The NBA Christmas Special almost reenacted to perfect a showdown with the Cleveland Cavs and our Golden State Warriors, and losing a $5 wager on the Super team to my sister’s boyfriend who’s showed up on the misty morning of Christmas Day. Family late to lunch and presents and knowing the game loss throughout the whole opening while your devoted fan of a dad proudly dons his new team sweater without having finished the game yet. Family leaving early– not even when it’s sunset. Too much champagne, or in my sister’s case, having to be elsewhere for Christmas night. This was Christmas day– just one of the whole week that fell short of those seasonal feelings I so badly wanted to have.
With all these small setbacks in the holiday season back home, I now find myself rather pleased with what seemed back then a terrible Christmas. It sort of was, at lest not in any way a perfect one. But something I’ve firmly believed for sometime now is only telling to this way I feel now about this past week: things can fall apart so that better things may happen. The arrival of my aunt who hasn’t spent a Christmas with us in years. My other aunt’s husband, feeling homesick and yet hoping that this first Christmas makes that feeling less worse. The absence of my sister so that making her own choices and moves away from us may cement other meaningful relationships in her life. Having a breakdown over your weight gain on the 26th because of the frump of your new jeans and exchanging them for your first pair of running shoes in six years. A road trip repeatedly cancelled so that a compromise may take us not far away, but to new sights and winding roads where little towns rest among towering pines of Highway 9 in the Santa Cruz Mountains and serve you Italian sweets with perfect Chai. Even down to the soothing chill of the eight o’clock wind of the Ygnacio Valley hills where our tire blew out minutes before returning home. All things that only now in my frustration to think back on a wonderful Christmas shine bright against the sour turn of events. They’re all now just another feed into the collective of those memories of the Christmases before, a bigger picture that will always still make me remember and love– and anticipate– the next one. Things fall apart– and what’s left over is a reminder that the constant memories are the only necessities to creating the spirit of the holidays.
I even saw my first live musical during these most wonderful times of the year. White Christmas, with its saturated sets and costumes and glamorous tap dance routines, was to be in my mind a quick yuletide fix. In the end, the snow being blown into the audience and the haunting, lovely lyrics of the titular song crooning in unison from the company, delivered.
May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.
No, not every Christmas will be peachy and pure, but it’s still a Christmas made merry in its own magical ways.