The official start of the holiday season has always seemed a bit surreal to me. All those bright lights and obnoxious window displays, compelling you into a festive spirit. Giant inflatable snow-globes perched in front lawns, and small molded plastic santa sleighs (complete with the Rudolph leading the way) on rooftops while outside the sky is blue and the temperature hovers in the low 60's. Fake frost is sprayed on windows in an attempt to make LA seem more traditionally christmasy, even though the first xmas (if one is to believe the Bible) took place in a small, desert village near the sea. Seems if accuracy is important, the folks back east and up north would spray fake sand on their windows, and have giant, inflatable palm trees stuck on their lawns.
The leftover thanksgiving turkey is about finished (and what is left will probably go to the dogs tonight), and the malaise of a 4-day weekend again returns to the mundanity of a 5-day work week. Shopping for xmas gifts now looms as a threat about to be made carried out, and I still have to conjure up and create our xmas cards.
It’s finally time to wear a long-sleeve shirt, and my friends are talking about college football bowl match-ups.
This time of year has always made me a bit unsteady, as if some odd, omnipotent prankster was fucking with me just to see how I’d react to a lateral shift in normality. That feeling is tweaked even more this year, as an “uncle” of mine passed away last week. I use scare quotes because although he was not directly related to me (he was my mom’s sister’s husband’s sister’s husband), he was a fixture in my youth, and in the old country even indirect relationships are considered family.
The news wasn’t totally unexpected, as he was getting along in years, and was recently suffering from declining health. However, even if he were on total life support for a month, his passing would still have packed a pretty good wallop. I mean, no matter how prepared you think you are, a hard punch to the breadbasket is still pretty intense.
This is that odd limbo: the time between the death and the funeral, which adds even more surreality to an already disconcertingly unbalanced season. The funeral is when people get to say their final goodbyes and get closure. It makes the death both real and final. The priest mumbles, the family weeps, the coffin is lowered, and the ceremony is complete. This time, between the two events, is like an emotional version of Schroedinger’s box.
In the mean time, I keep going as always. I get frustrated at the traffic. I play with my dogs. I dread the thought of buying gifts. I try hard not to over-spice the marinara sauce. I silently mock the ignorance and arrogance of the geeks in the marketing department. But it’s all done in a bit more of a fog than is usual.
No wonder I like the summer more.