Mother woke me up at about 8 AM to check on the garden, she had her thin green plastic gloves on, and her sun hat that frayed slightly at the edges, and she had a smile that said Have I got an adventure for you today Darcy. We went to the flowerbed right beside the front door and there was an eyestalk growing from the ground. It was Great Aunt Leontine’s (and I know it was hers because it kept searching the window for the little trays of cookies she would leave out, and my brother and I would steal, when he still lived here). I had no idea who buried her there, but Mother seemed pretty content and fed it and the veins along its side sort of convulsed in a seemingly pleased way when she did. This is probably because my uncle who lives in South Dakota planted Grandpa and last Christmas he sent us a card with a photo of a leg squirming out of the earth with the caption “Me and the Old Man, still kicking!”.
That night after everyone went to sleep I had to look out my bedroom window and Leontine’s eyestalk had grown out maybe another quarter of an inch and was peering around the front of the house in a very lumbering way. I saw the tips of her manicured fingers wriggling slightly in the dirt and I guess it really is like Mother said, that they’re never really gone.
By the next week, when I had to go back to school (it was Christmas break, and when I asked Mother why we planted Leontine in the winter she said a woman as strong as her could grow any time of the year) her hand had shot out of the ground enough to wave goodbye as I got on the school bus, and sometimes Mother would show her my homework and spelling bee awards and get those signs of positive reaffirmation and she would say Darcy Dear, I am so proud of you. And for a while, piece by piece, Leontine was there, her nose took root not too far from the window and we would let her smell the casseroles and pies and other things we made and her eye would dilate as if to say Thank you.
But one day I came home from school and I got off of the bus and Mother was there, crying, and Father was holding the weed-eater behind him, and the whole front of the house was covered in little specks and splatters of blood. I tried to ask what happened but it was pretty clear that there was no getting Great Aunt Leontine back now, and that tomorrow they were going to come with a big backhoe and put her somewhere else. Somewhere she could Rest In Peace.
Too often we yearn for even a drip Of that nostalgia-juice to enter our mouth-galaxies, Until we are shouting “Where are the space invaders?” Or our sugared up heads can’t handle any more And collapse like origami in reverse.
And what five year old didn’t want to be an astronaut?
We held our ray guns too high and thought they were Sunbeams–at least until we learned to recognize the glint Of cheap plastic, anyway.
Or remember when we saw light outside our window And were desperate children gripping our sheets, waiting For an encounter of the third, fourth, or eleventh kind? But besides, when you learn that planets are mostly gas, the real fun is taken out of it.
Or when we thought we could offer the earth salvation with heart?
Or when we set our phasers to stun and froze indescribable Green men into victory statues?
Or when the monsters were under the bed instead of in them?
Or the last voyage of the coca-cola bottle, coating the stars in fizz?
It’s been awhile since I’ve been rooting through your endless, ribbed shelves of dusty paperbacks, perusing the eighties movies, and scavenging for bargain CD’s. While I do think of you sometimes, daydreaming of the overwhelming smell of old books, and glass bottles of soda, we needed this time apart. You’ve always had some evil power over me, making me want to stay for hours and hours even though you haven’t had a bathroom since I was 7, and being too awkward to go to the next store over, I’ve held my bladder at gun point so I can find just the right book every time.
You’ve made me accumulate dozens of novels I’m sure I’m never, ever, EVER going to read. But you convinced me to buy them anyway. A Latin to Spanish dictionary! It’s only two dollars! I keep falling to the seductive force of yet another Edgar Allan Poe short story collection because it has one story I’ve never read before, or a poem, or the cover’s just cool. But I’m done with that. I’m done with your hypnotic halls of history books, the pile of free posters I can’t help but look through. I won’t let the prospect of another brown bag sale drag me over to your place again, at least, not this year.
I know you’ll be in my life again soon enough. I won’t be able to resist your siren’s call for long, but until then, I’ll appreciate this time apart.
This is a love letter to your countless forms: comedy, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, and even horror. You are, at this point, your own art form. Taking themes of generosity and caring, or even just the immortal Santa Claus and weaving a thousand stories from them. There are your classics, of course. Movies like Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer with its claymation cast, that always bring back feelings of nostalgia for Christmases past. Or A Christmas Story, whose famous line “You’ll shoot your eye out!” has been heard by almost any kid who has received a BB gun for Christmas.
You also have modern movies that made their way into our hearts just like the old ones did. One particular favorite of mine being Elf, starring Will Ferrell as a man who grew up in the North Pole, but then goes to New York in search of his father. This movie nails the classic Christmas themes of giving, and also has plenty of laughs along the way. But what really makes this movie special is that in my house around Christmas it is always playing, and I mean, always playing. The small TV in the kitchen is screening Elf in a constant loop as we dash about the house, getting everything ready for our big family gathering. It’s practically a measurement of time at my house, an acceptable response to “What time is it?” being “Three runs of Elf past noon”
But, the greatest thing about you, is that like any other genre there are some wonderfully weird films. One I love is Santa Conquers The Martians. Which is, in all honesty, a terrible movie. But it shows the variety and originality you can have. The story of santa being kidnapped by martians, who have no one to give their children presents, is just one of many examples.
As I look forward to more of you this December, watching the oldies, and even seeing new exciting films, I never want to forget the awe, nostalgia, and joy you bring me every year.