I miss neighborhood Christmas parties with their holiday party food and big punchbowls. I miss wearing a big sweater and crowding into the warm home of another family you know to catch up with people you don't see much and stave off the chilly air for the evening. I guess some friends of ours throw this annual holiday thing but I have been too sick for us to go the last two years because both events fell just weeks after I had surgery. In past years it's had a bit of that tinny irony that plagues my generation and makes some of us far too amused with themselves for wearing the ugliest holiday sweater. Maybe I am a wet blanket or a cynic, but I can't understand the appeal of celebrating irony, cheekiness, or other forms of emotional insincerity when the weather outside is so shitty and the days are so short. I think I'd rather dork it up and share warmth with my loved ones and feel a little wholesome for a minute. My youth was perplexing but Christmas was always about giving and spreading those magic feelings of well-wishes and kindness. I didn't realize it then, but I had Christmas like in children's books and family Christmas movies. I figured back then that was everyone's experience but later realized a lot of people barely touch Christmas. Friends who didn't grow up with their houses decorated inside and out like a Department 56 light-up building walk in to my moms' place now and are surprised at the amount Mom decorates and that it is only a quarter of the holiday magic she used to infuse into our domicile. The North Pole Village at Meier & Frank with the ride-on-train, Christmas tree forest and Santa himself set on a giant throne to speak about one's Christmas wishes was the only thing that beat my house.
For a while in my adolescence and young adulthood I tried and partway succeeded in following God's word in some Christian tradition and found myself thinking more and more about being a good citizen and how that would spread His love. I was terrible at it by my own estimation but was the only message I pulled out of the Bible that made any sense. Christmas was a struggle for me. I was afraid all I had cared about during the holiday season was presents and the trappings of festive secular service and was sure I had been missing something by not including religious observance. I knew all about druidic festivals and celebrations being co-opted by Christians attempting to convert the locals and that Jesus wasn't born in December but I could have sworn I was doing it wrong anyway. I was struggling in some familial relationships and all the good I felt during those early holiday seasons echoed dully in my memory and felt frivolous. I must have read the Bible five or six times through back then trying to figure out what I was supposed to do to be doing life right and coming up with "only love God and all other people" and "if these stories aren't illustrative parables set in a time before refrigeration, antibiotics and condoms, this book makes absolutely no sense in the contemporary context." Trying to be a good Christian confused me and loaded me with so much guilt it ruined my ability to enjoy Christmas. Being emotionally adrift from my family, no matter the reason, took away the glow of tradition and made it just another sleety day in the PNW where I felt woefully inadequate.
I have to admit to an elevated sense of sentimentality this year. There is a good chance I will be having my bone marrow transplant soon and all the way up in Seattle. I have faith that the doctors there will get me through the transplant process as safely as possible and have the passion and expertise to deal with complications resourcefully as soon as they arise. Still, a little voice inside of me that sounds a lot like I do at my most coldly pragmatic says there is still a chance I might not make it and this is it for Christmas. We have been a bit scattered and unorganized the last few years but the idea made me panic and I just about begged people who probably didn't need begging to spend the weekend up at Mom's to celebrate. As much of my immediate family as is on the continent will be there this year, per my adamant request and their shared desire to celebrate together. We have the sole youngster of his generation in our family going to be in attendance and starting to build on his own young understanding of the season. No one is missing out because of work or other plans, and I may even receive my coveted international call from my dad and step-mom. We are all going to be together and it is going to be magic.