“And in despair I bowed my head. ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said. ‘for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.’ “
Scrooge won this year. He gimped into my Christmas and threw Santa’s fat jolly butt down the hill like it was a game of Elf Bowling and he was going for a strike.
I’ve been looking for the spirit this year, but found only empty nooks and dry crannies – nothing to grab and shake me as a cat would a tree ornament. Even my own cats don’t seem as excited this year to see the pine branches and curly ribbons they so love to nibble on. My little ginger Georgie knows we’re feeling down this year, though, because when I looked beneath the twinkling tree the other night, there was her prized teddy bear that she’d placed underneath as an offering. Like a child, she often uses her toys to make statements when her meows aren’t being understood.
Even my annual toy drive was only a momentary glimpse of joy. We had a bigger haul than usual; to see homespun generosity alive and well firsthand in this shitbucket of an economy gave a shot of hope – but like anything else that comes in a needle, it was just a temporary fix. When people find out I organize these drives and gush their admiration, I often feel a nagging of guilt because it feels like it’s more for my benefit than the kids’. Atoning for past sins and using the imagined Cindy Lou Who smiles to melt my own inner Grinch.
Hearing the gruff, young Marine Seargent’s speech to his recruits just made me droop more than an empty stocking on a dark, cold mantle. “We do this every year because we are the best of the best, and we have to look out for our fellow brothers and sisters. We do this because every f&*%ing kid deserves a goddamn Christmas.”
While my family tends to bring more doom and gloom to the holiday than a dreary rain that never turns white, this year it’s almost record-breaking. Finding the strength to tell my father that I deserved a better holiday was one of the hardest hills I’ve ever climbed. The knockdown-drag-outs with my brother were to be expected when we were younger, but I’d carried with me the hope that someday he’d grow up and realize that Dad’s holidays are numbered and when he goes, so does any semblance of a family. Those wishes have been tossed out like a generic gift that nobody has a use for. “I won’t be there if she is.” Hearing my brother’s words, secondhand, broke my heart. He’s fortysomething now, and I wish I could snip the tiny thread that keeps me tied to him, but there’s a knot that only tightens with determination stoked by anger.
I saw my father cry today. Maybe now my brother will get it.
As for gifts, Father Time finally shook his fist and claimed that battle. To me, a gift should be given with genuine appreciation, not because the Retail Gods said it’s the right thing to do. Mom took such joy in choosing each item that came wrapped with a love that had no price tag. It was in my older years that cynicism crept in; out of convenience Grandma took me shopping for my own gifts. Gone was the element of surprise that brought the warmth of holiday embers.
My husband has always spoiled me with love and packages wrapped painstakingly with detail right down to the pretty little bows – just like Mom. This year, with both of us being overrun by mundane tasks and a hectic schedule, not to mention a shell-shocked budget, we found ourselves limited to Amazon and having to place orders side by side last night on our laptops without any Secret Santa merriment whatsoever. Gone are the shopping excursions and the extra little things that we carefully selected like elves on a mission. Funny how you miss the crowds when you’re not amongst them in the once-glittering shopping malls. By the end of the evening, my spirit lay in pieces like shards of colored Christmas glass, and it seemed his wasn’t dancing a holiday jig either.
The month of December was once filled with tinsel and pine, a card-sending list longer than my leg, the scent of anticipated cookies bursting from the oven, and a house full of party-goers to remind me why it’s the most wonderful time of all.
This year the frost is in my veins and my heart is a chunk of peppermint ice that shows no sign of melting. I tried to put on a good front for my husband so as not to depress him even more, but have failed miserably. Like a bad sitcom, It’s A Wonderful Life scenarios are an endless marquee in my never-silent head as I ponder how much better off he’d be if he’d never gotten involved with the likes of me. He feels he's failed as the knight in armor, the provider, as our money has disipated, much as Christmas magic becomes just another cold winter day, and our business has suffered the same fate as many trying to make their way through this trying time. I don’t feel I’ve been the rock that he needs to rest upon in this weary journey he’s suffered. He claims otherwise, but my own insecurities trample all over his words and run away like an elf gone to the dark side.
Where the hell is that angel anyway? I’ve been ringing bells all over the place, he must not want his wings too badly.
There’s always next year. One can’t suffer despair without having lost hope first, but with all losses come a healing. Even a broken candy cane tastes just as sweet on the tongue.
Sometimes a ringing bell just takes longer to be heard.
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men…”
© Kymberlie Ingalls,
December 20, 2011
Lyrics based on the poem “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” / Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.