First of all, Merry Christmas (for those of you that celebrate it)!
As a child, Christmas was always the most magical of holidays for me. The promise of new toys and sugary snacks certain to lead me to diabetes in my golden years were the hallmarks of a much happier time. As I recall, I would wait feverishly in late August for the Sears & Roebuck catalog to arrive with all the new He-Man figurines and their imaginative playsets. With my trusty ball-point pen I would place a star next to the items I most desired, so that my parents could inform Santa (a.k.a. the sweatshop in Taiwan) what to bring me on that most exciting night of December.
Of course, as I have gotten older this holiday’s aura – once warm like apple cider – has grown someone dim and cold. Santa now comes every other Friday when my paycheck arrives and I basically buy whatever useless trinkets I desire.
PERSONAL NOTE: I might add that the “magic” of receiving a present you didn’t have to work your ass off for is a somewhat more enjoyable experience.
I suppose the trade off now is watching my Christmas celebrations devolve into a mélange of weird occurrences and family psychosis. I no longer live near my family so I sometimes experience these things through my friends who invite me to their family’s festivities when I don’t travel back to Iowa. Even through an alternate lens, it seems that most families are wacky to the extreme, and I would like to share some of these moments with you:
- Today, I called my mother. Shortly after exchanging the obligatory holiday greetings, she offered me this little known scientific fact: “Hey, did you know that when you die all your poop and pee comes out?”
- From a Christmas card sent by an uncle: “In November, I attended a funeral of a friend of mine who shot himself.”
- At my friend’s family Christmas, I arrived to the family matriarch wearing a diamond tiara and was given this piece of information by one of her sons: “This year we are enforcing a new rule…no using the words C*NT or F*CK.” Apparently all other curse words were given carte blanche.
- At the same Christmas event the grandmother was seen looking through a Chippendales calendar given to a different (younger) family member.
- The same grandmother made this comment before leaving: “I am having a shot when I get home.”
As one can see, the memories you cherish from Christmases past eventually lose their veneer and the true nature of the season is revealed. In some ways, I imagine it is like seeing Santa Claus busted on COPS for cooking meth in a trailer park bath tub.
Tonight, I received the strangest voice mail from my mother:
“Oh hey! I was just calling to let you know that I put that package in the mail. I threw in a doily I made plus a pamphlet on riverboats. I also put some pieces of an Oh Henry! bar in there, but they might be a little hard. I bit in to one and it still tasted good. Anyway, talk to you this weekend. Love ya! Bye!”
I’d like to note that I have never expressed to my mother an interest in riverboats or half-eaten candy bars, let alone those sent by U.S. mail.
This weekend, I had the opportunity to take in a film with some friends. They opted for Life of Pi, which is a fantasy film based on the best selling book of the same title. I knew relatively nothing about it upon entering the theater, but I had seen the trailer online and knew it was about an Indian boy who survives a sinking ship in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. My first thought was “How long is this story really going to take with those odds?”
As I watched the story unfold from my lofty perch in the stadium-style seating, I felt entertained but somewhat unconnected to the concerns of the main character. The film is primarily a fantastical interpretation of how the human mind deals with adversity, but the underlying narrative might suggest something more potent: Do we survive adversity via help from divine powers both mysterious and unseen? Or do we survive based on our own wit and self-determination? A third revelation might also be: “Do we invent beliefs in supernatural entities to shuttle us through those difficult times in life?”
The film and its narrator never give a resolute answer to any of those questions, and the viewer is left to decide. Although that may sound like a cop-out, I’ve never seen a film that so carefully threaded a poignant message through the hard line between atheism and religion the way this one did. In that regard, it was quite brilliant.
The ultimate game-changer for this author was the monologue given by the film’s narrator at the end. Although I cannot reproduce it with similar impact here, the words he shared about what it feels like to lose a parent left me in a wonderful state of absolute devastation. It was a beautiful speech that cut me straight to the emotional core. I don’t think I could’ve cried harder if they had carved that portion of the script into my bones.
There are so few moments in life where I feel like our language truly captures the sense of loss that stems from the death of a loved one. But in the final minutes of this film, I definitely felt one of those moments.
And it was absolutely powerful.