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Super Friends by Whitney Holwadel Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at Super Friends: Reflections - past and present - on the season

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reflections - past and present - on the season

This may be the first incarnation of "Santa Kid." Like all children, Whit had boundless enthusiasm for the season. In his case this included becoming what we all referred to as Santa Kid. Some years he would just wear the hat, but it was a family tradition right up until our last Christmas as a family.

Whit and I wrote annually about what the season meant to us and how we were handling the separation. Here are some excerpts from letters in 2008/2009. Ellipses are where I cut.

To Whit, December 9, 2008

...Speaking of which, it's getting time to pull out my DVD of "It's a Wonderful Life" again. That's the other tradition I observe, along with reading that Washington Irving Christmas chronicle "Old Christmas." I put up a few small decorations in the house, as much for visitors (including I suppose Maryl) as for myself, and continue to forego a tree until you're home again. It's not in the spirit of a sacrifice, but rather because I simply don't feel like it. I've always loved the days leading up to Christmas, but those feelings aren't so much associated with a religious view - though there is, I suppose, a residual non-denominational component to it - as a general feeling of, or at least longing for, a connectedness with family. Partly an appreciation for what is, and partly a nostalgic desire for what isn't. My feelings for the movie reflect all this, I think. Visiting Bedford Falls, where ultimately everybody feels interconnected and goodness is finally rewarded, is a welcome if temporary respite from the greed, exploitation and meanness we face every day in Pottersville. Which of course pales in comparison with the levels of this you are surrounded by in the Terre Haute equivalent of Pottersville....

From Whit, December 13, 2008

...I certainly understand the sentiment you attach to the Christmas tree and also your reasoning for not wanting to put one up. I'm actually trying to imagine what I would do in that situation. Actually, I think I would put one up. There's certainly a strong association with family to that particular tradition but it's just that association that would drive me to still bust out the lights and ornaments every December. It would serve as a sort of tribute to the memories of when the family was together and a reminder of what's waiting for us all when (most of) the family is back together again. That's me, though. And chances are how I feel in my imagination is sharply different from how I'd feel in reality....

From Whit, February 17, 2009

...Before I forget! I finished Washington Irving's Old Christmas a few days ago and loved it. While the book's effects would certainly be much greater around the actual Christmas season [the book shipment was predictably delayed in the prison], even reading the book in February provided me with that lighthearted, blissful feeling usually associated with spending time with loved ones around December 25th. The chapter containing an English coachman's dignities was fantastic! Great, great book; one I'm going to keep around to read whenever I'm feeling blue. Thank you for sending it!...

To Whit, February 17, 2009

...I'm really glad to hear you liked Irving's Old Christmas. I have read this at Christmas time every year since I bought the book in 1978, when I found it at the Irving museum (his home) in Tarrytown, NY while I was in that part of the country recruiting for Ohio Wesleyan University. I'm pretty sentimental at heart, and reading the book is a tradition that means a lot to me. The book is full of observations that make sense to me, but one that stands out are these lines: "The world has become more worldly. There is more of dissipation, and less of enjoyment. Pleasure has expanded into a broader, but a shallower stream, and has forsaken many of those deep and quiet channels where it flowed sweetly through the calm bosom of domestic life." (underline mine). That part rings absolutely true with me, the idea that when we expand our pleasures into innumerable divisions, it's inevitable that we can't feel as deeply about any of them, and especially the ones that really matter. It's a wonderful image, reflecting the topographical reality that as a water system widens and splits it becomes shallower. Looking at myself, I seem to have a few things that I look to for pleasure - the guitar, photography, motorcycling, a renewed interest in astronomy - in addition to my work. But it's always been important to me to keep my life relatively simple, focusing on family and friends, keeping that as the deep center of my life and making decisions based on cultivating and honoring that most meaningful part of me. Irving's language is of course highly antiquated, with many of the words having much different meanings from their current usage ("...the calm bosom of domestic life..." sounds really corny even to me), but I can easily overlook that when I remember when he was writing. I know what he means, and that's what counts....

From Whit, February 24/25, 2009

...It's funny that you mentioned the line "Pleasure has expanded into a broader but shallower stream" as being one of your favorites in the book because I've got that one underlined as well. It's been a few years since my reading of David Copperfield but from what I remember Irving's style of writing is a lot like Dickens'. Dickens also had that ability to pull out the emotion in his settings and atmospheres. Plus they've both got that 19th century lingo....

This year my coping strategy seems to be blocking out everything associated with Christmas, especially the ornamental and symbolic aspects. Once again there will be no tree, and this time no decorations of any sort. I do have Maryl's and Whit's stockings hung. There's no cause for any "reminder of what's waiting for us all when (most of) the family is back together again."

1 comment:

cieldequimper said...

Thank you, this is a wonderful Christmas present.
As for the photograph, I just want to give him a hug.