And I know that somewhere / Things still go on the same / But it gets hard when the time you’re living in is now passed / In my mind we still live there / All this time feels like I’ve gone nowhere / It can get lonely living with ghosts / You’re in my heart till I die / So I ran to the mountains / Ran as far as I could / Got to find a new life / Wouldn’t do me any good / ‘Cause it gets hard when the one you’re thinking of is no longer. . . – “Living With Ghosts”, Smoke Fairies
When N. was the Senior Druid of our grove, she always described the Yule ritual as almost a kind of mania where you’re laughing and then you’re crying and then you’re laughing and then you’re crying and you have no idea how you got from one to another. It’s the season, she would shrug. Everyone’s got that one perfect memory of Christmas that they’re trying to recreate while the reality of the season with disappointments and bitching relatives bears down on them. The egregore is just wonky. It’s impossible for it not to be with such highs and lows.
I always sort of shrugged it off. I was not prone to such flights of highs and lows during the season. For me, it was always a marathon. How will I pay for every gift, wrap everything, make everything and then the two-to-three day Ironman of Christmas Eve with my Mom’s side, Christmas morning with my immediate family, Christmas dinner with my Dad’s side, a party Christmas Day Night with our friends and then Boxing Day with Jow’s family.
This year I got to understand for the first time what N. meant. Sure, I tried to to get into the spirit by decorating our tiny home. I bought my presents free and clear for possibly the first time ever. Things were chugging along until the day before Christmas Eve when I was buying the cucidati since my uncle was not here to make them with my mom. I tried to shake off the mantle of darkness I could feel settling over me but it was no good. By the time I was home making struffoli, all I could feel was bleakness. I decided to make a little offering plate for my uncle and lit the candle he gave me just last Christmas. Samhain may be when the veil is the thinnest but it wasn’t a time that my family understands or marks really. (She keeps making our favorite food on Halloween, I imagine them saying, I have no idea why. I wish she’d just give us some candy. Yeah but the good stuff! Hershey’s kisses or something!) Christmas Eve is something they are keenly aware of.
I sat in the dark on the floor in front of my ancestor shrine sobbing so hard into my apron, I thought I would break. I don’t want to do this without you. I don’t know where you are. Are you in heaven with my dad, D., A., grandma, grandpa, Uncle A. and Aunt A.? Is Aunt A. yelling at you that you’re late for dinner as usual? I want to believe that the afterlife is Aunt A.’s basement with the big table and the second kitchen and the little rubber ball that was our only toy there and that everyone is eating and laughing and shouting and arguing. But I don’t know. I don’t know. I am so lost without you. I don’t want to do this without you. I want you here with us. We need you here with us but you’re not and you won’t be again. I would do anything to be back in Aunt A.’s basement and for all of us to be together. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t what I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t know how to do the things I’m supposed to do and make a living. You were the only one in the family who understood on an ontological level what I’m trying to do and now you’re gone and no one does. You left me here alone. I can’t without you, I just can’t.
I couldn’t talk about it. The hole in my heart was too big to talk about yet. So I cleaned the shrine, put on some perfume oil from the crossroads and put it in the hands of my god/desses and ancestors. I drank some wine and watched the older version of Little Women with young Katherine Hepburn and tried to calm down.
That morning I woke up with a few crystallized revelations; I needed to write write an allotted amount of words and outline for x book, y book and z book. X book needed to be fixed with this way and I needed to start researching for Y book as soon as I was finished reading the book I was reading. I started to think about 2014 because NYE resolutions are for suckers. The real work starts now.
Christmas Eve at my Mom’s house was busy enough that I didn’t have to think, I could just cook and hide in the kitchen and be with my family. I made an antipasto tray, we had brined a turkey, my mom made her mashed potatoes and I could bark orders at family members like my grandmother’s generation did to each other. And when it got close to dinner, my nephew did as we used to, hopping around the kitchen, weaving around us like an excited cat as we kept hustling him back out of the kitchen. We ate and laughed and argued and opened presents. I was exhausted by 8p but I couldn’t sleep. I read my book and found myself up late.
Christmas Day we opened presents at my mom’s and had a proper Jersey breakfast. (We eat this ON PURPOSE! ON PURPOSE, PEOPLE FROM OTHER PLACES! It likely only tastes good if you were born here and lived here all your life. We’re like crayfish, we die in unpolluted water. Take that, heart!)
Jow and I went home in between breakfast and my Aunt and Uncle’s. We were supposed to deposit a check at a bank that’s about five minutes from our home. No prob, right? Except we can’t find the fucking check. And suddenly, my mom and her crazed squirrely searches for missing things started to make sense because we didn’t say, No big, we’ll find it tomorrow and use this time to watch old movies or sleep or rest.
No. We used that time to dig through the trash like rabid raccoon. Not a raccoon, Jow pointed out. Raccoons are smart and methodical. Nothing about what we did was that. We’re squirrels at best. At. Best. This was shameful. The check was in a place that made sense retrospectively but it took us an hour and change to get to that point. And a trashcan full of coffee grounds. But we trudged along and collected xp. By the time we were at the bank, I was laughing in that crazed sort of way that one does right before a complete psychotic break.
We came home and exchanged gifts ourselves, downing shots of joie and listening to the new Yule edition of Numinosis, our home clean for once due to my manic round of trying to control what I control, the greenery in our home becoming brittle and dry.
This Yule was exactly what N. talked about; the moments of happiness were so ecstatic, clear and perfect that it hurt. The moments of sadness so dark and painful that it was hard to bear.
‘Tis the season.