|There should be a name for this emotion. It’s like when your cousins visiting for the Sunday afternoon wave from the back window of your aunt and uncle’s station wagon heading for someplace they call home leaving you in a place that suddenly no longer feels much like it. It’s a feeling expressed in tears--not balling, sniffling, red-faced tears but tears that simply roll down your cheeks as you breathe softly, like the rain on the windshield, tears that feel like the altogether proper response, fully justified, and confirmatory. It’s the feeling of the awareness that you had just experienced joy without realizing it, that you had been timelessly lost in the moment, too much on top of the wave to appreciate its power to break over and swallow you up. It is a feeling that asserts that things will never be the same, that something that just was here is now irretrievable. It’s what a child feels when Grandma and Grandpa board the plane.
The taupe SUV coming toward me draws my eyes with its stuffed antlers protruding from the top of each front window and a soft red ball attached to its toothy grill. Rudolf the Red-Nosed Buick. What can you deduce about the person who drives it? The most obvious is that this is someone with Christmas spirit. Someone not so pious that the lack of religious symbolism bothers her, or him. Someone who is not particularly concerned about presenting a professional appearance. Someone who likes to have fun. Someone who wants to be noticed, and liked, though that describes 95% percent of the world. This is someone who is not described by friends with adjectives like “frugal” or “practical.” Nor are this person’s friends likely to be thrifty or soberly pragmatic; this decoration is intended to please them, not draw their judgment. Nor is this someone highly creative—he or she purchased, not made, these ornaments. The driver is no doubt generally viewed as winsome and outgoing. It is the vehicle of an extrovert. This is someone who not only wants to loudly celebrate Christmas, but wants to everybody else to loudly celebrate too, who thinks my life will be better if I smile more.
Perhaps this person, masked only by glare of the streetlights on the windshield, is right. Perhaps my life would be better if I smiled more. Perhaps an act of crazy generosity would be crazily freeing. Does anyone Christmas carol anymore? My favorite Christmas carol, I haven’t thought about this for a long time, is Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabella. It’s not my favorite because I understand it, because I don’t, or because I like to sing it--I don’t know the words--but because it is French, and anything in a foreign European language sounds ancient, and things that sound ancient just sound like Christmas. Like conifers. Those are ancient. And the shiny leaves of holly. And candles. And mistletoe.
And that makes me smile as I become aware that there are unshakeable things around which changing events swirl. Things deep and ancient and not fully known. Christmas comes. Today is the shortest day of the year. The darkest. I will leave that emotion, whatever it was, nameless, a temporary blindness after a bright flash or deafness after an explosion. From here, things get brighter. I promise.