I've been thinking about the holidays a lot lately. Actually, that's not really true.
I've been thinking about how I'm not thinking about the holidays a lot lately.
I had a whole big Thanksgiving story that I was going to post,
as Thanksgiving was by far, my mom's favorite holiday.
But my cousin Dave sent a story that I thought summed up
what I was thinking perfectly.
Not only is it a great blog entry for this site, but it's his own stream of consciousness digitally transcribed and saved to my desktop.
It's structurally fragmented and that's what I like the most about it.
Because that's exactly how I feel.
My stories may come across as being well thought out and articulate
( to some degree ) but I can assure you, that is not how I feel.
You might read these stories and say to yourself,
"Well, he seems to be holding it together and doing ok".
And to that, I would say "Good", because that's what I want you to think.
That's the job of a fraud.
And that's what I am.
A cheap carnival huckster.
I'm the Wizard of Oz. All smoke and bluster up front and small and empty behind the curtain.
So if you see me Ho Ho Ho'ing and Jingling all the way this year, just know it's probably all an act.
And I've become a very good actor.
I should win an award.
But, let me get this back on point….I wanted to talk about the holidays.
I'm sure it's not hard to see why I'm not exactly in the holiday spirit this year.
I know it's been 10 months since my mom died, so there's no need to point that out to me.
If you're sitting there thinking to yourself "Man, I wish he would move on", you can just stop reading right now.
In fact, here's a link to buzzfeed…http://www.buzzfeed.com/ …go read a story about donuts or take a quiz and find out what 70's Supergroup you belong to.
For the rest of you, I realize that a fair amount of time has passed, even though the phrase "fair amount" doesn't really apply here and yes, I know they say the holidays are always the hardest, but I don't know if what I'm feeling really constitutes having a "hard time".
Thanksgiving was not really rough, it wasn't really anything.
I stayed home with my wife. I cooked a turkey, cooked some stuffing, watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and met up with some friends later that night for drinks.
But the day came and went and I didn't feel a thing.
The day didn't feel like Thanksgiving. The house didn't smell like Thanksgiving. And I didn't feel like being thankful for anything.
It was just a day. Actually, it was less then a day.
It was a blank stare. An empty piece of paper.
I'm not now, nor was I then, sad about it.
In fact, I barely even remember it happening.
And even though I'm surrounded by Christmas shit, some of which I've voluntarily included myself in ( parties, events, etc ) I don't have any feelings about it one way or the other.
It's strange. In the months after my mom died, I was actively and outwardly disinterested in involving myself in any kind of social activity. Be that with friends, family, co-workers, whomever. I went out of my way to either be unavailable or unpleasant so as not to be engaged in the first place. But that has subsided and has been replaced with a general blasé feeling.
Here's an embarrassing little secret about me….something you might not have known….I love Christmas music.
I do. I freely admit that. I don't listen to it all year round or anything. I'm not crazy. But from the end of November to December 25th, I play Christmas music nonstop. In fact, I'm listening to "Mambo Santa Mambo" by the Enchanters right now.
(check it out…it's pretty cool.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yY145VUxt0 )
Christmas music never fails to pick me up and get me in the holiday mood.
Except for now.
Now, it's like I'm immune to it.
And normally that would make me upset. But it's not.
I'm not even upset that I don't feel anything.
See if you can follow that.
And to make things even more confusing, I WANT to feel happy while listening to Christmas music.
But the fact that I'm not, actually makes me sad.
Lets recap what I just said..
Me: Not happy or sad about the holidays in general. I don't feel a thing either way.
Christmas Music: Always makes me happy. Except now.
Me: Not upset or sad that Christmas music is not working.
Christmas Music: "Santa's Doing the Mambo This Christmas"
Me: I WANT this song to make me happy.
Christmas Music: "Mambo Santa Mambo"
Me: Sad that Christmas music is not cheering me up.
Me: Still don't actually care about Christmas though.
Me: Don't care that I don't care about Christmas.
Christmas Music: "Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say…"
Me: Shut up Christmas Music.
I agree, this makes absolutely no sense at all.
But it is what it is.
In fact, the only thing I do feel, is that same overwhelming desire to see my mom again. If only for a minute.
This yearning is like being out in the ocean getting pummeled by waves. Over and over again.
No matter what you do or where you go, you're always treading water. Sometimes more so than others.
I WANT to see her. I WANT to hear her voice. I WANT to kiss her cheek. I WANT to hug her. I WANT to tell her how much I love her. No. Not want, I NEED to tell her. I NEED to say those words and I NEED her to hear me.
That desire, the urgency, is so strong and so powerful it literally has me jumping out of my own skin to make it happen.
It's like I'm reaching for something that's always just an inch out of grasp.
It's right there…I can't see it, but I know…I KNOW it's right there…I just need to reach a little further and I can grab it. I can finally hold it again…it's so goddamn close….why can't I reach it???
Then I blink my eyes and I shake my head and the reality of it all sinks in again.
I realize why.
I realize how far away what I'm looking for actually is.
I stand still for a few moments.
Not moving or saying a word.
Not even breathing.
And then I get back on with my day. Back to not feeling anything.
This state of nothing has kind of become the new normal for me.
I'm sure eventually this will pass and this overall blankness will morph into something else.
What that is, I have no idea.
However, I'm open to suggestions.
Anyway, I don't want this post to be a complete downer, so I'll leave you with a little holiday cheer…
Back when my brother and I were kids, my mom used to host a Christmas Eve party at our house. Which was always kind of funny because we're Jewish and not only did my mom not really care about Christmas, but she never drank and very rarely did she let other people, including adults, drink in her house.
The parties were mostly for people on our block, but occasionally some of my mom's co-workers would come by.
Every year, our neighbor, Joe Caracappa, would dress up as Santa Claus and hand out presents to us kids.
Now, when I say "dress up", what I mean is that he would physically put on a Santa Claus suit.
A suit that looked like it had seen a world war or two.
It was old.
Really really old.
And it smelled like stale beer and feet.
Normally, when you're a kid, and you see somebody dressed up as Santa Claus, even if it's a cheap homemade costume, you're childish sense of wonderment and suspension of disbelief kicks in and you think "Wow, There's the real Santa Claus! That's Him! He's in my house!!"
But not with Joe Caracappa. At no point did I think any of the kids ever really believed that Joe was the real Santa. At the very least, they hoped he wasn't.
Joe was a nice enough guy in the sense that he didn't go around picking fistfights with people, but he wasn't what I would call "kid friendly".
Even though he had three kids of his own.
In fact, I think the only reason my mom asked him to play Santa year after year was because he owned the suit and had a "rotund" figure.
But that's where the similarities between Joe and Santa ended.
"Jolly" would never be a word I would use to describe him.
Our yearly visit from St. Joe usually went something like this…
The scene: It's 11:55 pm. The kids have been waiting all night for Santa to arrive. There is a palpable feeling of excitement in the air. Just outside the side door of our house, you start to hear the faint sound of jingling bells.
Carol (my mom): You kids hear that? I think Santa Claus is here.
Kids: Yaaaayy! Santa's here!!!
Carol: (louder) I said, I think Santa Claus is here.
Carol: (walking towards the side door -louder still) I heard bells. I THINK SANTA IS HERE
Leona (Santa Joe's wife): (Yelling out the window) Joe get your ass inside!
Santa Joe: "Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas Everyone. I'm Santa Claus! Have You All Been Good Boys and Girls?"
At this point the smell of whisky fills the entire room.
It's obvious Santa has been enjoying some holiday cheer outside.
Santa Joe half walks / half stumbles to a rocking chair in the middle of the room and sits down.
Santa Joe: (in a big bellowing Santa voice) "Now lets see. I think I have some presents for all the good children." (turns and looks at my mom and says in his normal Long Island Italian accent voice) "Jesus Carol, don't you have a better chair? My ass is killing me" (turns back to the kids and back in big bellowing Santa voice) "Ho Ho Ho. Who's first?"
It's important to note, that was typically the end of the big Santa voice. After the initial entrance and introduction, Joe just went back to speaking like Joe. Which sounded a lot like Joe Pesci only with a deeper voice.
Santa Joe Pesci Caracappa reaches into his bag and pulls out a present.
Santa Joe: "This one is for Michael. Come over here and sit on Santa's lap"
The sitting on the lap bit was a photo op.
What happened was, Joe would call out each kid one at a time. You would walk over to him, sit on his lap, tell him you've been a good boy or girl and get your present. Then someone, usually Joe's wife Leona (Lea for short) would take your picture.
The problem is, this is what usually happened….
Santa Joe: "This one is for Michael. Come over here and sit on Santa's lap"
Michael cautiously walks towards Santa
Santa Joe: "C'mon Mike. Move your ass."
Santa Joe: ( to no one in particular ) "Jesus Christ this beard itches."
Michael, fearing for his own safety chooses not to sit on Santa's lap
Santa Joe: "Get up here. I ain't gonna fucking bite you"
Leona (Santa Joe's wife): Joe..I mean Santa, watch your mouth!
Santa Joe: "Lea be quiet. He knows I'm kidding."
Michael decides to sit on Santa's lap knowing that it's unlikely Santa will whack him with a room full of witnesses. Michael may be young, but even he knows that's not how the North Pole mafia operates.
Santa Joe: "So, Mike, have you been good?"
Michael: (nervously) "Yes…"
Santa Joe: "Yes? Yes what?"
Michael: "Yes, Santa."
Santa Joe: "And what did you ask Santa for this Christmas?"
Michael: "An X-Wing Fighter."
Santa Joe: "An X-Wing Wha? What's that?"
Michael: "It's A Star Wars toy."
Santa Joe: "Just what you need. More crap." (looks at my mom) Carol, did you get him an X-Wing whatever?"
My mom silently nods yes
Santa Joe: "Carol these kids need to play sports. Not with dolls"
Leona: "Jesus Joe…what's the matter with yoos" (yes, it was pronounced "yoos")
At this point, Michael starts to cry. This, in turn sets off a chain reaction of all the other kids crying.
Santa Joe: "See. Look. He's crying. Oh Christ they're all crying." (Looking at me) "Why are you crying?" (Looking at my mom) "Why's he crying?" (Looking at me) "Stop crying or I'm taking away your present."
This only makes me and all the other kids cry more. The room has now spiraled into a cacophony of wailing children.
Santa Joe: "Jesus Christ Carol…come get him. He won't stop crying."
Leona: "Wait, I gotta get the pichahh" (yes, it was pronounced "pichahh") "Smile"
Michael: Sobbing uncontrollably
* Click *
We have photo albums filled with pictures of kids crying on Santa's half-in-the-bag lap.
Year after year, the only thing that changes is the hair styles.
We might not be crying, but we are clearly not happy.
It may sound bad, but honestly I have very fond memories of those parties.
I'm sure the years of therapy have something to do with it, but fond memories nonetheless.
So for all you goyim out there, now you know the formula to a Jewish Christmas party.
1 part merriment…2 parts abject horror.
And with that, I say goodnight.
Happy Holidays everyone.
Mom, I love you more than you'll ever know.
And I miss you more than I could ever possibly explain.