We had another blessed CrazyStable Thanksgiving, thanks to the presence of Bestfriend & Family, Uncle Don (a wonderful if quirky houseguest at age 93), and our glorious new Amish-made recycled-barnwood table from these folks. The table is a foot longer than our old one, doesn't sway back and forth, isn't a totem of cat-splintering, and nobly bore forth its first turkey. It thrums with a sort of spiritual goodness, which may be why I allowed us to go wild and make a major capital expenditure before the holidays.
Ah, yes, the holidays. Now bear they down upon us with shocking speed. It's not that we have a huge family to shop for, or a McMansion to festoon with stupendous lighting displays. It's just that our modest Christmas duties seem to weigh me down a little more heavily each year, and I hate that. One wants to be Buddy the Elf, all boundless spontaneity...and instead one finds oneself squaring shoulders, girding loins, and taking a deep breath, determined to pull it off again for the Child's sake.
Of course, I blame the house. Around here, Christmas is another benchmark for renovation futility. Hallway floor replaced, to welcome guests with gleaming new wide-plank floorboards? Nope. Front door refinished, ready to glow fabulously beneath a swag of festal greenery? Spouse says maybe; odds are against it. Exterior trim painted, to frame a candle in every window? No, trim is flaking like artificial snow, and half the windowsills are bald again. And, just as I want to immerse myself in crafty card-making, cone-gilding, and cookie-baking, the bathtub and I have another one of our shared nervous breakdowns, this one involving a grout-picking instrument, some weird black mold, tubes of Pheno-Seal, and a compound that allegedly softens cement-hard caulk, but apparently only does so after 25 or so repeated applications. Martha Stewart is not recaulking her tub for the holidays. Probably not even Bob Vila is doing that.
Technically, I am wrestling with the leaky loathesome tub enclosure because good practice dictates that you keep water out of your walls. But I wonder whether or not I am driven, like my Druid forebears (well, I'd like to fancy I had Druid forebears), to sacrifice something to the old gods as the sun's power wanes alarmingly. No Druid, hearing the number of loved ones we've lost right around this time of year, would question the need for a blood sacrifice (a concept my fellow houseblogger at the Devil Queen is delightfully conversant with). Groveling before the Grout Gods, disemboweling the old caulk, squirting in some sacrificial silicone, surely will ensure our solstice survival!
Thus my Christmases have grown imperceptibly into yearly battles of superstition and despair versus hope and birth and light. The pagan elements lend a nice dark frisson to the forced gaiety of the season, but I'm afraid I'd make a lousy convert to Wicca. (Like Camelot, it is a Silly Place.) It is unreasonable to expect elfin frolics amid so many sad anniversaries, but quiet joy and moments of wonder are still possible. Plus, I've found a mascot.
Image: NPR/Piers Vitebsky
This is a little Siberian girl and one of her tribe's reindeer. There he is, the real McCoy, the anti-Rudolph: skinny, reluctant, and crowned with a hellaciously asymmetrical rack. This tribe used to worship the reindeer, believing it flew across the sky holding the sun in its antlers; this fellow looks like he'd be happier at the back of his pen in a petting zoo.
But notice: It's a child dragging him onward. She is delighted, oblivious, and determined. Won't you guide my sleigh tonight? Damn straight you will!