To the child inside of all of us, the real terror is that there will be no Christmas.
The real terror is that our lives are worthless and meaningless, and that all we have done in this life will not be understood, appreciated or forgiven by anyone.
This Christmas I think of those with whom communication is no longer possible, because they have passed on to that Happy Hunting Ground, and all the things I wish I could have said to them before they disappeared permanently now twitch emptily into a darkening sky that makes no sense. Did they get their Christmas cookies? I wonder what it was they wrote in their last letters to Santa. What was that message I meant to tell them before they departed? I had plenty of opportunities, but missed the chance.
This has happened to me too often. There was so much more I wanted to tell you, wanted to thank you for, I whisper into the darkness. The universe unfolds itself before us in these moments, and you learn how empty emptiness can be.
I think that the way we talk to children is the way we should talk to everyone, to make everything sunshine clear and simple. Sophistication and complexity darken the lens of our perception, confuse the issue of why we're really here and what we're all about.
What we're all about is feeling wanted. But like children who are deprived of Christmas, when the presents never arrive, it builds up calluses on our hearts, and we hide that pain of deprivation because we never want to feel it again. We tell ourselves it doesn't matter, that it's just another day, and that all days are the same — but they're not.
Too many children see their parents disappear forever and wonder what their lives are all about if someone who is your whole world suddenly is gone, not necessarily dead, but just suddenly not there. What does it mean? How expendable am I? Is this so-called miracle of life just another TV show, to be canceled on a whim, or on a random compulsion that someone who said they loved you suddenly doesn't?
Of course, this is why people get religious, finding some one or thing that isn't real but won't disappear. If you make it real it can anesthetize the pain of how trivial and cruel life, in the wrong circumstances, can be. So here's my hat off, respectfully, to those who flounder on Christmas, and wander through the silent streets wondering what a real family would have been like.
Too many like these crowd our crumbling suburbs and commit our crimes, in a futile attempt to pay back those who were supposed to be there for us, but weren't, and aren't.
And then, also of course, there are those who have too many to remember, children and parents, siblings and friends, the dreaded distant relatives. We drive ourselves nuts trying to cover the bases of who needs what and when; it's a logistical nightmare, stuck in traffic, clogged up in smelly lines at checkout counters, battling perfect strangers over the last Xbox, or some such folderol.
And then there are the relatives. You remember as a child having delighted in their visits, off on new adventures, learning new things, new words. Then as they get older, Aunt Mabel drinks too much, Uncle Ernie has become a real bore, and you forget how much they once meant to you; you just want to get them out of the house, at least until next year.
All these peccadillos are really balm, you know, because they mask the real problems we all face, they distract us from the real problems of our survival, the diminishing oxygen, Chinese anti-freeze in your bagels, that sort of thing.
I chafe at the things people don't know, don't realize. I was like that for most of my life, absorbed in my important endeavors and oblivious to the vexations of others. We don't realize how close we are to disaster, to bankruptcy, to starvation, to extinction, but this is one day things like this are not talked about. The conversation this day is more about mince pie and fireplaces. That other stuff, if you're lucky, can wait until tomorrow.
If you're not lucky, well, those are people who are wandering along the side of the road this day, stomachs growling, tears stifled back in novocaine numbness while wondering what the bleak future holds for them, trying to find a warm place to light a match or sip some soup.
They walk past houses where muffled melodies of Christmas carols and savory smells of sumptuous meals waft across frozen driveways and into the slushy streets, walking somewhere; they don't really know where, just somewhere where they maybe they can forget for awhile the things that they don't have, and might never get. Their toes get very cold.
Inside these festive houses, the lucky few remember the luck they've had and honor the people who have helped them find it. We've seen all sorts of movies in which relatives who see each other twice a year grouse about the obnoxious habits and facile gifts, but somehow manage to sustain their connections that make their lives have some point of reference, some kind of warm meaning. We mark our lives by these moments, if we're lucky.
And once past the trivial grievances, irksome characteristics and strange proclivities of those we're sure we know, we give thanks for the chance to be boring and obnoxious, because we know that when night falls, we will be forgiven for these frights and follies.
Whether we know it or not, this seeing past the superficial nature of social interactions mysteriously fuels our vitality, and generally makes us last for another year so that we can do it all again, no matter how uncool Uncle Jack can often be.
You see a lot of candles around Christmastime, but you don't really see a Christmas candle until you see it flickering in someone else's eye, which has become a little moist.
The real secret is finding someone who needs a Christmas and giving it to them, unexpectedly and without strings. It could be just a word. Better is some trinket, as a tangible object gives people something to hang onto, something to fidget with in the cold hours after midnight, to wonder about, and remember that someone regarded them highly.
There is this old phrase — the gift returns to the giver, always. That's how you get out of the spiral of despair, and feeling worthless. Even if they don't appreciate it, you know what it meant to them, and that's what floods you with a light that will extirpate the darkness, guaranteed.
That's the kind of world we need to have, but don't.
The only thing you ever really have is what you give away.
Merry Christmas. Here's hoping for many more.
John Kaminski is a writer who lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida, constantly trying to figure out why we are destroying ourselves, and pinpointing a corrupt belief system as the engine of our demise. Solely dependent on contributions from readers, please support his work by mail: 6871 Willow Creek Circle #103, North Port FL 34287 USA.