Blondie and I hit Sam’s Club last weekend for some holiday oddities and endities, and as we were heading out to the parking lot, Blondie remarked that everyone seemed rather … subdued. I couldn’t really see that the other customers were any more depressed than usual, wheeling around great trollies piled full of case-lots and mass quantities than any other Sunday, as I am still trying to throw the Cold From Hell – now in it’s third week of making me sound as if I am about to hack up half a lung. But that is just me – good thing I work at home, the commute is a short stagger to my desk, where I do the absolute minimum necessary for the current project, and another stagger back to to bed, take some Tylenol, suck on a cough drop and go back to sleep for several hours. The cats like this program, by the way – a warm human to curl up close to, on these faintly chill December days.
I am sick, and we are coming up on the second anniversary of Dad dying … the day after Christmas 2009, from several different conditions which developed over a mere two weeks; as if that wasn’t enough to blight the holiday season for a good few years to come for our family. The murder in our neighborhood a couple of weeks ago, the massacre of school-children in Connecticut last Friday … although we didn’t personally know anyone involved or affected at first hand, those events still cast their own blight. The results of the November election has also cast a very long and depressing shadow. We – those libertarians and fiscal conservatives – know that there is a financial cliff coming, and no means left now to avoid running over it. Even the most cheerful among us are saying essentially, ‘let it burn.’ Let it all happen and be done with, and when it is over, then we can begin the long chore of rebuilding. No, the mood of holiday good cheer is very hard to maintain, amidst all of these personal and national disasters. Among the few happy shreds that I can take away from these last few weeks of 2012 is that at least this year I can afford to buy presents for my nearest and dearest, which wasn’t always the case in recent years.
But I know what Blondie means about people lacking enthusiasm for Christmas. It seems as if we are all just going through the motions this year – a demonstration of reassurance to children that everything is absolutely OK, and this will be the most perfect Christmas evah! Never mind the New Year, hanging like a dark cloud and rendering the standard expressed wishes for a happy one fairly hollow. The New Year will not be happy; of that we can be certain. It actually rather reminds me of the last Christmas that we spent in Spain – 1990. This was during the run-up to the First Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein was given a deadline of January 15th by the UN to vacate Kuwait … or else. And all that winter, we watched American forces pass through Zaragoza, heading ‘down-range’ to Saudi Arabia. We watched the base being surrounded by high-banked rolls of concertina wire, and new security measures put into place, as the minutes and hours and days ticked by. That was the year that demands of work and preparations for war took up so much time and energy that I put off buying a Christmas tree from the BX until the very last minute and had to settle for a two-foot tall plastic one. I do not recall what I bought for Blondie as a Christmas present; very likely a Lego assortment of some kind. And our Christmas that year was celebrated under much the same kind of cloud … because there was a holiday, and children who expected presents and jollity and the decorated tree and all, and parents obliged because of course that was what was expected and who knew what would be happening by the next Christmas … but every one of us did so knowing of the deadline, and knowing what would happen when the deadline passed.
With this current situation, there is no set and specific deadline to dread – only the certainty that no good will happen once it is passed.
Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.
(Cross-posted at www.ncobrief.com)