I was just thinking about how I celebrated Christmas Eve this last year. Instead of going to church, I stayed home with my dog and daydreamed about my late parents: I made it a secular Christmas that my parents would have understood. And I had a good time in my little reverie, with a lighted ceramic tree and a red stocking by the fireplace, the lights dimmed, and so on. I played Santa Claus with my dog, giving him treats out of the stocking as if we’d had a visit from St Nicholas. That evening, the mail carrier brought a belated package, arriving on time for the holiday. When I stepped outside to get it, I found a little ladybug clinging to it like a sign of good fortune. Perhaps it was all in my imagination, and yet I felt happy, for the spirit of Christmas in some form had stopped by my home, unlike a lot of previous holidays when I felt merely hollow and sad.
Quarter of nine.
I’m done filling another journal with stream of consciousness thoughts. Reviewing it, I see a few thematic threads that repeat. One of them is my refusal to condemn my parents for their lifestyle of moderate alcoholism and belief in utilitarianism. I don’t think it’s right to denounce anyone for committing sins that you wouldn’t do. It was maybe two years ago when a peer from church disparaged thoughtless hedonism to me over coffee. Now I ponder what is so “thoughtless” about it. But his attitude affected me deeply for quite a while, so that I wanted to come to my parents’ defense… There was a service for Christmas last night but I decided not to go. I had my own sort of Santa Claus Christmas with my dog and we were happy enough. From around eleven yesterday morning it rained all day and night. Today the ground is still wet and it’s rather warm out. While I was at the store, Kathy walked in to say hi to Thomas, who was glad to have a slow day. Outdoors I saw a few people and we all greeted each other on this holiday. I didn’t miss anything last night. Everyone likes Santa Claus.
Nine o’clock in the morning.
Christmas Eve. Pastor Dan put a little atom bomb in his daily email to the congregation, a guilt trip intended to bring people to the service tonight. This time I’ll stay home, having learned that guilt is not a good form of motivation. This Christmas will be my own kind of holiday, a time to remember my family and my parents; things more personally meaningful than a tradition going back two thousand years. Polly said she might call me tomorrow. If she doesn’t, then I might call her myself. We’ll both be alone for Christmas Day. It makes sense to share it on the phone. The dawn today was unusual, with a skyline like rhubarb or like apricot ice cream marbled with cold blue. Fortunately our bout of freezing rain seems to be done, and the streets, though wet, were not slippery. I found out that Lisa had been late getting to work yesterday due to weather, inching along at 20 mph on the ice. We talked college football and whether the Ducks had secured a bowl game or not. The Beavers won the Civil War game; probably trained all season for the very purpose of beating us. I find that amusing nowadays, while some find in it a reason to get drunk. Gloria is coming this morning, so I’m just counting the minutes. The day has started off well.
Quarter of nine.
Now I’ve got a red Christmas stocking to go with my ceramic tree. It was only $4.19 from the Bi Mart, where Gloria and I went after lunch yesterday at Lupita’s across the street. The weather was quite cheerless: wet and drizzly from dark gray skies, yet it couldn’t dampen the spirit of the coming holiday. Wonders never cease: my neighbors next door have decorated their front yard with white and blue lights. Usually I don’t decorate for Christmas either, but something is different about the season this year. My sister sent me a greeting card containing a message of hope for the New Year. A little later today I’ll give her a call. I’ve been wanting to read more of A Journey to the Center of the Earth, but reading a novel takes a different kind of concentration than something like philosophy, and sometimes I don’t feel very smart. I’m not sure what I was looking for in the first place, what kind of investigation I started. Maybe the answer will find me when I’m not searching for it. Today it’s still cloudy but I feel pretty good. Gloria has invited me for her family’s Christmas gathering, which makes me feel kind of special. Also she’ll be here again the day of Christmas Eve… At Bi Mart I always buy Aesop a little treat in addition to his dog food cans. The stocking can belong to him, filled with tasty snacks.
Gloria and I were talking about the idea of the dragon in cultures around the world, so I grabbed a book off the shelf and flipped to the entry “dragon.” She liked the Dictionary of Symbols, and for this reason I gave it to her as an early Christmas present. I actually had another copy, but I didn’t need two of them. I told her that I had ordered a green ceramic Christmas tree to set up in the living room, which made her smile broadly. She said she doesn’t have much room for decorations in her home, and a big box of her ornaments was stolen: angel figures she had collected to be souvenirs of different people and places. Maybe we can do something to replace those memories… The sun tries to come out on this chilly day. It was cold when I helped Gloria out with her Shark vacuum cleaner and she put the trash in the blue bin. She’s going in for a surgery next month, so I hope her recovery is quick. Looking around my mind’s eye, I see the parking lot of Carl’s Jr. with rolling gray clouds and the reds and yellows of autumn leaves: and Gloria’s face.
Nine o five.
It’s strange how the neighbors on my street, except for Roger, are not very friendly. The ones across from my house put up their Christmas lights yesterday, a string of all white. But every time I get to N Park and Maxwell Road, I’m received more nicely, especially at the market… where I happen to spend a lot of money. I try not to be cynical of people. This morning, Lisa wore a funny red striped hat tipped with balls of white. She said she was selling more coffee than anything else. Only one biscuits and gravy order, and hardly any breakfast sandwiches… I have “Waltz of the Flowers” going in my brain. I haven’t been sleeping well because my mind is on my sister and her family, worried for the future if something happens to her. She is 74 with a few health issues. At times my consciousness feels ready to melt down or implode on itself when I’m lying in bed. Also she was considering giving our brother a call after a long silence. This could be a disaster if she gets ahold of him. Life isn’t altogether peaches and cream. For once I’d like to get a good night’s sleep.
But Christmas comes anyway.
I’m watching a house sparrow out of my glass door while hearing Tchaikovsky music inside my head. The convenience store was a desert again, owing to the Black Friday sales around town. It’s kind of nice to hang out home alone with my dog and my memories from when my parents were still alive. My favorite holiday year was 1993. The Musique Gourmet on Fifth and Pearl formed a big part of the experience. Today, Fifth Street looks a lot different. The Public Market is still there but the smaller businesses up and down the street are all gone, including MG and Cat’s Meow Jazz and Blues Corner, plus Escape Books, Perelandra Books and Music, and Monster Cookie Company. It’s like saying goodbye to a Renaissance or a Golden Age to remember them.
Inside Perelandra they always burned incense, which was a bit irritating in more ways than one. Still, I bought a handful of books at that place. Their specialty was metaphysics. Once I purchased a book called Your Psychic Powers and How to Develop Them. It had a yellow cover and was a reprint of something very old. I guess I was susceptible in those days, and it probably seemed weird for a guy like me to walk into a shop like that. I notice now that my dad didn’t want to go in there, so I usually went on my own in my own car. He wasn’t interested in what he considered “far out” stuff. Also my psychiatrist told me I didn’t belong in the Western world. But it didn’t hurt my feelings… Much.
I still have that yellow book in a bookcase down the hallway.
Two ten PM.
An interruption in my cocktail of meds has thrown off my ability to think very clearly. The state I’m in brings back old memories of therapy from four to five years ago. Life wasn’t very happy then, I admit. It was hard to tell who my friends really were and I wound up being abused on several fronts. Afterwards I perpetuated the grief by flogging myself with the same stuff. It was awful to be so vulnerable and weak, so now my sympathy goes out to others in a similar situation today— especially as the holidays approach and I know so many people will be alone for them, or among strangers for a public dinner or some other function. The most wonderful time of the year can actually be the most depressing for the ones dispossessed and disowned by their families. Some families are just plain dysfunctional and fail to come through for the members. It is not the individuals that fail the family but just the reverse.
These are my thoughts at this juncture. I hope other people are mindful and have an open heart and an open hand as we near the holiday season.
At the store, a guy showed up in a green Chevy truck decked out in a complete Santa costume and went in to give Heather a candy cane. Heather didn’t know this person from Adam. She was wearing headgear with two Christmas trees on springs. I bought a Coke and more than the usual treats for Aesop. My friend on WordPress gave me an Amazon Gift Card late last night that took me by surprise. I’m thinking I’ll get myself a new set of bass strings with the money. The church gig last night went pretty well for being under rehearsed. We’re not professionals and our church is small… A small miracle I’ve noticed is that my back pain is a lot better than it was a year ago. I tend to believe that the pains I’ve had since being on my medication were side effects that came and went. So I’m not as old as I’d thought. But the medication is indispensable because without it, my interior experience would be a living hell. Thanks to modern medicine I don’t have to suffer like that. Aesop and I are spending this day alone together, and that’s fine with me. It’ll be a time of peace and quiet to hear myself think. A day of shalom. Peace that passes understanding. Shanti.
Quarter of seven.
It should be a restful day today. For the moment, the rain is absent in the predawn darkness. Everyone was very kind to me last night at church, even when my amplifier had technical difficulties due to dust and dirt and I had to use Pastor’s all purpose Peavey. Tim gave me a padded vest for the winter and he also thought they could open up my amp to fix the problem. Perhaps some canned air would do the trick. I have nothing to lose by this because the amp cost me only a hundred dollars… I still can hear the sounds of the Holden Evening Prayer in my brain. The rain last night was insane, and more is forecast for today and tomorrow. But as they say, everything turns out for the best, or is that Panglossian optimism, to think that this is the best of all possible worlds? There are also people who say that life is worst for those who want to criticize it. They tend to be bibliophobic, but it’s no use arguing with idiots… The rain has started up again as the sun behind the clouds lights the sky by degrees. Before I got out of bed I was dreaming about the essays of Montaigne, full of contradictions from one to the next. I might have a look at his writing later today because I miss studying the Renaissance in school.
Eight twenty five.
The rain was actually pretty light and I could get by without using my umbrella. I like my new vest; it works well under my rain jacket. Aesop got two cookies and had one already. The day is low key so far. The rule of thumb for my life is persistence, whatever may happen, and curiosity keeps me going forward. And I try not to underestimate the importance of having good friends.