The Uphill Slide

There is always something.

Christmas 2016


Christmas is as much about the past as the present(s). My Christmas memory of childhood started with attending Christmas Eve service and being up later than any other night of the year. We would come out the doors of church to the purity of falling snow. It was always a white Christmas in my memory or was that an idealized memory? When we got home, we would plug in the decorated tree with lights that would warm and begin to percolate with magic in the dark room. I stashed memories as my family changed to add new members and then subtract members. All that adding and subtracting also required division of time. Small families like mine can be a plus.

The holidays can be painful for so many people who try to recreate idealized memories and make one day perfect when there is nothing perfect. We are bombarded by Christmas music for a month and pictures of happy families and movies of sentimentality. Interactions with people often ends with ‘Merry Christmas’ or some other politically correct greeting. But what if your memories are not happy or if they will never be happy again or you have no one to share the holiday with? For some people they are greeted with daily reminders of what will not be.

This year there is no tradition in our celebration.  We did not put up a tree while Jacob constructed a Festivus pole. We are just celebrating the day this year. It is bittersweet that Caleb is not with us this holiday, sweet for Caleb to be with his father and that side of his family and sad (not bitter) for us. But there is a sweetness for us with Jacob able to be with his family. I told my kids there will be no gifts from me this year except for my grandchildren. Christmas spirit comes from me to my children throughout the year.

Christmas Day began with me battling a cold with $40 worth of medications from Target. I am the bragger who says I am never sick, but here I was with this holiday cold. The first pills I bought didn’t help my tickling nose or sneezes or rid me of redness from a boxful of Kleenex. On our way to see the less than satisfying Passengers, we stopped at Target again to pick up something else. Jacob pointed out the ingredient I needed to end symptoms. The pills did the trick leaving me in a drowsy stupor. Is it better to suffer the reality of symptoms or be drugged in the illusion of cure? I think we prefer the illusion.

We ate our Christmas meal at the Grand Concourse in Pittsburgh. None of us had ever eaten there before,  and quite disappointingly there was no brunch on this Christmas Sunday. The building is beautiful with wood and stained glass decorated with poinsettia climbing the stairs along the shining brass banister. The quality of the meal was not reflected in the price nor was the service outstanding. I was disappointed but not regretful that we had dressed up to spend those hours together and tried something new. Later my son said our Christmas dinner at Taipei Tokyo in 2014, our salute to A Christmas Story, was better.


A Christmas Story, directed by Bob Clark, performances by Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon & Darren McGavin, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1983.

Passengers, directed by Morton Tyldum, performances by Jennifer Lawrence & Chris Pratt, Columbia Pictures, 2016.

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