Monday, December 27, 2004

The In-Between Week

That week that occurs between Christmas and New Year's is always a strange one. It's a little top-heavy, starting right away with the bigger and more meaningful holiday and then rolling downhill toward the somewhat less important and often anti-climactic night o' partying and day o' bowls that is New Year's.

What's interesting is that both these holidays have "Eve's." For the life of me I cannot think of any other day of the year for which there is an important Eve. I can't say I've ever stopped to celebrate the day before Easter or even Thanksgiving, but Christmas and New Year's are totally different.

The strange thing is that their Eve's serve totally different purposes. Christmas Eve is all about anticipation of morning, when the gift-opening frenzy takes place. It's what an eve should be, a build-up to the big event. But New Year's Eve is really the event in and of itself. Sure you look forward to midnight, that's the deal, but there's nothing really after that point besides a day full of hangovers and football (which I suppose some people do actually look forward to.)

Which leads me to the conclusion that this in-between week is actually an example of perfect symmetry. The second half of the week mirrors the first half. The first day, the first Eve builds to the second day, Christmas, after which there is a lull. The lull persists through the halfway point of the week and then is punctuated by the second to last day, the big day in this half, which is in this case the Eve itself. The transition back to normalcy occurs with the gradual let down from the high, which is New Year's Day itself.

Perhaps it's a theory not everyone will subscribe to (or follow for that matter.) But I find it fascinating. I think the reason I can examine it so lucidly is that I am for the first time removed from the phenomenon. Having not celebrated Christmas this past Saturday, I'm not really riding the emotional rollercoaster that is the holiday season (though I guess I'm on a coaster of a different sort). So for the rest of you, enjoy this bizarre week of limbo before the reality of the long winter ahead hits you like a Mack truck. Cheers!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Wishing You the Merriest

Unconventional though mine may be... I wish all of us a delightful Christmas.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Christmas Music 24/7

It's disappointing to me how down some people are on Christmas music. But I can understand why. Whenever the market is flooded, there's going to be a backlash.

Which is why I'm not so sure I'm in favor of these "all Christmas music, all the time" radio stations that seem to be popping up everywhere. First of all, most of the music they play is worthless filler, including awful renditions of "Silent Night" and "What Christmas Means to Me" recorded by fading pop stars in a last ditch effort to generate a little more revenue for their record companies before they fade off into oblivion. Who wants to listen to that noise pollution?

Second of all, even if you do happen to tune in only when the good songs are played, you're burnt out by Christmas. It takes years of training to be able to sustain a prolonged enthusiasm for Christmas music; I should know. I can start in early November and be full of Christmas cheer right up until the big day. But I've been honing my listening skills since age 9 or 10, when my family's Christmas music obsession really blossomed. The average uninitiated Christmas music listener cannot support a full month of continuous Christmas music without turning sour on the stuff. I've seen it happen over and over again.

I propose a moderate diet of Christmas music throughout December. Perhaps one or two days a week at first, to whet the appetites of the listening audience. Then, the week before Christmas, hit 'em full blast. For those of us who can handle a more generous portion earlier on, there are Christmas albums galore, or if you're a member of my family, taped recordings of radio Christmas shows from years past. There's just no need to turn the whole world against Christmas music by overdoing it; the genre deserves better.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Back at the Berk

It's strange how you suddenly can turn around one day and realize that what you thought was really still the present is now the past. Coming back to Berkshire, seeing everyone I used to work with, live with, and play with, doing the same thing they did last year, just drives home that point. I'm not here anymore. I've moved on. Berkshire is in the past now.

So that puts me in the position of looking back at a former self. I'm never too comfortable with that idea, that there are many me's that have been lost in time, but I can't help but believe in that phenomenon. Part of the present me is trying to fit back into the Berkshire me's old patterns, eating the same food in the dining hall, chiming in with comments about kids I taught, but the more I try to be Berkshire Dana, the more I realize I'm not anymore.

It's a bittersweet realization, when you notice you've changed. In some ways I'm so much happier now. But in other ways, I miss the old me. I miss the connections she had to the people here. Luckily most of those connections seem to have survived my transformation, despite the fact that I don't know half these kids who come up in conversation, and I don't know several of these teachers who've filled in the gaps for those of us who've left.

But I can't say I want to go back. I'm kind of content to be the outsider now, to watch my former colleagues (whom I can now just call friends) grapple with daily life here. I don't miss any of the stuff they complain about; in fact I thank my lucky stars that things like dorm duty, comment exchange, and advisees are out of my life for good (or at least for the next seven or so years).

It's the passage of time that always seems to blow me away though. You never expect it to happen even though it's going on constantly. You just don't really notice until you turn around and see that what you thought was right next to you is instead way behind you. And all you can do is kind of wave goodbye.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Kickin' It on the East Side

Well I'm out on the east coast again, enjoying the preppiness, and the rolling hills, and the distinct lack of midwestern accents. I'm attending a full line-up of my dad's social events and church functions today, and tomorrow I'll help my mom teach her kindergarteners about Santa Lucia Day.

What strikes me the most is how quiet it is here. I went out for a run this morning and it was so quiet I could hear my feet hitting the ground. No sirens, no horns, no shouting. I never thought I'd get so used to urban background noise that I'd notice when it was gone, but I guess that's what 3 months of living in the city will do to you.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Boiling Over

I opened up the today's little paper door on my advent calendar and found a picture of a cute little reindeer. The advice I was offered? "Pretend you are one of Santa's reindeer."

Maybe it's just that I was in the middle of day 7 of my paper-writing bender, but that suggestion struck me as totally bizarre. I mean, that's a reach. Pretend I'm one of Santa's reindeer? That's messed up.

My tolerance for anything which might be considered slightly annoying has sunk to a new low. If you're giggling, talking too loud, talking too much, playing stupid music, walking so your feet thud on the floor too loud, you can expect me to shoot daggers at you with my eyes. I told myself I wasn't going to stress out, but all this non-stress is starting to get to me.

Luckily, the papers will be done by tomorrow. I'm going home on Saturday. And from that point on, I will be able to say, to (kind of) quote Mandy Moore in Saved, "I am FULL of the Christmas spirit!"

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Christians and the Pagans

In the spirit of yesterday's ("Draw a card for a friend") and today's ("Do something nice for a friend") advent advice, I'm posting the lyrics to a song introduced to me by a good friend in college. It's an unconventional Christmas song, but that's why I like it.

The Christians and the Pagans
by Dar Williams

Amber called her uncle, said "We’re up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having solstice, now we need a place to stay."
And her christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his song hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, "It's christmas eve, I know our life is not your style."
She said, "Christmas is like solstice, and we miss you and it’s been awhile."

So the Christians and the pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, "Is it try that you’re a wtich?"
His mom jumped up and said, "The pies are burning," and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, "Its true, your cousin's not a Christian,
but we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your god, and we find magic everywhere."

So the Christians and the pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from? I think magic's in the learning,
Cause now when Christians sit with pagans, only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, "Really, no, don’t bother.’
Amber's uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadnt spoken in a year,
He thought he'd call him up and say, "its Christmas and your daughter's here."
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve,
saying, "Can I be a pagan?" Dad said, "We'll discuss it when they leave."

So the Christians and the pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old,
Making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold.

Monday, December 06, 2004

He's gone down in his-tor-y!

Yesterday's and today's advent advice was to listen to Christmas songs and to watch a Christmas show on T.V. Check and... uh oh, still haven't caught a Christmas show yet. (Too busy watching the O.C. on DVD.)

Fortunately, I have discovered that my favorite Christmas special, the claymation version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, is not on until December 17th. Evidently, it's the 40th anniversary of "the longest-running holiday special in television history." Bet you didn't know that.

So tune in to CBS at 8 p.m. on the 17th to share a magical hour with Rudolph, Hermey, Santa, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius, the talking snowman, and (shudder) the Abominable Snowman. You better believe I'll be watching.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

California, here we come...

*** Warning: Blatantly over-stretched connection between two totally unrelated topics made below. Enter at your own risk. ***

In an effort to "think of names for Santa's elves" (today's instruction from my advent calendar), I could think of only four:

Ryan, Marissa, Seth, and Summer

If you know where I got these names, then get ready to welcome me into the club. Yes, that's right, I've succumbed to an addiction to the horribly cheesy Fox drama known as The O.C. I blame my roommates. They convinced me to watch this season's first episode a few weeks ago and explained the entire backstory to me during the commerical breaks. I watched both the second and third episode and felt myself pulled a little closer toward the black hole that is my addiction.

But last night, when my roommate unwrapped the boxed set of DVD's of the first season of the show, I gave in. And now that I've watched the pilot and the second episode, I've abandonned all hope. For the next six days, my life shall contain nothing but Albert Camus, Richard Millet, and, like, the gang from Newport. Have mercy on me.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Dear Santa

Day 3: "Write a letter to Santa."

Here goes...

Dear Santa,

If you could possibly squeeze it into your busy toy-making schedule, I would like to request my presents be delivered a little early this year. I'm not asking for much; in fact you won't need the sleigh, the reindeer, and all that jazz. A simple 8 x 12" folder is all that's required for this delivery.

What I'm looking for is a couple of really well-written papers, one in French and one in English. The French one should discuss the paradox of a simultaneous dependence on time and timelessness in Richard Millet's Un Renard dans le nom and the English one should deal with the confession project in Camus's The Fall. If it's not too much trouble, I'd prefer they'd be written by someone really, really smart, perhaps not one of the elves. Haven't you got any genius literary theorists up there at the North Pole?

So if it's not too tall an order to fill, I'll need these by next Friday. You can slip them down the chimney if it's easiest but maybe sliding them under the door would ensure they get to me unsoiled.

Thanks a lot. I'll be waiting...

love, Dana

Thursday, December 02, 2004

My Favorite Ornament

Today's bit of advice? You guessed it. "Tell someone about your favorite ornament." (Well, come on, what else would it be?)

Unfortunately, I'm not sure I have one favorite ornament. I love any ornament that has a history to it. Like the paper angels Craig and I made in elementary school out of oak tag and our faces cut out of photographs. (Craig chose a not-so-well-proportioned picture so his head is a huge bulbous thing on a tiny paper cone with wings. But of course his head always was a huge bulbous thing until his body caught up a few years ago.)

I also love the strange little ultra-suede and plastic beaded boot that Dad got for one of us on a business trip to Arizona or New Mexico. I love the various Peanuts characters ornaments we have and even the old scratched-up metallic balls. Our tree never matches, there's no color theme, and there aren't even enough branches anymore to hold all the ornaments we've accumulated over the years.

But catching sight of any single ornament that does make it on to the tree means remembering a whole different story. Maybe it's cheesy but that's the best part of Christmas. You can be sappy and nostalgic for a whole month (or longer if you choose) and nobody gets to stop you.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Only 25 more days...

It was very pleasant this morning to wake up to a dusting of light snow, it being December 1st and all. I needed milk for my cereal, so I went out early. Of course I didn't need to walk the 4 blocks or so down to the drug store; there is a grocery store much closer to where I live. But I didn't think they'd have advent calendars at the grocery store.

After hunting around in the "Seasonal Items" aisle without finding anything close to an advent calendar, I circled back around through the card aisle. Finally I found them. There were only four, all Hallmark brand, all lacking any real artistic quality. I looked at them all carefully but decided on the one I'm sure I also had last year. It's a an accordian-folded, five-paneled tableau depicting a wintery city/townscape (a few small houses and a few random apartment buildings) on a snowy hill. It's a town populated by cats and mice, of course, jolly ones decorating a town tree, sledding, ice-fishing (but definitely not engaged in the kind of "games" Fuzzy likes to play with mice.)

Like any advent calendar, there are 24 numbered paper doors, but underneath each flap is a suggestion for how to add a little Christmas cheer to your day. December 1st's is: "Draw a Christmas tree." While I probably won't end up taking this advice literally, I will be trying my hardest to get into the Christmas spirit today. The snow definitely helps.