The calendar hanging on my wall will not stop its relentless march toward December 25th. Steadily, the days move toward the holiday like an ant toward a grain of sugar.
Even before tragedy struck my immediate family twice this year, I have occasionally looked at Christmas as a time of year when the emphasis on what I do not have dominates the holiday. Some years I did not have enough money to indulge in gift-giving the way I wanted. Other years I was without time to enjoy the season.
This year I am without two members of my family. Christmas Day will be heavy with their permanent absence.
As a writer, I indulge in the emotional side of situations. Because I cannot touch a reader’s heart with a visual display of sorrow, joy or any other emotion, I have to depict them on paper in such a way the reader will emphatically connect to the story and character.
Christmas Without is relatable in the same emphatic way. Each of us has had one or more holidays without something important to us, whether it’s family, money, or even the spirit of the season. We can all relate to a Christmas we simply wish to get past.
Strangely, I’m beginning to feel the tingling of a little Christmas spirit. This year, in the midst of the biggest “without” of my life, I’m starting to experience the wonder of the season. The decorations lining Main Street are brighter and the carols sound more beautiful. The smell of evergreen is stronger and the taste of eggnog is more delicious.
I feel the losses of my loved ones deeply and without pause. Although my thoughts are full of longing for the impossible return of what was once my reality, I feel a sense of calm serenity.
I will try to carry this calm serenity into my writing. For a time recently, I included a major character’s untimely death in all of my stories. During those periods of dark prose, it seemed the only way to write. It was the only thing that made sense since I was (and still am) living the reality of my fiction.
At the start of December, I began to feel different. Whether it’s the seasonal holiday goodwill or the calm remembrances of better times, whatever has happened is good for me and good for my writing. I have started to fill my characters with a little more joy and hope, and a little less sorrow and despair. Where death was once running like an unseen cloud throughout my stories, the hope of life is slowly taking its place.
The holiday season is bustling with good intentions and warm feelings. I am saving my “withouts” for New Year’s Eve when I will reflect on loved ones I miss with all of my heart. I will reflect and then I will begin to look forward.
I wish you all a Christmas Without “withouts.” I wish you a season of peace and comfort. If you cannot muster cheer for the holidays, embrace its tranquility instead.
J J Dare, author of Joe Daniel’s “False Positive” and “False World,” and numerous short stories