Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My loud vernacular horn

My oldest Christmas ornament is an owl in a globe from 1971. In any given moment, my house, all decorated for the holidays, can look charming or like some hellish year-round Christmas shop.

I read a greeting card today that said, Any given moment you can change your life. You just have to be there.

I'm here.

So far, the places where some of my friends are going for Christmas are Hawaii, Cambodia, New York City, Park City, San Francisco, Mexico and Chicago. With the possible exception of Hawaii, I don't really envy anyone travelling during the holidays. When I feel a ping of jealousy that ratchets up to resentment, I read Billy Collins' poem Consolation. That might be because we've got Sophie to contend with, and the thought of travel anywhere without her is way more difficult than travel with her. Does that make sense?

My sisters and their families are going to my parents' house in Atlanta.   One of my sisters asked whether I was sad about not being able to go "home" for Christmas, and I didn't quite know how to answer that. I think the place that used to be sad is now numb. I guess I'm sad that our family can never pick up and go anywhere, to tell you the truth, and even if we were willing to suspend what remnants of sanity we have left and take Sophie on a cross-country trip, it'd be illegal to take her medicine to Georgia. And I don't wish that I lived closer to home because that would mean -- well -- Georgia. In an ideal world, Sophie would still be who she is, difficult to travel with, but everyone would come here to see us.

So, while I'm sure I'll miss a good time with the relatives, I love a Christmas in my own sometimes charming and sometimes hellish Christmas-shop home.

How much better to command the modern precinct of home
than to be dwarfed by pillar, arch and basilica.

Like Virginia Woolfe said, nothing thicker than a knife's blade separates happiness from melancholy.


  1. Wow. That last quote from virginia sliced right through me. It's the season for melancholia, for holidays far different than we might dream. I love that you decorate with commitment. I admire it.

  2. Ugh. I wish I didn't understand this post so well. When Dan was dying I begged my family from Iowa Maryland to come out here to help with my mom. No one did. Am I sad? Nope. I'm numb.
    Maybe we could drink over Skype.

  3. Can we all drink over Skype?
    I have Christmas ornaments up in my kitchen all year round and the other day my husband said, "Those look just like the ornaments we had when I was a child."
    I looked at him and said, "Those ARE the ornaments you had when you were a child."

    Fuck it.

    We all grow numb to it all.

  4. I'm not going anywhere for Christmas, never have. Travel was the same with Katie, we didn't do it. My ex was a pilot and we could have traveled but rarely did because of Katie. Holidays were always just more work because Katie was home. My family never got that. Not one of my siblings has even ever taken Katie for an hour to give me a break, or offered.

    I'm blathering now but what I'm trying to say is that I understand.

  5. I love your owl ornament. My mom still has all our old Christmas baubles, but most of them are pretty battered looking by now and I suspect they will not survive her household downsizing next year.

    I'm going to suburban Detroit for Christmas...definitely not a trip to envy. For what THAT's worth.

    Look at it this way -- every time we travel, and for that matter every time anyone travels, part of us (them) wishes we (they) were home. Know what I mean?

    I wish I were there to take Sophie for a while so you could travel. I would do it. I swear.

  6. If it makes you feel any better, we are not only not traveling for the holidays, but we are hosting which means that on Christmas day we will have six children, ranging in age from 6 to 17, and and eight adults, ranging in politics from Rush-Limbaugh-loving-Republican to fully-bleeding-heart-liberal. And the two non-blood-related folks joining us this year are a young lesbian couple that are likely to spice things up a bit. I may just start making a batch of homemade hot buttered rum mix right now to make sure all of the edges are dulled.

  7. Wow. I'm playing blog catch up and am quite a few behind. This is a very good post, I loved the quote and the poem.

    I love/hate this holiday. My mom had been depressed at Christmas since her parents died in 1973. That's a long time to try and cheer someone up, and a tall order for a kid, let alone a grownup. I have a shit-ton of guilt for not travelling east to visit more, especially at the holidays, but I made my mind up the year I had kids that anyone who missed us could come to us, we were staying put. I offered to buy tickets, and I'm sure you can imagine how many hands it takes to count the number of visitors we've had in the last 20 years.

    So I make cards and gifts and send flowers and apologize and smolder, because I checked, and the planes still fly both ways, but no one wants to visit us enough to make the trip, and yet I am the one who feels guilty.

    I cannot imagine being in your shoes, with Sophie to consider and still being the one expected to come or miss out on the family gatherings.

    It is a fine line, isn't it? Not just between happiness and melancholy, but between acceptance and bitterness.

    So. We are running away this Christmas, thanks to my daughter's volleyball camp and my insane urge to go somewhere not freezing. We have never done a family road trip, and I'm telling myself no matter what, we will make the best of this. We will be visiting the other grandma for a few days, so I can cross her off my guilt list. It's been years.

    Sorry I rambled so much. Your post struck a nerve with me, I wanted to say in my own little way, I hear you, and I get it.

    I hope your holiday is exactly what you and your kids need it to be. And I love your owl ornament.

  8. Mel -- Your comment has nearly brought me to tears. I feel like I've been held and hugged and utterly affirmed. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.



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