I got very sick at Christmas and never finished writing this post at the time. But since I just took my tree down last week, perhaps it’s not too late for one last word about the moment when magically, a newborn baby is the most important being in the world!
I’ve always loved Christmas. As a child it seemed a truly magical time. And I mean literally magical. All the ordinary rules and routines of the world were, for that brief moment, completely suspended. My dad didn’t go to work or night school and just hung out with us, a rare treat, all cozily crowded into the living room. We didn’t have to get dressed out of our new flannel nighties all day, except in fancy clothes that I loved for dinner. Our access to food was always tightly controlled by my mother, but now we were allowed to eat all the normally forbidden foods –candies, cookies, chocolates– without even asking: they were just laid out for the taking. The division between indoors and outdoors was transgressed by bringing nature, an entire tree that reached the ceiling, into the house. Even the rules of night and day were broken when we were woken at midnight on Christmas Eve (a French-Canadian tradition) to open the gifts that Santa had left just moments before. And the presents: there was no other possible accounting for this abundance than Santa’s magic: these were years when my parents could never have afforded such a luxury as new toys and stocking stuffers for all four of us children—or so I believed. The only logical explanation was magic.
Even the stories and the music were all about magic. My favourite was (and still is) How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the original animated TV special true to the Dr. Seuss story (the later feature film with Jim Carrey is to me an abrasive monstrosity missing all the tender charm of the original). And we would gather near the beautifully lit and decorated tree, the other lights dimmed and special candles lit, to listen to A Paul Reid Christmas, a radio show of sentimental Christmas stories and music. How I loved those stories! The Littlest Angel, one of the first stories that made me confront mortality, made me cry most of all. What was especially clear in all the stories and songs was that what made them magical, as the Grinch demonstrated when his heart grew three sizes that day, was love.
I figured this Christmas tree was my last one, and since I missed a week of the holidays when I was in the hospital, I wasn’t in a rush to take it down. And then I made the mistake of asking Nathan if he wanted me to leave it up until his return from London in early February. (He had to miss Christmas at home with us again this year.) He said yes, so I was stuck with the tree until he got back last week. We spent our first visit happily undecorating the tree and sweeping up the now crispy branch tips that snapped off as we did so. But I so enjoyed having the tree up all those extra weeks, reminding me of the magic that is really always there.