So, Christmas comes but in three days and I am not ready. A month ago I felt sick, nauseous, just thinking about Christmas. I'd think of the presents, and getting together with everyone and cheer, and the candy cookies cakes, and whoosh, I'd get vertigo, have to sling those thoughts away. It's much harder to ignore things when you are unemployed. Much easier when you don't leave the house.
The boyfriend and I would be in our house and one of us, in despair, would say, "What are we going to give people for Christmas?!" and the other would say, "Hmmm, let's think of something we can make everyone that's not too expensive." Then we would go and get snacks and watch another episode of Battlestar Galactica and pretend that time was not passing by while we did this. (Snacks. I have a snacks problem. Snacks are much, much better than alcohol when it comes to ignoring pressing problems. Alcohol, when taken in excess makes you think things like, "I am a hopeless piece of shit and I'm going to talk about it." Snacks make you think things like, "My, this is a delicious pretzel. I wonder what it would taste like dipped in ranch?")
Then, slowly and quietly, (probably because I was looking away) the feeling of Happy Christmas crept up on me.
We can't afford a tree this year, which is sad. I love a tree in the house. It's like a marvelous, magical mistake that you can have an entire tree to bring inside and light up and hang pretty things on. Isn't it strange? Isn't it lovely? There are some tiny cypress trees down the road that someone planted too close together and too close to an old oak tree. They will not all grow big, which is what cypress trees want to do. I thought it might be a kindness to cut one down. Especially the one that has such a very nice shape and is only six inches from another one. I thought that the boyfriend could be the look-out and I could do the dirty work with the saw from my multi-use pocket tool, or perhaps a bread knife and then we could nonchalantly walk it home. "Ho hum, nothing to see here, hummy hummy hum, la la, not stealing a tree oh no, ho-di-ho-hum." I knew, however, that because I am not a child I would get caught. I imagine the fine for cutting down a tree (even a tiny one that would not grow anyway) is larger than the price of a Christmas tree.
[I got caught once trying to cut mistletoe from a tree in the Ross parking lot. A cop came out of nowhere and said, "Ma'am, you need to get out of the tree." I was wearing floral gardening gloves and clutching a knife in my teeth. It was embarrassing.]
So one night, while the boyfriend was out driving his cab, I pulled the box of ornaments out of the closet and decorated a corner of the apartment. I have a room divider that someone made by hinging three screen doors together and then replacing the screens with muslin. In my house it doesn't divide anything, it just stands up against the wall in the corner. I've pinned photographs of my family on the doors, and a map of the world. This is what I decorated instead of a tree. I hung lights along the tops, and draped behind so the colors shine through the fabric. I pinned glass balls and tiny treasures to the muslin. I made a snowflake banner out of pages from The New Yorker. I hung ornaments from a branch and placed it on the top of the doors where they come to a V so that they drip down and sway in the breeze of the fan. While I did this I played Youtube jukebox, typing in "Otis Redding Christmas" "Bonnie Raitt Christmas" "Al Green Christmas". Bruce Springsteen, Dolly Parton, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington, Willie Nelson.... It does not matter. Everyone has done a Christmas song. I danced and decorated, decorated and danced. It is a small corner. It is beautiful.
Then there came the night that I was bored and so I called my brother (who was to play Evil Santa at a party the next night) and said, "Have you made your hat yet?" and he had not, so I got out my red velvet and plush white felt and dragged the sewing machine table into our living room. My Lady Day came over bearing Pabst Blue Ribbon and Guinness and she drew skulls as I sewed and we gossiped and laughed so hard it verged on hysteria and I wanted to clutch her to me and say Thank You Thank You Thank You I needed that so much.
After that came Granny's holiday party at the retirement home where I fed my three year-old nephew fake champagne under the table like he was a champagne guzzling dog (but classy, because we had those plastic champagne glasses that are shaped like a courtesan's breasts).
A few days later I started on my other nephew's first stocking. He is nine months old and a right jolly old elf he is and last year when my sister was pregnant we all said "Next year we'll have another one!" and so this year is next year and how could he not have even existed before? It is a mystery. We cannot live without him. It was an honor to make his stocking, as it was when I made Owen's before him. I looked around me while I was making it and thought about how many people were making this stocking with me. Mama taught me how to thread a needle and pull the thread through my fingers to make a knot. Granny gave me my first sewing machine. Grandma Dot gave me the sewing basket I pull my needles, thread, sewing machine oil, pins, and notions from. The velvet came from old curtains from Mama's house and it is the same velvet from which I have made stockings for the rest of his family. The same fabric, thread, and strong knots tying us all together. I hope he has it for the rest of his life, even when the velvet sheds and the jingle bells throw their bindings. I hope he will look at it and know, Aunt May loves him. Always. I whispered that into every seam and sang promises with the jitterbug hum of the sewing machine. Always.
Lately I have been making the boyfriend a pair of pajama pants. He knows that this is what he's getting for Christmas. He picked out the flannel himself. I thought that this would be a good gift because 1) he doesn't have a pair of pajama pants and he has to wear his jeans all the way up until going to bed, and 2) I have made pajama pants before, so easy peasy, right? Ha Ha! No! May makes plans and God laughs! I have always prided myself on my ability to look at someone and at a piece of fabric and just cut and sew the right size. One year I made everyone pajama pants, even Mr. Moon who is 6'10". Mama says that he still wears them. This time, I don't know what happened. I was almost all the way finished when I got him to try them on to make sure the waistband was right and well, at least the waistband was right. They were huge. HUGE. He's standing there in our living room and going, "Do you really think my legs are this big?" while pulling the excess fabric away from his body. I mean. You could have fit six puppies and a ham in those things, while he was wearing them. Then, because he is so sweet he's like, "No, it's not that bad, I can wear these..." and I, I am laughing so hard I'm snorting and I make him take them off so I can start ripping seams. It took me two hours to get the waistband off. They may have been the wrong size, but those things were solid! So that's an ongoing project. They may be done by Christmas. Or Spring.
Night before last I went out with my brother and the sister who lives here. This is very very rare. I hardly ever go out, and Sister has the babies, but Hank is the one who Makes Things Happen and so it was. I got up pretty, I don't know why, in a swingy dress and tall shoes and lipstick. Hank wore his finery and looked very fine indeed. We picked up our sister and she looked beautiful as she always looks. (I have no children and I am the one who walks around in holey yoga pants and a cut-up sweatshirt, and Lily, who has a three year-old and a nine month-old somehow manages to wear attractive, well-kempt clothes and has hair that is always shiny and perfect. She is gorgeous.) So we were a good looking bunch. We went to karaoke night at the oyster shack and can I say, it was just the best time? There were old friends and new friends and people singing their hearts out (no, we did not get up and sing. we sang along, quite boisterously, but we did not get up on stage) and all the time, my brother and one of my sisters sitting there with me. I saw pretty ladies and tough young men, I saw older folks singing songs they should and younger folks singing songs they shouldn't. I saw records and posters on the wall and the poetry of bathroom graffiti. I even saw a man who was so drunkenly moved by my lipstick and tall shoes that he got up on a table and literally showed his ass. But the best thing I saw by far, were Hank and Lily's faces, smiling at me and laughing and knowing that right then, right then and there I was exactly where I wanted to be in all the world. If the world had ended yesterday I would have gone easy, with a smile on my face.
And so no, I am not ready for Christmas. I am not ready for the lights to be taken down and the songs to stop playing. I am not ready for the going out nights to end, or the staying in and sewing nights. I am not ready for the big family get togethers to be over or for Mama to stop making cookies. Christmas is crazy, but it is big and beautiful if you ignore the malls and the money and the consumerist bullshit. It can be a very merry madness, it can be a grinning mess. It can be a good reason to get together.
My family is not Christian, but I understand that Jesus was all about love and so I think he'd be alright with us. Our Christmas is not about Jesus, but it also isn't about getting a bunch of stuff or fighting crowds or watching "It's a Wonderful Life". We have a wonderful life because we have each other and we have love. Every day we have love. Not everyone is so lucky. So blessed.
Bad things happen. Pain and horror and questions that will never be answered no matter how many times asked. We can't hug and kiss away all the pain that exists in the world, but if we have those we love around us we can hug and kiss them. We can hug and kiss them and hold onto them in our arms and in our hearts and cherish every moment we have. That is all we can do. All I want for Christmas is to look around the room at all the faces of all the people I love most in the world and be right there, right there in that moment, exactly where I want to be. I believe I will get it, and isn't that fine? Isn't that good? Isn't that a Goddamned Christmas miracle? I think so.
I hope you all get a Christmas miracle this year. I wish you all a merry madness. I hope you all have love.