Wednesday, December 14, 2011

motley Christmas

Five years married and we just bought our first Christmas tree together. In past years I used a little miniature three-tree grove which I believe came from my parents' old business office. Last year we didn't even decorate. I think we were too tired and cranky, probably too reluctant to spend money. Somewhere along the way I'd bought some lights and plain glass ornaments that were never opened, but other than that and a half-decorated wreath, we had nothing. It's a measure of how hard and fast I fled from my old life, that I didn't even take any ornaments of my own, either from my parents' house or from my ex-husband.

We bought a Black Hills Spruce from the Optimists in the grocery store parking lot. It's been too warm this week for the trees to be properly chilled, so they're looking a bit desiccated. We borrowed a few boxes of crap from his mom's basement (she had 60-odd years' worth collected, including some scary looking string lights), put a bunch of tacky tinsel garland on the boughs, and the Sparring partner hung old satin-thread ornaments and faded wooden toys all over, while I worked on finishing the wreath. I put on gold cord and red braid, and black-gold net. Then I added a gold bow, blue oversized jingle bells, and a few miniature toy ornaments in red and white.

"That looks like Christmas exploded," the SP remarked when we were done. And it does. No Nieman-Marcus designer-themed tree for us. But then again, we aren't people who live in a decorator-showplace house, with three-color schemes and accent pillows. All our stuff is patchwork--furniture, curtains, artwork--things we've found, liked, collected. And really I suspect most people's Christmas decorations collections are the same way--things that were given to them by, or chosen for, someone they loved. The mangled pipe-cleaner ornament made by a child. The falling-apart foil angel that belonged to someone's great-grandmother.

As we were sorting through boxes of musty tissue paper and limp tinsel, we remarked on what we'd keep and what we'd return to the basement, what we'd quietly get rid of and what we might acquire in future to accent the good stuff.

It's fashionable these days to disparage Christianity. It's fashionable to talk about the pagan influences of Christmas trappings, as if those factoids are supposed to make hypocrites of those who still celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. Since my divorce I've been conflicted about Christmas. I lost the will or the desire to worship or pursue God; I am firmly in the agnostic camp--not so much "I don't know" as "wait and see." But since I was raised by Christian parents, and schooled in a liberal arts college, and hang out with a decidedly Zen crowd, and am an Existentialist by nature, I got to a point where I couldn't hardly act or believe in anything without feeling I was reacting to something else. It's hard on a writer to feel as if every available option is a cliche.

But I think we need festivity in our lives--me, especially. Holidays--holy days--were days of worship, but in the pagan and Christian faiths (pretty much any religious group that doesn't indulge in human sacrifice, really) they were also days of rest and community.

Routine and even-keel are good things. But so are renewal and celebration. There's a difference between cliche and convention; in fiction, the conventional tropes let you know whether you're reading a romance or hard sci-fi. So you might say I've decided to embrace the formulaic this year.


Rick Stasi said...

Merry Christmas old friend. You are missed. Word to Tony and best to you both for the new year!

"God bless us, everyone."

Holly said...

Merry Christmas to you and your peeps!

Jan Gephardt said...

"It's hard on a writer to feel as if every available option is a cliche," and we go through seasons of feeling that in our lives.

But it seems to me you've grasped the essence, this time. Stylists worry about cliches. Renewal and celebration transcend questions of style, for they are more and deeper and much larger than "formulaic." They are archetypal.

Embrace the deep, essential patterns.