An Award-Winning Disclaimer

A charming little Magpie whispered this disclaimer into my ear, and I'm happy to regurgitate it into your sweet little mouth:

"Disclaimer: This blog is not responsible for those of you who start to laugh and piss your pants a little. Although this blogger understands the role he has played (in that, if you had not been laughing you may not have pissed yourself), he assumes no liability for damages caused and will not pay your dry cleaning bill.

These views represent the thoughts and opinions of a blogger clearly superior to yourself in every way. If you're in any way offended by any of the content on this blog, it is clearly not the blog for you. Kindly exit the page by clicking on the small 'x' you see at the top right of the screen, and go fuck yourself."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Oh, Christmas Tree

Yesterday morning I found myself sitting on a high stool, coffee resting in front of me on a smooth, deep-brown counter, staring out of the plate-glass window of a Starbucks, like so many before me. I marveled at how boring staring out of the window at a Starbucks in suburban Philadelphia is compared to staring out of the window at a Starbucks in Soho, as I had once done before, a while ago. At 8:46am, my eyes followed a bright yellow Volkswagen New Beetle as it doodled its way past Starbucks. I smiled and pulled out my cellphone.

"You just passed me."

"I know," she said, rattled and nonplussed all at the same time, "because the goddamn fu-shuh-fu-shuh map said it was on the left and, of course, it was on the right! But you're watching out for me-- how fun! I'll be right there."

I don't have many friends, and the ones I do have are unlikely at best. Julie is in her mid-sixties, and I met her through-- where else?-- doing Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Her long "brown" hair and youthful face have allowed her to continue to believably play the ingenue ("Depends on how far away the audience is from me," she says with a crinkly grin) for more years than practical. She's directed me in three of the seven operettas I've done, and I'm proud to call her my friend. She came to meet me ostensibly to discuss administrative matters of our society, but, as usual, we cheerfully digressed. Because that's what friends do. It's much easier to talk business with business associates.

Somehow, we got to talking about Christmas. "I hate Christmas, and I hate myself for hating Christmas," she said, staring listlessly out of window at the traffic and the sky. A lot of people hate Christmas, in that she's no different from lots of other people. They hate the rabid consumerism, the "Simply Havin' a Wonderful Christmastime" stupid song, they hate the tinsel and the marketing and the Hallmark and the expectations. Julie hates Christmas because it's right around the time she lost her son.

"We lost him on January 4th. I had convinced my husband to go away, to Las Vegas, of all places, for Christmas and, while we were gone, the kids decided to decorate the house for us-- they pulled everything out-- every wreath, every light, and they put everything where it had gone for years, everything in its place. And, when we came home from our trip, it was so beautiful. And then, when our son died, I thought to myself, 'Oh, my God-- if only there was a picture of him setting up the house...' And, wouldn't you know it, after the funeral, an old, dear friend from Cape Cod gave me a picture of him decorating the tree, you can barely see his head poking out from around the side."

I looked at her, studied every little line around her eyes, and I thought about how many tears had traced those lines in the fourteen years since her son was killed in an automobile wreck, as the pine needles had started to litter her carpet.

"That tree is still on my back porch. Every year, I drag my ass to unpack the decorations and I decorate the house-- I do it for my husband-- but we haven't had a Christmas tree in the living room for fourteen years. I just can't do it. And a friend of mine a couple years ago was at the house and he said, 'Do you still have that fucking tree on your porch?' And I'll get rid of it-- some day. Some day I'll do it, but I'm just not ready yet."

She glanced up at me and she grasped onto my arm.

"God, I'm so sorry for unloading on you, honey. But, I just-- I don't know. I wish that I could make an, I don't know, an appointment, to cry and scream and say, 'AAAAH! FUCK YOU, CHRISTMAS! I HATE YOU!' and just get it all out of my system, you know, wear black for a day, and then just get on with it. But I wear black too much anyway. I'm just so Goddamn mad that, you know, it wasn't bad enough that my son got taken away from me, but Christmas did, too. And then I think about everyone else who's ever lost a son-- a car accident, disease, war... I don't know."

I don't know, either, I thought. I was going to say it, but it would have sounded stupid, and I probably would have started to cry if I had opened my mouth.

"And I think about the people you work with, too," Julie said, "people who want to kill themselves, and I just can't imagine that. Even after what happened, I can't understand it-- not wanting to be here anymore. I mean-- the sky is still blue. Warm water in the shower feels so good. There's music and people to love-- I just don't understand it."

There is music and people to love. The sky is still blue. The water in the shower is still warm. And my sixty-something-year-old friend sits with me at the Starbucks counter, is late in her New Beetle, and her backpack is a moose. And one day, I know, there will be a tree again. And the star will shine, and it will make her cry, and it will be very, very beautiful.

Merry Christmas.

1 comment:

  1. God, you really want to make me cry sometimes. Isn't that just the struggle with grief. You want to give up and die at times but also realize how much of life there is still to enjoy.

    Best wishes and thoughts to your friend and all those who mourn during this holiday.


Got something to say? Rock on with your badass apron!