I have feared this moment since I made the decision to write columns. There have been some major obstacles over the last half-year, some which I have surmounted, and others which I have said I’ll try again later. But none of them come close to Christmas.
How do you write about Christmas? Everyone writes on Christmas. People who don’t write get inspired to write. People who do write face competition and a legacy so overwhelming it makes originality near-impossible. You could try reinterpreting something, like the bald kid, or the gift-bearing dudes, or the miserly Londoner. You could comment on personal experiences, Virginia, or looking beyond the world to see the spirit of the season. The latter comes up every year, yet never seems to make an impact.
Of course the tried and true writings are all out there: anti-commercialism; predictions, dire and placid; anti-political and anti-fanatical. Ecumenical and non-. Writings on families, friends, miracles, and civilizations. Anything the day is supposed to represent has been written on. I say day because I feel the notion of a Christmas season is a bunch of baloney. I’d elaborate, but I’m sure someone already has.
I could write an anti-nostalgic piece, lambaste Jimmy Stewart, Edmund Gwenn’s Kris Kringle, Macy*s, and the rest of it. But, honestly, I don’t want this column to be a downer.
Like everyone else writing about Christmas I want my writing to say something important. To get out a message. If I have an option between broadcasting a positive or a negative message, I’ll choose positive.
This past year has been a doozy. I assume that’s true for everyone. Looking back on those scant few years which comprise the totality of my mortal time I cannot but help feel as if each has been extraordinary. Each year has helped form who I am, even the boring years. 2007 was not a boring year, for me, but if it was for you, do not fret. I have no doubt that there were elements, accidents, happenings and developments which had profound consequences on you. Whether you recognize them now or not is immaterial.
You know, (of course you don’t, but I’ll tell you anyway) I find it interesting to see which children’s books we latch on to. In my household my sister and I read and were read to quite a deal when we were young. I must have consumed literally thousands of children’s books by the age of twelve. Certain ones, however, stick out in my mind, for their pictures, or story, or who knows why.
We had no way of knowing, as children, which books were going to leave an impression on us. We just read them. We just read them, and enjoyed them, or disliked them, and moved on to the next one. Never did I stop and wonder if this book or that would be worth remembering. For remembering is an active part of aging, and I was generally unconcerned about it.
Remembering and concern do go hand in hand. The act of remembering is carried out because we are concerned about ourselves. That we will be forgotten, or that we will forget others. We switch our focus from engaging to preserving as we get older. Rather than reading books and finding new ones we shelve our books, and make space for old memories.
Christmas, perhaps, should not be a time of remembering. Or, to give the message a positive spin: Christmas should be a day for engaging. Creating, doing, acting, and being, all the positive ‘carpe diem’ verbs should be used. Rather than dwell in the unchangeable past create your own future, and celebrate not the old year or new prematurely. Revel in the day as a day, and you may create a memory that, years from now when you do feel like reminiscing, will undoubtedly be seen as a formative day. Keep it up throughout the year and the years to come and you need never worry about having an uneventful year to look back on.