Christmas morning is gone, the tree has lost its lure and somehow its glittery skirt fails to cover the nudity. We’re all a bit richer in material, a bit less hopeful, and glad it’s over. A plastic bag holds crumpled shell of anticipation and boxes no longer hold mysteries. There’s a soothing lull in my kitchen and the mere thought of leftovers is soothing.
Looking back, I realize how nothing has changed over the decades. It seems as if every year I’m a few more days behind in my preparation, presents are never any easier to pick and gift wrapping is pushed back a notch into the late hours of the night. Strong thoughts of those who are deprived, leaves a bad taste in the ritual. After all, this is their holiday, not mine. Guilt pushes me and I donate to food banks, buy toys for tots and stuff more money into the bucket a man is holding outside the supermarket. Playing Santa to a few does nothing for the hidden sadness. Who am I fooling? Every year it seems worse and it’s clear that none of my silly efforts can make a dent in the ongoing misery. What about the day after Christmas? Who’s feeding them now? Who buys them blankets, warm socks, Medicines? Who will love the loveless? This holiday is done, but what about the next? Who’s going to fill the gaps in this huge dark hole we call humanity?
Bells have ceased to jingle. The guy from Salvation Army has already counted what’s in his red bucket. No one exactly knows how much of what goes where, but still, most of us hope enough to pay. Santa goes on a long sabbatical and hunger and cold will remain the dark clouds over many homes. How many cans of beans will it take to free an elaborate meal from heavy guilt? How many glittery outfits will Neiman Marcus sell this season? And I’m not sure the guy driving that yellow Ferrari in La Jolla can break in time to hand out a dollar to the homeless on Torrey Pines.
So I can’t change the world. That has been clear ever since I grew up, but why can’t the damn world change me? When am I going to grow up enough to know that nothing I do will amount to much? Heck, nothing even Bill Gates does is going to make much of a difference. The world has always had takers and so few givers. It’s in that lack of balance that humanity tips.
Now what? Does this mean I should tolerate the wrong? But isn’t that harder even? Maybe I’ll find a way to help with the upcoming Norooz. Maybe my daughter’s idea of gym shoes for the needy wasn’t so bad. Maybe direct cash is best, especially when I know someone who knows someone. Then again, maybe I should go through a charity organization and make it tax-deductable!
There is no joy in the season and the best one can do is not to give in to its misery. Give a little and keep guilt at bay. It’s a gift to yourself. What is the current rate for an ounce of peace, and how many pounds of joy for a dollar? The after-Christmas-trees remind me of corpses, dressed and all made-up for one last viewing. The mummified will keep the colors, a few will be burned and others decompose with time. These cadavers once held someone’s hopes and dreams. I think of the expression “Holiday Blues.” Isn’t that the oxymoron?
Zohreh Ghahremani is the author of Sky of Red Poppies, winner of One Book, One San Diego 2012.