I was thinking about Christmas, which, for those of us who celebrate, is imminent. (Not immanent. By correctness shall ye know I’m in High WASP mode albeit recovering.)
There’s this photograph, perhaps the only one we have of my family-of-origin Christmases, but certainly the only one that’s been framed and kept. My littlest sister, all WASP toddler barely-haired, footie pajama-ed, reaches for an ornament.
I remember that Christmas, coincidentally, because with the fourth sibling our heap of presents grew right out from under the tree. And yet the photo feels more sad to me than abundant. I was trying to figure out why, and I thought, maybe because then, at 10, I wanted to be little? But no. How can I know what I felt then? How can any of us know? And what difference, really, does it make?
Nostalgia can be a spiteful mistress.
I’ve also been scolding myself, in a laughing sort of way, for making To Do lists. Wrap Presents. Hang Lights. This is the time of life to spin the tightrope between obligation and desire, even as we walk it. Slippered footstep by slippered footstep, city lights below as though we’re flying home.
I hope you have read Une Femme’s post on her December.
This is also the time, at least as I live it, to keep trying for a kind sort of authenticity. When we’re young, it’s hard. We have so little perspective on ourselves it takes all our capacity just to be. When we’re older, we’re more able, but at the same time we’ve rolled ourselves up in a family and historic self that may resist new truths.
Here’s the thing. In this light, traditions highlight change rather than continuity. No nostalgia. Change towards the people we want to be, living in the relationships we want to have. I guess that’s not a High WASP sentiment at all, especially since High WASPs don’t believe in sentiment and rarely talk about relationships.
Mater wrote a lovely post on clearing out old Christmas stuffs. I’ve not thrown anything away. Still have the plaster figurines of kings, silver ornaments and felt elves. But as my son helps take down the boxes, and I decide to tie new red gingham bows, I think about how relationships change.
That littlest sister and I had dinner atop a hotel in Los Angeles, a few months back. Now she has a new job. I am immensely proud and I no longer want to be little, if I ever did. Put it this way. I am desentimentalizing any sadness I might have felt towards my baby sister. And making up words, apparently. High WASPs would rather invent them than use those in existence incorrectly.
Most importantly, I work now on seeing my adult children for who they are. I work on a kind authenticity in how I am to them. Maybe I’m not alone, maybe many of us are doing similarly. How will our children know us, their mothers, as they grow up and we grow old? Traditions can serve as little lights that click on, quietly, colored, as we pass.
One of my goofy glass Christmas trees broke. N’importe. I pounded a brass nail into my newly black front door. N’importe. I hung the wreath tied with a straggly red gingham ribbon bow. OK, important. Welcome home.