I didn’t believe this was real. After saying, on Twitter, that I didn’t believe the War on Christmas COULD be real, I learned a lot. Maybe it’s an urban thing or a Southern thing, but there’s no war here in the Back-of-Beyond. It makes me very sad that people would believe what Fox and Offal say and weaponize something that is, intrinsically, so good. So, here is my stance on Christmas and religion in general.
There is, IMO, nothing more personal than an individual’s faith. I grew up in a church that stressed that each of us develop a relationship with a “personal savior.” I took that on face value. Of course, back in the day, I called that entity “Jesus” but it turned out that Jesus was just a way to say that which I still can’t say, don’t have words for. Moses and the bush? One of the funniest things I’ve ever read yet profound — “What’s your name?”
“I am. That’s all you need to know.”
“Yeah, but what’s your NAME??? Those guys down there are not going to believe a thing I tell them without a footnote and a source.”
That bush was very wise. It knew that when you start naming God, you get wars. Oooops. I named him. My bad.
My town is in a very red part of Colorado, still the holiday banner across my street (a national highway) says, “Happy Holidays.” It goes up a few days before Thanksgiving and is meant to comprise ALL the wintery holidays. It faces west so anyone entering Monte Vista from that direction is greeted in this inclusive and gentle way. Most of the time this time of year people wish each other Merry Christmas, but often I hear “Happy Holidays.” I see no war on Christmas or anything else. The opposite.
Just now, as I was walking home from the golf course with Teddy, a delivery man leaned out of the open window of his van and said, with his whole heart and whole soul, “Merry Christmas!” and he waved. He wasn’t starting a fight. He was giving me the best he has on this day, Christmas Eve.
But, apparently, in some places, Merry Christmas is uttered as a provocation. I have thought about that. It seems that half of provocation is the willingness to be provoked. I think this is a war we — each of us — can choose not to fight.
As for me — Christmas begins at the beginning of December when my friend Lois comes to visit for all the holiday markets in the valley. This year I had the opportunity to read from the China book. That turned out to be a wonderful thing. I teeter through the month — bad days and good — but usually good. It’s impossible NOT to reflect on the past if you’re 67 years old and live by yourself. Impossible not to remember Christmases you shared with family that you loved and can never see again. I learned some time back just to surrender to whatever emotional rollercoaster shows up. That stragedy has proven to be a great way to live through the holidays. Every day for the past two weeks some lovely thing has happened as a result of my just being receptive and looking at it not only from the actual perspective, but also the metaphorical.
Yesterday, I took the skis to the golf course (I drive because the skis are awkward to carry and no one can walk in those boots). When I got out of Bella I saw a guy approaching that I know, Fred. Dusty loved Fred and Fred loved Dusty. Whenever we met, I let Dusty loose and he ran to Fred as if Fred were the realization of all Dusty’s dreams. I told Fred I’d lost Dusty this past year.
“He was a great dog,” said Fred. “Whenever he saw me, he hugged me.”
It’s true and Dusty didn’t hug anyone else. We shared some Dusty stories, reminisced about their first meeting on the golf course. Dusty was barking his head off, scary, at Fred. I said, “Do you like dogs?” Fred said he did, if they were friendly. Dusty didn’t seem friendly, but Fred held his ground while I let Dusty go. Fred spread his arms in welcome and Dusty ran some 50 yards and hugged Fred who hugged him back. Now Dusty was big. If he stood on his hind legs (which seldom happened) he was taller than I am, over five feet.
Fred and I remembered the first big snow last winter, in January, and how we were out there post-holing and Dusty almost knocked Fred over because the snow was so deep. Telling Fred about Dusty, I felt like the circle of Dusty’s life was now completely closed. It was a kind of memorial for my barky black dog that I still miss.
We talked about how we never see anyone else outside walking in the snow.
“What’s wrong with everybody?” I said. We laughed because, honestly, it’s kind of nasty out there. Today is the first day in two weeks the temperature has gotten up to freezing.
“It’s great here on the Valley floor,” he said. “It never warms up. The snow stays.” Both he and I think that’s a good thing. Then Fred said, “What are you doing for Christmas, going to family?”
I said I didn’t have a family anymore, or, rather, that I did, but I’m at the point in life when I can choose my family. “I have a great family, but we’re not related to each other.” I laughed.
“Thats the way to do it,” said Fred. But I could see he felt sorry for me. Fred’s Italian and, you know, la famiglia is everything. “You mean your parents and all your siblings are gone?”
“Yep.” Then I decided to tell him a little about my brother and how, after he died, many of his friends and I became acquainted and some are now family to me.
“Some people wouldn’t see it that way.”
“Yeah, well, I lost my dad when I was 20. I’ve had a long time to get used to it.” I laughed.
“And you’re happy.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Why not?”
“Lot’s of people wouldn’t be.”
“I miss my family,” I said, “But I’m glad for the times we had. They were precious. Anyway, how could I not be happy with those mountains,” I motioned toward the Sangres, “this sky, the snow, living here?”
“Lots of people can’t be happy.”
Somewhere down the road of my life I had decided that happiness is a choice, just like, for me, believing in “it who shall not be named (aka God)” is a choice. I chose that, too. I’m happy with anyone’s celebration. I’ve learned that people seem to need something when the days are at their shortest. I understand that I’m a little different in that for me this is the BEST time of year, dark and cold.
We talked a little more, he wanted me to remind him what I did before I moved here, then he said, “Merry Christmas!” whole-heartedly, warmly, sincerely.
“Merry Christmas to you, too!” I said, equally heart-filled. Is it possible to MEAN that without being a Christian? Absolutely. Its meaning is, simply, “I wish you all the good things, peace, joy, love and beauty.” Because that is what that little baby in the manger symbolizes, what we all hope for whatever faith or non-faith we follow.
SO, from Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog, Teddy Bear T. Dog and I…