Last year’s Xmas post left my burning decades-long question of “the meaning of Christmas” unanswered. I was trying new traditions in my new Palo Alto temporary apartment—Stanford’s ‘Messiah’ for one—but still filled with my usual existential angst rooted in my 12-year old self’s realization life wasn’t always a cheery bowl of cherries. Yet, I was grateful to my mother, for the example she set in 1970, to an ever widening world of experiences still left to discover.
My essential optimism remains today. My permanent home on the seacoast this morning is a balmy 61 degrees, the sun is shining and the renovations continue apace (drywall! This week! Hooray!) How extraordinary I find myself here: loved, loving, writing and reading. Man, for this moment, the earth’s equilibrium is alright.
But, fear and trepidation also rule. I am terrified for our beautiful coastline, and the inhabitants perched precariously in our country. When my husband David was asked recently by a conservative family member if the disordered family in his story about his Stanford Developmental Pediatrics clinic was a “minority” or an “illegal”, he calmly replied, “no, they’re people.”
I want to shout from the rooftops. I want to write manifestos. I want to weep and scream and implore.
I am bereft, beyond the initial sense of betrayal as a woman, as the friend and neighbor of LGBTQ folks, DREAM Act kids, artists and environmentalists. I do not know this country—one where mostly white 1% privileged males will write rules and law, impose “alt-right” viewpoints and corrupt beyond recognition our ‘for the people, of the people’ respresentative government. I have no illusions, this is real. I am mourning.
Yet, therein lies some answer. We are the people. Not left or right, nor gay or straight, not caring or evil. I allow that my new fear and trepidation has been in the hearts of millions of voters for many more years than in mine. Fear closes in, closes up, and shuts down the widening world. Trepidation rules end-of-the-month shortfalls in the checking account and end-of-the-year certainty that the New Year brings more of the same, and worse.
There is no ‘pull yourselves up by the bootstrap’ US of A exhortation that works anymore for vast numbers of people. There is no defense against the influx of ‘others’ who look different, smell strange, act foreign. There’s no relief from the wearying onslaught of new, new, new job-stealing tech and crappy ‘overseas’ customer service call centers spouting incomprehensible english.
I crave the comfort of a holiday season that never was. I want the thrill of a perfect present surpassing all my wildest expectations, happy family gathered smiling, house lit with heirloom decorations and filled with glorious song. (Oh, and while we’re dreamin’: sleigh bells ringing, those powdered almond cookies, caroling neighbors, ice skating on the pond, crackling fire with no leftover ashes.)
In the acknowledgement of the dream is contained acceptance of the real, bumps and imperfections embraced.
My answer for the essential meaning in Christmas, and the essential meaning of the US is clearer this year. I open my ears, my eyes, my heart and paraphrase David: we, we are the people. We can widen our world and we will be alright.