Despite LA's vengeful autumn broil, the holidays used to start around October 1st for my family, through my daughter's 15th year. They'd last until early January when reality sloshed back in.
Then, in late September when Sashi was 16 -- just about the time the concept that she might not live in my house forever entered my brain-- I found myself simultaneously pre-celebrating October and mourning how quickly January would dislodge it. The conflict only intensified over these six years, especially after she left for college at NYU.
But last month I noticed I was no longer thrilled to the sweet silver sleighbell-ly music that seems to enthrall America this time of year. Good for me! I foresaw a serene month and a half that would transition easily to 2009 and its eventual run of hellish sunshiny Southern California days.
Soon after my apparent breakthrough into tranquility, Sashi decided to come home for Thanksgiving. At first I reacted equanimously (I'm studying Buddhism, which teaches non-attachment as the way to end suffering). But by the time we dragged her tractor-trailer of a suitcase into her room two nights before the holiday, I felt giddy launching into the baking, the cooking, the making of favorite recipes, the obsessing.
She returned to New York early this month, but I haven't been able to re-detach. Maybe that's because it's gloriously cold for this city, approximating actual winter. Plus my heat's not working.
There are parties. Our country's economic collapse made "It's a Wonderful Life" more poignant than ever. My normally fruitless efforts to find good fruitcake finally paid off with a sturdy confection whose cherry/pecan/cake ratio is nearly perfect. And I'm about to visit Sashi in New York. Perhaps this is seasonal happiness disorder.
Last weekend at a gathering with friends I ordered myself to stop feeling cozy during Dean Martin's "White Christmas," because coziness lasts as long as a job on a GM assembly line these days. Some lonely future December will come, warned I, when the Universal Trickster will mock me, twisting the song so it triggers only longing for this happy night.
The holidays have sucked me in again with their crackling fires, goodwill and great sales, even as January constructs its inevitable return-to-reality heartbreak. This is why I'm studying Buddhism. Maybe it will start working by next year.