Saturday, December 22, 2012

Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe

One thing I can do is dream. I've always had it in me. I'm a daydreamer who just takes it to bed and keeps it going.

When I was dreaming of a white Christmas, I wasn't really picturing being forced off the expressway into whiteout conditions between cornfields with ravines dug on either side that our car could slip into at any moment.

Sometimes my heart runs away with my mind and creates pictures. Some I've seen before...maybe I'm Zuzu, and Daddy can scoop me up and give me the petals and make everything ok again.

Maybe I'll be restless and wander out to get a sandwich, and I'll sit down at a piano with that special someone, and he'll sing a whole song about counting your blessings instead of sheep.  Maybe we'll go to the window and he'll ever so gently slip his arm around my waist as the snow falls serenely outside.   Maybe we'll sit by a fire and sip cocoa.

Maybe everyone I love will be in the same place and we'll all get along, and there'll be music and meals and laughter.  The tree will be beautiful, and everyone will linger and talk and have a glass of wine and stay for awhile.  Maybe some grinch will change their mind and carve the roast beast.

Sometimes it does you harm to dream.  Sometimes you need to put your feet on the ground and realize life isn't like that.  You don't always get the Red Ryder carbine-action 200 shot Range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.

Sometimes I'll be Home for Christmas is playing in the background, and you're alone, and you've lost someone.  You're sad for what could have been, what wasn't, and what your life will be like.  Christmas is sometimes just hard, and lonely, and reminds you of the things you're missing.  I'll admit, I've been finding Christmas a little bit that way this year.  I was trying to enjoy it, but coming up short.

I'm down here in Jacksonville.  I've been here for Christmases past, when I was younger and my cousin Laura and I dressed up in identical nightgowns and every piece of costume jewelry in the household, added some shades and sashayed down the creaky old stairs to the adults.  I've been in secret spy clubs with passwords and laminated cards where our only task was to find the presents and figure out what they were.  There's a lot of history here.

This year, we came down early.  We sat in the front room with some much needed wine after the harrowing drive and chatted.  We formed a search party for a dying phone.  We met Louie, the new pup, and patted Toby, the old pup, on the head.  We watched White Christmas and we putzed around and we retired to our couches or beds or air mattresses.

We did the shop til you drop, and then we had a wonderful dinner of prime rib at the same dining room table we've had big family meals at for as long as I can remember.  My cousins and I stayed at the table awhile after, chatting about shows and movies and people.   We exchanged gifts and had another glass.  It was really nice.

But it wasn't til tonight that I got there.  My uncle and cousins came up after the Illini game ended, my aunt surprised me with birthday cake, and everyone piled into the living room.  My uncle pulled up a chair, grabbed the remote and polled the audience for the Christmas movie we'd watch.  Same as always.  All 3 dogs joined us, sometimes creating a Christmas Vacationy sort of chaos, sometimes sitting quietly.  We settled on the end of the Grinch, and something about hearing everyone recite their favorite parts made me smile.  When that was over, we put on A Christmas Story.   Somewhere during that, I took this picture.  Because when I looked around me, I saw that no, maybe I had no dad to scoop me up and make everything ok.  Maybe this year wasn't the one for gentle snow and handholding and singing.  But there's such a safety and a comfort in unspoken tradition- in that gather round we have.  People pull up chairs, corners of sofas, slices of floor...and we just sit together, and watch something we've all seen 100 times.  And that's Christmas, and that's family....and that's perfect, for me.

I've been thinking about it a long time this year, because some of the people I love the most are suffering, and this season tends to get salt in those wounds, even when you try hard to fight it.  I've got wounds of my own, some new and some old.

But to whomever reads this...I hope you can find your Christmas.  I hope you can hold onto something that makes you feel safe and loved.  That's what I wish for you.

And to all a good night.

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