So it’s Christmas.
Here we are, another year later. Still alive (and that’s good), still in good health (ditto). Somewhat further along some of our aspirational life paths (fab, obv), less far along others.
This year I’m with some of the people I love. From others, I’m a very long way in both space and spirit. And from still others, I feel so distant as to be estranged, whether we admit it or not.
On Christmas Day — even when you’re not physically close to them, even when you don’t speak to them, even if you aren’t even Christian — you think of all the people you love. You think of holiday time with family when you were a young child, unwrapping your new footie pajamas, going to pick up your new bike and crying when it wasn’t ready, eating mountains of corn pancakes and bacon. You think of holidays with friends as a young adult, hosting for the first time, learning that yes, you can actually make a brisket and bake a pie, it isn’t rocket science and even if it were, you know how to figure things out. You think of your first taste of turrón, of rosca de reyes, of mincemeat (that was a long, long, long time ago, the last time people did their own canning, to give you an idea).
You remember Christmases; you remember Rosh Hashanahs, or is that Reshei Hashanah?; you remember that lesbian wedding party in 1988, back when lesbian weddings were thrillingly transgressive, when the speakers blew out and you had to run out to the Caldor on Alewife Brook Parkway in the middle of the night for a fuse.
You remember the times, and the places, and the sounds and smells, but you mostly remember the people — not their faces, but the way it felt to be with them and the way you felt about them. Even at this distance, when a fragrance or a sound or even a color reminds you, which happens a lot at this time of year, you remember it all.
I wish I could stay current with everyone. I wish I could be everywhere at once, be with everyone, be all the versions of “me” at once that all those friends and family members and ex-whatevers want me to be. That, of course, is impossible; and the faux-everywhereness of Facebook, which “connects” you in the same way to people you see every day and to people you haven’t seen in 35 years and don’t care to, is a constant reminder that you can’t be all those people at once. All you can do is try to be someone, as best you can, and hope that a selection of the people you love will continue to find that someone worth knowing.
Or that’s one of the things you can do, anyway. The other thing you can do is be forgiving of yourself for drifting apart from people, and be forgiving of people for drifting apart from you. Something I don’t think we acknowledge often enough is that everyone, but everyone, is just trying their best, in a world in which disappointment and pain are parceled out generously and more or less evenly in the long run.
Don’t get me wrong — I love this time of year. I love the cold weather and the warm hearts, the closed shops (for a day or two) and the open homes. I love the spirit of hopefulness, which I think is real and contagious and touches even the grouchiest. I love the traditional foods, the sweet and spicy treats, the rich once-a-year specialties, the laden-with-more-than-you-could-possibly-eat tables. And I love the time with people I love and the memories of people I won’t be seeing this year. I simply find the cheer balanced with a note of wisfulness, which sounds louder as I get older.