Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Perfect Christmas

Part of the problem with Christmas is the austere reverence with which we enshroud it. Usually when things are so serene and reflective and earnest, it simply begs for a joke to break the tension. This tendency to laugh during the most serious of times, psychologists tell us, is a mechanism to deal with the great social pressures being exerted on us to be solemn, or in the case of Christmas, the pressure to find serenity.

But what if that “perfect” Christmas always eludes us? What if we can’t find it? What if the joy of Christmas-time eludes me despite my best efforts? What if all those TV specials, and the music and muzzak are not enough to make me find that one thing, that one thing, that is the secret to everything.

Every year I tell myself, “This year will be the year to find that perfect Christmas” but every year, I seem to do less and less to get caught up in the froth of the season, finding it harder to find the brew of the season. First, the lights stop going up outside: too cold outside, wastes energy, hate keeping up with everyone else. Then the decorations get downsized: a few pictures, a wreath hastily hung up on the door.

As a family, we are at the point now where the tree is the extent of our decorating and I believe this is because it is not just for the showy effect of having a wonderfully decorated evergreen in the corner of my family room. The tree becomes a process for us, as we each plays our great Christmas role adding ornaments, the traditional swearing, the dragging of the tree into the house, tracking mud and felled pine needles everywhere, the butchery also know as “trimming” of the branches, the tinsel application, and of course the perfunctory “tree falling” that usually occurs sometime the week following its installation.

“Dad?” Kate calls me on my cell phone. “Are you coming home early tonight?”

“As a matter of fact I am sweetie, I am just coming into town now. Why do you ask?”

“Well, because the tree fell down and we need help.”

Ah, what is the holiday season without its seasonal drama, I ask you? Why it is as traditional as eggnog and caroling! As I enter the house I see my wife and daughter holding the tree. They turn and look at me with the look of a man on death row who just has been given a reprieve. How long, I wonder to myself, would they have stood there if I hadn’t been coming home early?

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