In 2003 my mother died from Cancer. A nurse by profession, she had discovered a lump on her breast soon enough to treat the disease but not soon enough to stop it from spreading. The ultimate betrayal; killed by her own body's malignant, metastasized cells.
I remember my first Christmas after she was gone and almost every one since my father -- my hero -- did his best to take her place, to fill the void. My sister bravely trying to do the cooking, and I, bravely trying to be brave. But we were all pretending, pretending to try and fill a hole that could not be filled. And every year since that day, Christmas has been the worst time of the year.
2003 was the year that I joined the silent millions of people who hate Christmas. The people who are reminded every holiday season not of what they have but of what they have lost. Not of what joys lay ahead, but those in the rear view mirror.
As we get older those such as I - the Holiday Season malcontents - attempt to reconcile the version of Christmas we've inherited with the version we grew up with, but the two seem as far apart as stars in the sky. Like Chinese water torture, the Christmas music never stops, the jingle bells ring over and over. The holiday films with their homely messages - 'all will be well' they tell you, 'just be good, and good things will happen'. It all serves to add to our ache. And yet, like a chocolate chip floating in a glass of milk we feel a sense of something supportive, something buoyant around us. The jubilant cries of children awaiting gifts or loved ones eager to see family. I can think of no holiday so entwined in opposites - love and sadness, happiness and fear, hope and regret.
But what is my point? What does it matter? I found that answer in the laughter of an old man at a bar downtown as the background television showed clips from a terror attack in Berlin, the assassination of a Russian diplomat and Syrian refugees trapped in Aleppo. The laughter of one grey haired man sitting across from his lifelong friend, oblivious in his happiness to whatever horrors surround him. If joy has a sound, it was that laugh. And if we can bring a bit of that sound into the world once or twice a year perhaps this entire dangerous, unproven, happenstance endeavor we call 'civilization' may have some value. So, my fellow Holiday Season Malcontents (and there are so many millions of us) seek one another out this year for you are not alone. Find happiness in one another and if not that, the sound I heard in that bar - the happiness of others.
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