futurama santa

Christmas Spirit in My Cold, Dead Heart

I can’t say that I’ve been Scrooge-y this Christmas because I don’t have any workers to exploit.

However, the Christmas spirit has been lost on me for some years now. It was revived for a bit by our new tradition of spending the holiday with John’s cousins. There were small children there who believed in Santa Claus and the magic of it and it’s hard not to get swept up in that (when you’re not the one who’s responsible for providing that magic).

That joy just doesn’t happen for me anymore. Even in my twenties when the PRESENTS!!!! part was over for me, I still put up a tree, decorate it with the ornaments, and felt chipper. Now the days are a slog. I don’t put out a tree because there’s no space even for a tabletop tree and our cats are destructive little turd monsters anyway.

My dad recently moved in with my brother and his family. Instead of Dad being sequestered in a little adjacent apartment or something, he’s part of the house with his household stuff integrated.

When I drove down to visit the other day, I walked in and was greeted by all of our family’s old Christmas stuff. The Xmas bears were lined up on the stairs. The Santa Army stood sentry wherever there was space. The tree was covered in my brother’s and dad’s old ornaments – growing up, we each got one new ornament every year.

I have clear memories about every single one:

  • That braided wreath ornament mom bought at the O Club Xmas bazaar in the Azores – after she’d shopped, she found me dangling from the monkey bars by my belt loop in the kids room.
  • The weird ornaments that look like pancakes with angels screen printed on them and smell like…..pine? Everyone bitched about the smell every year, but we could never bring ourselves to throw them away.
  • The nutcracker ornament with the wild white hair that I used to stare at, hoping that it would magically ice skate with me.

I stood there, going through all the ornaments, repeatedly saying, “Oh! I remember when we got this one! It was…..”

Being there, surrounded by the holiday stuff I grew up with, it stirred. Christmas spirit.

It never occurred to me that it was tied up in reminiscing. But, looking back, it makes sense. That’s how we’d always decorated our tree: remembering why we’d picked this ornament or that one and what else had happened that year. Every one means something.

So, now I know what to do. And it only took me six or seven years to figure out.

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