Friday, December 20, 2013

...merry, happy, whatever Christmas/holiday/whichever to you, too

I had an experience at the grocery store that confirmed what I have long suspected: labels are at best generalizations. Liberals, conservatives, folks of all beliefs and non-believers...within each circle there is a spectrum of characters and some are downright intolerant, smug, obnoxious people. For some reason, Christmas, the season of peace on earth and good will to men/women/children/pets/the good earth, seems to bring out the worst at times. To-do lists are long and time is short.

Sometimes the label switches in mid-stream. I’d always been considered a “Mary” in those Martha/Mary debates of yore. An art major, you could count on me to enter into a discussion and occasionally burn/forget something. But I managed to sling together countless Christmas Eve dinners and Christmas brunches for the family and for friends after work on Christmas eve. Keep in mind, the planning and  cooking went on for weeks before the events...because I loved it. Those recipes brought my grandmother, my mother, and aunts back for brief, fragrant moments. Even though I was hurried, those were Mary Christmases. Days of Adoration (insert tinkling chimes). Then I hit the first Christmas that I cooked for strangers. I wasn’t feeling well and a head cold gets no sympathy. No one offered to help. I listened to one extoll the virtues of not cooking all that “bad” food (which, might I add, he ate with ease). One bragged about not cooking...period. Another joked about being no help at all. When all had gone home - stuffed to the gills, she says with a lifted eyebrow - a thought occurred to me. I was running on empty. The jokes weren’t funny and the waiting crowd was little more than a vexation. I suddenly had become Martha. This had been a day of necessity, void of (more tinkling chimes) Adoration. These label shifts are downright inconvenient.

Which brings me back to the Safeway. Some woman wearing Peace earrings, a complete stranger, said, as I picked up a pound of thick-cut bacon, “I would NEVER put that in my mouth.” Which is good because it was the last package of my favorite brand.  I gave her the village idiot smile and mused about the holidays. While I’m aiming for a "one-size-doesn’t-fit-all”, personally honest, non-judgmental, grateful season, I’m batting about .375 at the moment. Here’s the deal...

I hereby promise not to talk about happy childhood Christmases unless asked. Yours may have been dreadful. This also means I will only play the twenty-four hour a day Christmas/holiday/whatever music station when I am in the car alone. If I start to hum the Alleluia chorus, mea culpa on several levels, since I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Just be glad I’m humming instead of kvetching.

If you are grieving, feel free to talk about it. Or not. I’ve been there and can tell you there is no right answer. Know that in the silence of caring hearts you are loved...even if you don’t feel it. Try not compare your loss to another’s. Grief is an absolute and can’t be measured. Maybe you (and I) miss Granny and Christmases past, for instance. Maybe a loved one has died. Maybe you want to be with people. Maybe you want to be alone. You get to decide according to the Grievers’ Bill of Rights. Do whatever it takes. (There’s that “w” word again.)

It takes all kinds to make the world go round. People-lovers, dog-lovers, cat-lovers, ferret-lovers, plant-lovers of the world unite. No one of us is better than another. And no one of us can do it all. Together we can care for all of this good earth and all who inhabit it. If you are spending the holidays with carnivores, bring a vegan dish. Look at pictures of folks' children/grandchildren/pets/African violets with forbearance and at least try to oooh and ahhh a little bit.

If every child were loved, cared for, disciplined, and taught to respect others, the world would operate quite differently. But every child isn’t. Some people are just plain ornery. May this time be a reminder to love a little better those who aren’t easy to love. Those who differ from me...and love to point out the differences. I will try my best to put up with their non-[bacon-eating] ways. NOTE: Consider [...] a placeholder for the person/personality/class/political party/whatever du jour.

This next part just became personal. My daughter called. She has the flu. In Colorado. Adrienne, I want to run over with Sprite and broth and heating pads and I can't. Mama loves you. I have a theory that the reason so many people get sick during the holidays is due to the “gotta get it done, gotta go” stress that compromises the immune system. Sickees go shopping, go to cantatas, go to parties, and spread the cheer aches, fever and pains...a gift that keeps on giving. Attention,Walking Petri Dishes, please stay at home and throw a pity party. It’s allowed. Marcella, I am sorry you are sick but applaud that you are at home taking care of yourself. Thank you.

Re season greetings: habits are hard to break, hard to form. I’m a Christmas person so I draw from this. Note the picture at the top of the blog. Out of respect, I usually - or not (oops) - say “Happy Holidays” to those with different - or unknown - beliefs who might celebrate a different holiday. Or Holy Day. There are differences between these two. For those "darn, I just slipped and said 'Merry Christmas' to a Druid friend (yes, I have one) and 'Happy Holidays' to the head of the Adventist Sunday School” moments: please file this under “get over it”.  Frankly, my dear, I don’t give I don’t care how you greet me if you smile and/or hug...unless you are sick (refer to previous paragraph). It’s the meaning behind the words that counts, in my humble opinion.

I will try to do something to assure than at least one or two folks - strangers - will celebrate warm, non-hungry, loved lives...and practice this for more than a day or two a year.

I will try to remember that Sneezy, Dopey, Grumpy, Just Plain Tired, and Critical are people, too. I’m at least one of these at the moment. Just before the office door last opened, I was thinking of one of our cerebral palsy kids who came in for care yesterday. Of how precious and brave he is, of his parents and the struggle they all face every moment of every day. In truth, Feeling all good about my heart. Then in came another child, with his dad. Dad has never met the therapists. Knows nothing of the care given his son. He was a bit unpleasant. I tried really, really hard not to forget what this family faces daily...or what I’ve just written. The unpleasantness continued. The silence within me was now deafening. I knew the obvious: maybe this is all that Dad can do in this moment, in the face of ungodly, unrelenting cheerfulness broadcast everywhere regardless of his circumstances.  So I drug out the village idiot smile and suggested that he might like to observe the care. He became less confrontational. We all breathed. A conversation ensued. Not a Kumbaya moment but civil. “Fake it til you make it” ushered in a “this too shall pass” moment.

Five minutes later we gathered around a little child and loved on him.

A star fell on Ukiah.

For me, Christmas happened. Again.

In the words of a wise friend, I won’t “should” on you. Please don’t “ought on me”. At least not today. May this season be a time of healing and hope. Happy, merry, whatever to all...

1 comment:

John Robins said...

Another fine article, Celeste.
Merry Christmas.
(PS: you showed a great deal of Christmas spirit and admirable restraint by not slapping the "bacon lady" across the head with the offensive item)