Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sieved Christmas

My Dylan Thomas Christmas Essay (For AP Lang)

I must have five million memories of Christmas, but I think I’ve stored them in the section of my brain labeled “too obscure to remember clearly.” The Christmas traditions of fruit cake and candy canes, gingerbread houses with falling down roofs, tinsel on trees and popcorn strings, mulled apple cider served with cinnamon sticks but is really too hot to drink through the stirring straw, so I burn my mouth and hope that it will feel normal before I wake up the next morning--for me these memories don't exist, so movies and songs and stories that children read by the fire on Christmas Eve are not reminiscent for me, nor are they helpful in retrieving my own memories; the real memories are strange and sweet, shimmering away from me like decorative lights reflected on the wet street at night.

I can’t remember why I thought that it was Christmas, and maybe it shouldn’t count as a Christmas memory, but when I ran through the hallway down to the living room right after receiving my new tricycle, my dad asked me what I was doing and I said, “Where’s the tree?” He answered, “It’s not Christmas!” in a surprised, offended sort of way, like, “We only give you anything worth getting on Christmas?” Maybe it was my birthday, actually, but I decided to store it in the Christmas pile of my dilapidated memory center, so now it is more closely associated with absent Christmas trees and riding a tricycle through a silent house on an early morning, which is actually just like a Christmas morning.

I can’t remember why my parents let me go out in the middle of the night when Jarred came to wake me up because it was snowing. Normally that was the kind of thing that I would be barred from, going out in the middle of the night because it was snowing, yet I went, and we walked through town towards another friend’s house, and we soon had a group of teenagers glad to be young enough to enjoy snow by street lamps and deserted roads. While we walked in a line taking up the whole road, we ran down the street picking up snow to throw back at each other, while laughing and wrestling into the yards of people we did not know. After we were cold enough we watched a movie on a warm couch though I don’t remember which movie, I remember that my friend said my hair was soft and I felt my eyes close in sleep before I could decide what to do about his hand sitting lightly on the top of my head.

I can’t remember how old I was when I went sledding on the White’s steep hill by their house and Susan and I walked up to the top of the hill and rode double on an innertube without any handles. We spun around and around so I could tell only from the skyscape that we were getting too close to the trees; the thick whiteness of the cloud cover switched quickly to green as I felt us shooting over the ground off the side of the hill and down into the wooded area. We both knew instinctively that we were doomed and unable to work anything out so I grabbed her arms and she pulled in too, still I couldn’t feel anything underneath us until I decided that the best thing to do would be to close my eyes. I opened them after I was firmly on the ground, and laughed quickly when I saw that I was alright, but when I looked over at Susan’s face, we saw that she was not alright, also because she said, “Stop laughing. My forehead is hurt.” I looked at the ground and saw spots of bright red blood making little imprints into the snow, like footprints, because it melted down from the heat of her veins.We walked back to the White’s house and I felt sheepish about laughing and tried to show my empathy by saying, “I think my head hurts a little too”, but I was completely serious.

I can’t remember any Christmases in Hawaii except for the year that we were living at Adam’s house and my present from my parents came two weeks late; my disappointment in our Christmas day was trampled by the fact that I was away from my family, and that Jake's family had needed to celebrate a day early. I am a firm believer in actual day celebrations, because alternate day celebrations are just posing as “I’ll make it up to you” excuses. My only Christmas memory in Hawaii so far is tainted with mixed feelings of guilt and selfishness and some sort of self-belief in true celebration. We got the box from my parents, and in it were some random items that I am unable to recall, but were of course fun, because my mom sends political articles, endless varieties of rice and grains, and other helpful and useful goods that somehow express love through a box, but the special part of the gift was an ionic hairbrush. I used it dutifully even with my personal commitment to a 30-year-old brush, and Bekah mistook it for an antique when I left it in the Palmer’s trunk that was full of junk to give away. I hope there is a Salvation Army shopper with smooth locks of hair. With that one gone, I had to return to the use of my actually antique hairbrush, for which I have never been able to find a suitable replacement.
I can't remember any specific traditions that my family has for Christmas, although for several years my mom got a "honey baked ham" from the actual store of the same name, and we were never a traditional dinner type of family. We have lots of pictures from our Christmas dinners that are a medley of American and Japanese foods, because my mom wasn't really an American food cook. My dad told me that I used to try and offer seaweed to my friends and they would say things like, "What the heck is this?" which is exactly what my I was thinking when my mom first made a Tuna Casserole with potato chips on top: "What the heck is this?" One time we went to another person's house for Christmas Eve dinner, and I remember that they had turkey, and rolls, and all sorts of foods that you see in commercials, and it really does look very lovely. I can't remember why I felt so uncomfortable among all of those commercial but beautiful looking foods, cranberries and potatoes and gravy in a boat, but I thought it was weird that we were sitting there with other commercial but beautiful looking families with blond headed kids and sweet cherub cheeks.

I suddenly can only remember this Christmas we are in Hawaii, enjoying the sun and Wailele on Christmas Eve. Amaya tries to get in even though she has no swimsuit and we are sitting up above the pool. "Mammy! Mammy!" she calls out as Pam swims and plays peekaboo behind the falling water. Jake and I talk about the last Christmas I can remember before we have Amaya and apparently my good memories are tainted by the fact that he was depressed because that was the Christmas before his dad died, and we knew that it would be soon. While we work on gift wrapping and a puzzle, a tradition I've picked up from Ron and I love if only for that reason, Jake tells me about Ron's installations with presents he made when they were kids. At first it's a negative memory, because Ron spent all day working on it and the kids had to stay out of the room, but then his voice picks up when he says how his dad made a city of Bethlehem and a train and even a nativity scene all made of wrapped presents. I have no right to the memory, but I enjoy recreating it and having a small piece of Jake's childhood to share with our growing family. We open presents with Amaya in the morning, and the Jacksons (Mike and Bryan) show up to play with her and presents while we eat Christmas french toast. Everyone plays ping pong and jumps on the trampoline while I tidy up for our upcoming Christmas dinner, when everyone will be here again. Suf Jean Stevens says that he gets That Creepy Christmas Feeling, and I agree, and like him, I enjoy it. I can feel that it is starting to pass as the day wanes; I miss it already.

The memories reflect light and I enjoy them as I walk in our neighborhood on Christmas day's night. Jake takes pictures of snow under walkway lights, and my dad just enjoys the brisk air but I burrow my face down into my jacket. This is Jake's first real time in snow, because he's never made a snowman and he tries to build it like a sand castle, dropping snow together and packing it in. I laugh at him because you really do roll it up like you see on TV, and he thinks that's silly at first, but soon he's rolling huge snowballs all over the yard and the snow is ruined, but he looks happy when he sits down on top of one because it's too big to move anymore. It seems like no one lives here, among all of these lights, trees, snow, and houses, but we walk here in the silent night of memories I can't quite remember.


Smiths said...

Taj loved this clip of amaya and asked to see it about a hundred times. We can hardly wait to see you guys next week! Thanks for the family memories too, I had forgotten to stop and think about them as much as I should have.

Bekah said...

Cute. Miriam was really into the itsy bitsy spider for a long time. I love how kids let you perform, then clap. "Good job mom".

Damaris @Kitchen Corners said...

The essay was so good. It helped me think about my memories. I love Amaya so much. thanks for sharing her cuteness with us.