And I find that somewhat odd, seeing as I have fond memories of Christmas as a child in the North Country of Upstate New York. Frozen backyards covered with snow. Throwing another log into the woodstove as the frigid arctic winds from Canada licked at the windows of the old farmhouse. A dining room filled with family and friends, the smell of my grandmother and mother’s cooking wafting from the kitchen. A large tree in the corner, chopped down proudly by my father and I right after Thanksgiving, endless presents underneath, teasing our desires with their joyous possibilities.
Part of me thinks that perhaps my at-arms-length interaction with Christmas as an adult comes from the mere fact I really don’t have any direct family connection to the holiday anymore. I haven’t lived in the North Country since 2012. That old farmhouse was sold in 2007. My grandmother passed away in 2001. And my father and I haven’t chopped a tree down together since I was a freshman in high school.
What I do feel when this part of the calendar rolls around is restlessness. I don’t want presents. I don’t want eggnog or cookies. Heck, I don’t even want a tree, either. I do have a two-and-a-half-year-old niece, though, which is a bright spot when thinking of reasons to put in the time, energy and money to make the long trek back to Plattsburgh, New York.
Sure, I love my family: mom, dad and little sister. But, as the sands of time slowly seep through the hourglass of our demise, I find I would rather disappear than reappear back to where it all began. Maybe it’s also trying to only remember the good times, and not be reminded first-hand just how much older my folks have gotten since I took off for college (and for good, as I had aimed to do) in 2003.
I’ve been on my own — living, working and simply being alone — for many years now. And when that “warm and fuzzy” holiday ooze bubbles up from the ground beneath your feet, I find myself heading for the hills. Running further into the desolate woods of my mind, the trees and birds sing in unison the timeless words, “Christmas time is here/We’ll be drawing near/Oh, that we could always see/Such spirit through the year…”
I mean, why can’t that Christmas spirit transcend the entire year that will soon follow? We all shake hands, kiss babies, hug friends and family, but, once the last gift is opened, the last drop of after-dinner coffee drank, we dash back to our cars and return to our daily lives, which for many of us seems too self-serving from an outsider’s perspective. I swear a large part of my apprehension of Christmas results from seeing such hypocrisy at the dinner table and around the numerous holiday gatherings we all find ourselves at.
I suppose what I do wish for, if there is a Santa Claus up there somewhere, is that we do find inner peace as the temperatures drop, our internal gates lowered just enough this time of year to see into the real depths of our souls, for good or ill.
As Christmas nears, I find myself becoming more of a loner than a lover. I think if I ignore the holidays, then I won’t acknowledge the increasing distance and time between the foggy memories in my head and the current situation of my soul’s endless dilemma of stability and curiosity — the solution residing somewhere out there on that horizon I’m always chasing.
I guess it’s just the age-old urge of a gypsy soul, eh? The more that tradition and familiarity tries to mark its territory around me like a hound peeing on an old maple tree, the more I tug and pull at my roots, in hopes of finding fertile ground elsewhere.
“You have unfinished business,” a friend told me recently. She was right. I’m distracted with whatever it is that I’m supposed to be doing, rather than honing in on people, places and things around me. Eyes aimed ahead. Some people just ain’t made for cozy comfort, for their soul stands by the side of the road, thumb out, waiting for the next unknown ride into the dusty distance of a starry, cold prairie night.
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
1 Legendary Nashville singer-songwriter and finger-picker Thom Bresh will perform at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31, at the Balsam Mountain Inn.
2 The Lazy Hiker Brewing “New Year’s Eve Bash” will host Porch 40 (rock/funk) on Saturday, Dec. 31, in Franklin.
3 Americana/bluegrass act Ol’ Dirty Bathtub will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30, at The Cut Cocktail Lounge in Sylva. They will also be performing at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31, at Innovation Brewing in Sylva.
4 No Name Sports Pub (Sylva) will host funk/soul act Darren & The Buttered Toast will perform a special New Year’s Eve showcase at 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31.
5 The Cherokee Lights & Legends Christmas will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 30-31 at the Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds.