Took Chekhov on the trip down to the States last week but no time to read; this rarely happens but on this trip it somehow did. My rideshare driver reminded me it was my ninth trek in the luxurious Phillipemobile (twelfth for Don, aged 77, up in the front seat regaling us with tales of his many travels and unusual adventures). Some border officials, believe it or not, have never heard of rideshare or craigslist, finding it difficult to understand why six or seven unrelated people would all be coming into the country together in the same vehicle, none heading to exactly the same destination, all returning on different dates. But you get there twice as fast at half the cost; a smooth, comfortable ride with interesting people, lively conversations, good music, what more could one ask.
It was wonderful to see the l'il grandbubs again. While there, one night, on our way back from the grocery store, we drove through this quiet neighborhood of gigantic houses with enormous manicured lawns, when this light display suddenly shrieked out in brightness:
My daughter said it had won some kind of local competition. Between the "ohhhhhhs" and "ahhhhhhhs"of passersby, one also heard: "Wonder what their electric bill will look like ..."
And for all those large, overly decorated Christmas trees, real or fake, there're also those scraggly, marked-down leftovers bargained for on Christmas eve, before the tree lot closes, by those who find the only thing they can afford this year is a Charlie Brown special or its scrawny equivalent. Less decoration, more spirit - that'll work!
"Christmas" has become so commercialized, it's sometimes met with dread instead of joy. Joy, joyous, joyful - words we say or sing or write on a card this month that roll out as effortlessly as "Have a nice day.
For some, these holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, winter solstice), are a time of sadness, stress, or creeping indifference. What is there to celebrate? Some parents can't afford to put food on the table, as TV ads remind you how great it would be to be gifted with a diamond, expensive appliance or spiffy new car with a big red ribbon tied 'round it. One is expected to honor family traditions even when it may be impossible to do so. Whatever cheer you might muster could suddenly wash right out of you by the proliferation of political correctness: saying "Happy Holidays", for example, you risk being lectured for not saying "Merry Christmas").
And yet . . . despite all the hype, and angst, and commercial shlock, families try to get together, spirits are lifted, people who wouldn't ordinarily, give. And there's the Peace-on-Earth thing. Which is another way of saying No More War, only quieter.
My dad was Smokey the Bear when I was in high school. He used to go around to local elementary schools dressed as Smokey the Bear to teach kids about safety in the forest. At Christmas time he'd make loaves and loaves of raisin-nut bread (the only thing he enjoyed cooking) and deliver them to certain families in the neighborhood. I remember being impressed by his sheer enthusiasm -- none of my friends' fathers did these things--and regret that I never told him so while he was still alive.
What I like about the end of the year is that it's an End and you can imagine the new, coming year as an opportunity to correct/resolve/expand, whatever -- do things differently, or "better". Which feeling sometimes evaporates as quickly as one's unmet New Year's resolutions, but at no other time of the year does that particular urge seem quite as strong. The older I get, the more inclined I am to just let some things go--habits, for example, that have run their course, worries that are not worth worrying over; and concentrate on those things that are important, or should be moreso. Energy and focus squandered, a depletion you sometimes don't notice till it's too late. I have to remind myself to stop looking at some things as insurmountable obstacles; view them as challenges instead; think of creative ways to arrive at a solution, be more proactive, etc. Yeah, I know, buzzwords (like "Joyous"), but somehow simply waiting, and hoping for the best -- seems too lethargic.
So, onward and otherward 2012. My grandson told me he watched a documentary on the Discovery channel last month which discussed the prediction that the world, as we know it, will end on December 21, 2012, when some catastrophic event will occur and "we'll all disappear". Or not. Living moment by moment begins to take on a whole new meaning, in light of that possibility, though.
Anyway, glad to be back, though I wish I could have brought those Vermont mountains home with me. Seeing them again -- now that was pure heaven!