So I'm here in my TV room on Christmas Eve with a sick kid. He is sitting in the dark fiddling with a Japanese toy while my daughter is on Roblox (free time on the computer is an early Christmas gift from me). It feels strange here -- so quiet, no kids running around, no cookies being baked, not even any holiday shows. Just darkness and quiet.
Christmas has never felt quite right to me since I left Minnesota. Here I am in PA with a similar tree, similar looking presents, and the same old songs (Ruldolph) and specials (Rudolph), but it feels wrong. And that's a lot of years for Christmas to feel wrong. I think a child's holiday can be imprinted on her in a similar way that imprinting works with baby animals and their mothers. Well, first, maybe I should explain imprinting for those who might not have heard of it.
Here is a simple explanation from alleydog.com:
Imprinting: Why do chicks (baby birds...jeez) follow the mother bird and do whatever she does? The reason is that they are going through a process of imprinting, in which certain birds and mammals form attachments during a critical period very early in their lives. During this point in development, the birds are so available to form attachments, that even if there is no mother bird, or no bird at all, they may develop attachments to a substitute. For example, if you hatched several baby geese and raised them without having a mother goose around, the chicks may perceive you as the mother and imprint to you. They would follow you around, try to mimic lots of your behaviors, etc., just as if you were the mother. This is the way they learn the behaviors and characteristics of their species.
December 25, 2013
Now that I think about it, imprinting may not be quite the right word, but I would still like to use it... loosely. I have seen film of baby chicks attaching to a dog and therefore following him around and doing their best to behave dog-like. In my own experience, my son was born, laid next to me, and he opened his eyes and stared at me. My midwife said, "He's an old soul," because he was gazing at me so fixedly. Later, I often thought of that moment when he refused to have much to do with anyone else holding him, feeding him, or doing anything else for him. I think he had attached to me right then and there during those first minutes of life.
Well, I am attached to Christmas in Minnesota. My experiences of Christmas in Minnesota with my parents, aunts, uncles, and especially my cousins made a permanent mark on my psyche. And no amount of logic can convince me that Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Chicago, or Wyoming (obviously these are states that I have since called home) could ever provide a proper Christmas.
"Home is where the heart is."
Well, no. It's not. Minnesota is where Christmas is supposed to be. Trying to convince me otherwise is like trying to tell one of the baby chicks that the dog is not their mother. Logic will not win the battle.
If I were in Minnesota, would it be Christmas? Or would it feel weird? My parents and a few other relatives are deceased. My childhood home was sold long ago. Wouldn't I feel wrong in Minnesota too? Truthfully, I probably would. But I would like to breathe the cold air and walk around a bit. Maybe even walk down Nicollet Mall (do they still have the dime zone on the city bus?).
I really am past it -- the death of my parents -- and have fully faced the necessity of moving on. I have been away so, so long. Yet on Christmas, I can still feel homesick.
I do feel a bit guilty about that, because I am making wonderful memories for my own children and that is one of the true joys of parenting for me. I just love their enthusiasm about everything to do with Christmas. I think that sitting down in our TV room to watch Elf and then A Christmas Story is absolute bliss! It's the day itself that is a bit bittersweet, because it is no longer my special brand of Minnesota Christmas magic; instead it is John and Maddie's Pennsylvania magic. They are children through and through (for this, I am grateful) and someday they will be feeling bittersweet because they will be somewhere else, celebrating Christmas in their own grown-up way.
I'm glad I feel this way, because I know then that I was one of the lucky ones who really did make good memories rich with both comfort and excitement, and I know that I am providing the same joy for my own children. Did I mention that I love them?
I'm self-conscious about writing this one. I don't think it's my best. It's just me rambling. Not everything has to be pure inspired wisdom. I have a right to ramble -- after all this blog is just what it is. There is no particular focus, no particular purpose. I just find it soothing to write. In the old days, it wouldn't be part of the flotsam floating around the Internet, but lucky you! Here it is. Actually, I think this would be jetsam, because I'm going to purposely press the orange publish button and jettison it out to the Universe (and somehow in my mind that means away from me). Reminds me of the old (New Age) "releasing it to the Universe" idea -- well here it is Universe! All my stupid, personal Christmas magic goo.