Friday, December 25, 2009


Yes, and tranquil and easy and nice.

It hasn't always been that way. Nor is it still objectively. But as with most things, it's a matter of attitude.

This hasn't always been the case for a holiday fraught with excess—excess emotion usually from family dysfunction or nostalgic longing or deep disappointment or anticlimactic expectations or social obligations getting in the way of true desires or missed opportunities, but also,thankfully, excess joy and hope and satisfaction from the faces of little ones overwhelmed by the generous bounty of family and friends and even excess love for not just those same family and friends, dysfunctional or not, but for the good cheer and genuine longing for peace that cuts through the commercialism and exploitation, et-you know what-cetera.

I had to work Xmas eve as a kid because my father sold Xmas trees in front of his little home repair shop and someone—me—had to stay for the last stragglers and then wait until midnight when the truck from St. Joe's Orphanage would come for whatever we had left.

And on Xmas Day I worked for the Parks Department when I was a teenager, making sure kids didn't fall through the ice in the always frozen for Xmas in those days (now, rarely, hmmmmm...) duck pond and always snow covered (now also rarely, double hmmmm....) Flood's Hill where kids would try out their new sleds and my job was to make sure no one got hurt including from fights when the tougher kids from Newark and other environs invaded this turf...

By 18 and in love with a beautiful black girl when that wasn't just almost nonexistent but illegal most places in the good old USA, Xmas meant not being able to be with her and her family nor her with mine and getting drunk to drown the sorrow that caused my heart. Later, in the service, more reasons to feel blue on this day, and after that the early poverty of first years of first marriage Xmases with not enough to make it what it might have been (though those Xmases were some of the best I remember, including the gift of W. C. Williams' PATERSON in paperback but nonetheless a treasure for me, so much so I remember the thrill of opening the wrapping paper, which for me and my first wife Lee in those days was the cartoon section of the Sunday paper (a tradition I continued after we split and I raised first our son than son and daughter alone, mostly, and at times in even greater poverty, though there was always something to eat and a place to stay and music to make and dance to and books to write and read and friends to make it all feel joyous (though for the kids there must have been mixed feelings)))...

Right down to the present, it's always meant the sad with the happy, like all reality including the everyday kind. But because this particular day resonates with so much more in the way of expectations for the happy, the sad feels even more deeply difficult to accept. But. But if we—I should say I—can adjust my attitude to accept reality exactly as it is, as I am mostly able to do these days and have for quite a few years, I can surrender my expectations and allow whatever happens to be okay, and then I get to have a Christmas that's easy and tranquil and nice like this one, and to express my gratitude for it (all, especially considering what I've been through these past six weeks since the brain surgery).

Hope the New Year is even easier, more tranquil, and nicer for all.


Elisabeth said...

Thanks for a beautiful and poignant post, Lally.

It seems to me you are well on the mend, given your ability to translate your memories so beautifully onto the page in a way that reverberates with the bitter sweetness that is Christmas for all.

JIm said...

Hmm, it is rather chilly out here in Colorado and I understand there is snow in Texas for the first time in 80 years. If the tv weatherman is to believed, it is a bit nippy and snowy back in South Orange. Hmm, Hmm and a Merry Christmas.

Tore Claesson said...

Nothing boil down the realities of human relations as clearly as a holiday like Christmas. (Chanukka for others, Chinese New Year in February, etc.) You know how to put in in words what we can all relate to. Merry Christmas yet aqain anda Happy New Year while I'm at it. Many more.

The Kid said...

hey Mike, I wrote a similar sentiment in my Christmas post ( — the reality that our blessings and our sorrows come together. And the struggle to accept this reality. You have done much to teach me, and many more, just this. Keep it coming!