Boy, it sure seems like the world is going to hell in a hand basket, doesn’t it?
I find myself feeling more and more disappointed (to say the very least) in my country, in humanity as a whole. When I’m out in public now, especially with Sadie in tow, I scan the area for exits and hiding places and review my plan for protecting my life so I can protect hers, “if a shooter comes.” Two years ago—heck, six months ago, one could have chalked it up to my charming anxiety and adorable paranoia, but now? Now it’s just good sense. We’re living in a world where mass-shooting safety is taught right along with fire and earthquake protocol.
I see some of the darkest parts of history threatening to repeat themselves, and feel powerless to change any of it.
And in the midst of it all…Christmas. This season will always make me sentimental , regardless of how much there is to celebrate right here, today. I can close my eyes and remember Christmases past; being a kid at my grandparents’ condo, wearing a frilly, itchy dress and tights. I’d be so excited to complete my look for the evening—my mom would often let me wear lipstick and curl my hair, and inevitably my curls would fall flat and my lipstick would wear off within ten minutes of arrival. My cousins and I, many of us born within two years of each other, would run around screeching like a pack of overdressed hyenas, oblivious to the pleading of our parents for us to settle down. It was Christmas Eve. What child, I beg of you, stays calm on Christmas Eve?
I would often direct (and attempt to star in) a haphazard “play” of sorts, and would usually be told I was singing too loudly and disturbing the neighbors.
We would open gifts, one at a time, beginning with the youngest family member and continuing by age. In a family of twenty-five, this was torture—first you had to wait for your turn, and when it finally came, you’d select just one of your gifts, and then resume waiting for everyone else to open their first gift. Once my grandpa had opened his gift, the free-for-all began. Wrapping paper flying about, shouts of “THANK YOU _____!” echoing across the room, all while grandpa sipped his scotch and subtly turned off his hearing aid. The temperature reached about 90 degrees with all of those bodies packed into a small space, which my grandparents kept on the warm side to begin with. Those pesky dresses, tights, and sweaters didn’t help matters.
When the presents and dinner and dessert and card games were over, we’d drive home. I’d sit in the back seat, still buzzing from my sugar/Christmas high, watching lit-up homes pass by in the dark. I couldn’t have known then how much I’d miss it, or that the year would come when I’d be aware that those precious nights wouldn’t last forever. That I’d come to cherish them all the more, but there would be a bittersweetness about them (Spellcheck does not recognize “bittersweetness”, but we’re going with it).
It was so simple then. Adulthood, amirite?
Anyway, I’ve been reminiscing about those days lately while I play with Sadie in our living room with Christmas music on in the background. And it occurred to me that some of my favorite holiday songs speak of an imperfect world, needing to be saved. My favorite example? O Holy Night.
“…Long lay the world, in sin and error pining…”
“…The weary world rejoices…”
That song, like most holiday songs, has been sung for decades, over generations. And it hit me: What we’re experiencing is nothing new. We are not the first to feel hopeless and fearful in a dark and scary world.
This world has always been weary.
Truth is, it will always be.
But even in the dark, just like those houses on Christmas Eve, HOPE continues to shine. I believe this season reminds us of the hope we have because of Christmas. Not everyone believes that, but I do.
When I was a kid, Christmas was magical. Now it is something different, but something still very worthy of rejoicing.