December Nostalgia


Shiny and Bright

Shiny and Bright


Decem­ber is a rough time of year.  In Seat­tle, the days are dark and the nights are long.  It’s damp.  It’s cold–not cut­ting like Mid­west- or Cana­da-cold, just brisk enough for me to com­plain about.  It’s a time when dig­ging enthu­si­asm and impe­tus out from the base­ment is a bru­tal propo­si­tion.  My cre­ativ­i­ty grumpi­ly crawls back into bed, telling me to fuck off until Feb­ru­ary.  Suf­fice it to say, we’re deep into my least favorite time of the year.

It’s the light I miss most.  A qua­ver of pan­ic squir­rels through me come August when the sun­shine shades away from bright gold, and casts the world in a crisp sil­ver light.  That’s how I know the sea­son has tru­ly changed, when the qual­i­ty of light alters.  I strug­gle to con­vince myself that the slow­ly ris­ing dark is not a sign of immi­nent doom, and it will all turn out fine.   It’s not that bad.  No big.

Eh.  My opti­mistic self is a liar.  It is that hard.  Every year.

With my deep and abid­ing antipa­thy for our night-filled months, I find it odd my most pow­er­ful feel­ings of nos­tal­gia are stirred by some­thing that only occurred in deep­est, dark­est Decem­bers.

My fam­i­ly cel­e­brat­ed Christ­mas when I was grow­ing up, and we were lucky enough to always have a tree.  This was a real tree, that gave off a piney, foresty scent for days after we brought it home.  Our lights were the big, fat, translu­cent ones of gold, green, red, and blue, that came out before safe­ty reg­u­la­tions and ener­gy con­ser­va­tion was the norm.  Some  flashed, some glowed steadi­ly, all burned hot and bright.  Tin­sel, paper chains and gold gar­land decked each bough, and the old glass orna­ments gleamed even in the day­light.  We didn’t mess around.

When I was small (and even not so small), I used to wrap up in my bathrobe and sneak back to the liv­ing room in the mid­dle of the night.  I remem­ber hug­ging the wall as I descend­ed the stairs–I’d read in a spy nov­el that the mid­dle of the treads were what squeaked–and extreme qui­et was called for, you see, or I’d wake up the dogs, who would then wake up my mom. My pre-teenaged brain was cer­tain that would be bad.  Nav­i­gat­ing the black-on-dim sil­hou­ettes in the liv­ing room, I’d find the switch to the Christ­mas tree lights.  Then, when they were shin­ing like sun­lit jew­els in the dark­ness, I’d curl under the tree, nestling amid what­ev­er presents were already there.  I’d look up through the boughs at the dance of col­ors and shapes.  I’d smell the resin, and feel the warmth of the bulbs, and gaze in sleepy bliss for what felt like a small for­ev­er.

And that was it.  It wasn’t antic­i­pa­tion of Christ­mas Day and its var­i­ous cel­e­bra­tions.  It was the sen­sa­tion of being cocooned in warmth and col­or, light and shad­ow.  That was the mag­ic.  That’s what I remem­ber.

So now, though I don’t cel­e­brate Christ­mas, per se, we still find a way to get a tree.  We haul out the flash­ing lights along with the mem­o­ries that come with thir­ty-years worth of orna­ments.  Every now and then this rit­u­al con­jures the child­hood mag­ic of won­der and com­fort, beau­ty and light in the dark­ness, dri­ving away the gloom beyond the windows–and in myself–just for a lit­tle while.

Or maybe it sim­ply proves that I’m more like my cats than I want to admit.  At least I don’t knock the orna­ments off the tree.


What is your bright­est mem­o­ry of Decem­bers past?



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