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Ohara Koson: Kingfisher (1935)
" … new traditions never intended to become our future imperatives."

I understand just as well as any next person the sacred obligations each holiday lays upon us. We are each enjoined to at least attempt to recreate some utterly mythical, paradoxical ideal scenario in homage to some past that never actually happened, the purpose of which always gets promised as contributing to the net volume of joy in this world or gratitude or something. It's always something. We go as crazy as an ant hill on fire to achieve the understood ideal. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) often results, and understandably so, for given an absolutely unachievable necessity, you'd have to be crazy not to be driven insane by trying to pursue it. Still, when Thanksgiving comes around, we're inevitably dusting off the old Pilgrim hat, often unconsciously, while envisioning ourselves in a Normal Rockwell illustration of the mythical grandma and gramps laying an impossibly huge and perfectly roasted turkey on an already over-laden table. The thought of achieving anything less should depress you. When it comes to holiday celebration, it's damned whatever you do when recreating. We hold OldFashioned as our standard. Might NewFashioned hold some promise?

I was reminded of the delight accompanying NewFashioned when looking at our newly-fashioned window and door trim, which our carpenter fashioned to suggest a heritage they clearly never held.
He could not faithfully recreate the original trim because the original trim rather betrayed what The Villa's style of house properly should have had, either that, or a later fire necessitated recreating the original but cheaper. We built what we chose, neither an imposed luxury we couldn't afford nor a forced economy we could never have lived with, but a NewFashioned something else. Our NewFashioned trim produces what we intended it to create without us having to emulate any other's intentions. It was our invention, not true to form but true to us instead. I wondered why holidays couldn't be like that. I believe that they can, or could be, and maybe they already are.

It seems to this self-admittedly naive observer that nobody's holiday ever quite manages to match the ideal. We squint and squeeze and make believe until we achieve some crude resemblance, but we none of us ever successfully recreate our ideal. In such instances, we're wise to blame the comparator. We might just as well judge our own experience superior to any loftily-held ideal, given that our experience was real and its comparator, notional. We could serve a roast Spam® for Christmas if our own Christmas spirit would allow it, and why not? When I look back at the holidays I've actually had, I see no Norman Rockwell paintings but I also see nothing particularly embarrassing other than the airs that I might have attempted to include in my celebration muting it. I've seen my share of actual holiday traditions, from people crowding around televisions to the women folk sequestering in the kitchen and while we've never turned on the TV to celebrate anything, and Norman Rockwell never created an illustration in celebration of gridiron addiction, the actual activity's probably not the significant point of any holiday.

On exile, The Muse and I hosted an Exile's Christmas and invited others displaced like us for the holidays. We shared a goose and spilled our wine together, utterly unlike any of our individual Older-Fashioned traditions. Ours was a unique Christmas, just like every one before, but notably unique by who could not be there. It was, in retrospect, who attended that made the season bright, like when The Muse's brother's family dropped in for The 4th of July last summer and we celebrated like none of us ever had before with not a single firework blown to smithereens, a NewFashioned holiday we'll likely never forget. Lord, please help prevent us from attempting to recreate that past, for it was never intended to become a tradition and never once existed as we remember. It was, like most celebrations, a one-time event, never to be repeated, which made it truly sacred. With all due respect to our paradoxical and mythical cultural imperatives, I think that The Muse and I might deliberately fall rather short of those marks again this season. Come Christmas, I'll hark herald angels with poems, not carols. Thanksgiving will bring some family and some new traditions never intended to become our future imperatives. The Muse thinks she might spatchcock that turkey.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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