Christmas past is all around me. I write this morning surrounded by houses with driveways and garages, covered in vinyl siding. I’ve pulled up a plastic chair on the front porch, a porch which no one here uses for sitting, and as birds chirp I look at house after house, shiny cars in driveways, and I know a strip mall is just around that corner. This is not the place I grew up but without looking at the plates on cars I would never know it. It could be California, or even Iowa, but it isn’t, it’s Atlanta. It has all the trappings of my youth minus the snow.
I drove down into the city the other day and visited my not as distant past. I ate at a diner in the West End where white people are rarely seen and the days of my missionary service came quickly back to mind. They have cleaned up the area, a whole housing project I used to haunt is gone, replaced by new student housing. I’m sure there is some symbolism or irony there but the idea is muddled and not my point. It was rainy so I was happy to not be riding a bike as I was during those Christmases.
My car is not in the driveway. It is with my wife who is at the mall picking up some last minute things for our Christmas present. The four year old is inside drawing a picture for Santa. The seven year old who has already heard the bad news, is playing along with the Santa fantasy on behalf of her little sister so well that I think she has re convinced herself that he is real. Right now I know of Tiny Tims up in Philly. They are maybe cold and humble in a row house with no turkey, the specter has shown them to me. Some little help may be on its way, but it isn’t me. I am with the ghost just watching things, sitting on the porch, typing.
I’m ignoring the bony hand of Christmas to come the best I can. I have had some recent conversations with him but they never have answers, they remain open ended. I asked to see my report card, or maybe what I’ll be doing next year, or maybe ten Christmases from now, but no. Instead he showed me Karaoke at J. R. Crickets.
The wife and I sat last night in a suburban restaurant full of middle class Black people. I wondered where or when this will happen where I live. We watched an attractive young woman stand up and comfortably have no rhythm and sing horribly. It made me wonder about my daughters in their decades to come and whether or not they will have rhythm or be comfortable. Even now as I listen to the lack of sirens or look at a street without shopping cart guy passing by, I wonder if a lawn is in my future. Scrooge was shown a lonely grave, if I am shown a lawnmower I would consider it just as horrible.
But the ghost refuses me a vision, and I assume because that tale is fiction, and my story hasn’t yet been written, I won’t be getting one. Its just as well, because I’ve seen that play and read that book and know the moral already. The Mrs. will return with a Christmas goose or whatever the modern suburban equivalent is, I am prepared to yell “what day is it?” from my window tomorrow when I wake up, though sadly I am in suburbia so this question will likely be directed to a squirrel. I will do my best to have Christmas cheer in my heart and then share it with others all around. I’ll give Bob Kratchet a raise, and I’ll do my homework next semester. I’ll take pictures of the kids unwrapping presents and enjoy my mother in law’s collard greens. Again, I’ve read the story and I got the point a long time ago.
I endorse the ending, “God bless us, every one!” and I pass that on to all of you… along with the better Christmas message of, “you’ll shoot your eye out.”
Happy holidays everyone.