Monday, December 24, 2012

Imagine, Christmas Eve

I’ve always been more partial to Christmas Eve than Christmas Day.

Even though you’re prepared for Christmas Day, have actually awaited its arrival for quite some time, the day itself can often hit you like a rogue wave that suddenly pops up out of nowhere, knocks you off your feet and envelops you in countless mind numbing activities: schedules to keep, last minute wrapping, phone calls to take, phone calls to make, gruel to stir and eggnog to mix.

And don’t forget those pesky Dicksonian ghosts that drag you all over the past, present and future landscape, before you even have a chance to get your robe on.

Or is that just me?

Christmas Eve, on the other hand, is like floating on a quiet sea, looking up through the stars, where, if you stare long enough, you just might see a red streak of light passing overhead…

And are those the bells of eight tiny reindeer, you hear?

I know, I know, I know.

It’s just my imagination taking hold again.

The red streak across the sky is probably just an airplane carrying weary, last minute holiday travelers off to distant shores…and the bells are just Puddle’s, the neighbor’s cat, who’s known to have a fondness for unsuspecting fowl.

Nowadays, most of us, without any thought, keep our imaginations in check. There are just too many “real” inconceivable every day issues to face, juggle and sort through, that we barely have time for lunch, let alone allow ourselves the luxury of idle thought, and fanciful musings.

I guess that’s part of the burden of adulthood. Adulthood…the thing we craved when we were 10 and would gladly hand back to whoever’s in charge of such things, now that we’re…not 10.

I also know that Christmas Eve has morphed into a major holiday unto itself, these days, so maybe it’s not quite as tranquil, anymore, as I like to remember.

I guess what I’m thinking of are my Christmas Eves of years past. By today’s standards those magical evenings were much less formal—family and friends dropping in, coming and going as they pleased—yet still featured an elaborate meal consisting of a thousand varieties of fish, for a reason I never quite understood, other than my grandma said we had to.

I’m not sure how we did it, but somehow we’d all gather in my Italian grandparent’s little apartment on the night before Christmas and squeeze in around this small oblong table that mysteriously produced huge, endless bowls of said fish products and pasta…but with clam sauce…and even homemade pizza, for those who had an aversion to food that poked and looked back at you.

And all from a kitchen the size of most broom closets.

It’s hard to even imagine now; the place was steamy and cramped, at least to the adults, but to we, the under 10’s, it was a one bedroom Christmas wonderland, highlighted by that weirdly festive, white and blue, artificial tree that my gramps insisted on putting up every year, because he said real trees were rife with vermin and he thought dealing with his grandchildren was more than enough to fill that quota.

Well, I’m not quite sure if he said that last part…I might be projecting.

Gramps also loved his roasted chestnuts, and no Christmas Eve was complete without his after dinner ritual of carefully slicing an X into each one, popping them into the oven, then watching all of us warm our hands as we peeled them open and popped them into our mouths…and sometimes down a cousin’s pants.

I could go on and on with tales of Christmas Eve, and right now you’re probably afraid that I will—I didn’t even go into my Irish side of the family, which in lieu of the thousand varieties of fish, sampled a thousand varieties of eggnog, along with a thousand varieties of ways to serve roast beef and potatoes, all the while debating if Bing Crosby had ever actually been to Killarney, let alone celebrated Christmas there, with all of the folks from home—but, not to worry, I don’t want to keep you from your own Christmas Eve preparations.

However, scungilli aside, do yourself a favor as you make your way home on this cold winter’s night, whether returning from over the river and through the woods…or just walking back from the tavern down the street…take a second and peer up into the starry night above.

Shove the things you can’t control, can’t avoid and can’t conceive to the side, for just that one little second.

You might just see a red streak of light passing overhead…

And are those really the bells of eight tiny reindeer, you hear?

I don’t know…I guess that’s up to you….

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