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Holiday Ennui

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 1.46.15 PMHistorically I always looked forward to this time of year because most things in my life slow down and I feel like I can take a short break without something going horribly wrong. Although it gets dark at 4:00 PM, and everything is dead, and the temperature is slowly but inexorably decreasing to the intolerable level at which it will remain for the next several months,  this time was always a welcome respite. Though it came at a price.

I’m still looking forward to the restful part but I haven’t come to terms with exactly how much the holiday season has changed for me since the death of my mother three years ago.  I’ve spent the last two seasons trying to pretend that Christmas doesn’t exist and this is the first year that I’ve allowed my wife to put decorations up in the apartment and will spend the fateful day with family instead of cowering in a bunker somewhere.

Christmas was the most important time of the year for my mother and fraught with all sorts of hidden meanings and expectations.  There was a sense that if everything went off right we could correct some fundamental wrong in the family. If we could be a family at Christmas it would last throughout the year and even move backwards in time and bring us together retroactively.

The problem is that we were a family at Christmas, just not the family she seemed to want.  So mythologized had Christmas come for our mother that it was impossible for her to articulate exactly how it should be, what defined the perfect Christmas she so longed for and it was a setup from the beginning, there was no way we mere mortals could ever properly fulfill our roles.

It was a paradox then that when I was in the thick of my usual mid-Fall stress, I would daydream about going home for Christmas knowing that there was a price to pay for the time spent vegging on the couch, home cooked meals and nights out with old friends.  But I also knew that even if I never went out, spent all of my time singing carols and baking cookies and driving around looking at Christmas lights, it would still fall short yet again.

These thoughts come to me now when I’m the midst of writing a very intense piece of music and I can’t help but feel sad. This is the time of year when I go home to rest but pay the price for my resting but this year, like the years before, there is no longer that home to go to.  And now I’m the one for whom Christmas falls short.





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