I was born on Christmas day. When I tell people this, they all have the same reaction. Christmas? Really? Oh wow, that must suck. Quite frankly they are right. It does, sharing your birthday with the baby Jesus blows. Saying this, I still love Christmas in a way only a dyke reared. agnostic cynic can. My daughter wants to know if Santa is real, and I refuse to tell her he is not because part of me thinks maybe, if I just believed. he would be. One too many watchings of Miracle on 34th Street I guess.
My family Christmas never involved Christ. In fact, in our household the ladies would sneak into churches on the eve and "steal" a flame from a prayer candle. They called it taking back the light. We would have a winter solstice dinner on the 24th where we would sit around the table, each with a long thin unlit candle in our hands. One person would start, and light their candle from the stolen flame and then say something about the year that passed and some hopes for the year that was coming. Then they would kiss the person next to them and light their candle and the next person would do as the the one before until all the candles were lit. We ate tourtiere and had sweet perogies for desert. The ritual, as it was called ended sometime in my late 20s, after everyone had moved off and new families were made.
Christmas morning had tons of people and presents and fresh baked croissants with scrambled eggs and bacon. I go over to my sisters these days with my daughter and my mum and we still eat the same thing. My family is small though. and three adults and three kids makes for a fairly sparse Christmas dinner. My sister cooks and amazing turkey. There is an emptiness to me though, around that table. I am missing my other mothers, the noise and the wine and the laughing. My mother and sister are civilized, refined and it is quite polite.
I married a man who had a huge family, so my daughter knows the chaos and fun of a house filled with cousins. I think my husband would dread it, but I was in love. I was in love with the chaos, the slightly too drunk aunt, the ten kids rampaging through with shiny new toys. Mountains of paper and bows and sticky sweet fingers looking for batteries. The family was so big the grown ups did not buy each other gifts beyond some home made cookies, or a Toblerone bar. My mother in law would take me aside in a separate room and give me a special gift. One for my birthday, although I knew it was because she liked me best. I liked her best too.
My husband and I split about a year ago. I have not seen my in laws since. I miss them often and regret that it is too painful for him to have me join sometime. I know he could not bear it, so I understand that it can't happen. I did not really realize till afterwards that divorce was about more than a couple, it was about a separating of family. I lost a large part of mine, and Christmas has made me mourn that this year.
This year I am presented with a night all alone. I will have a morning with my ex and daughter, and eggs and bacon at my sisters, and a polite turkey dinner with a very nice wine and some tasty appetizer crafted out of a Bon Apetit back issue. My daughter will be rampaging with her cousins and aunts and uncles at my ex's, and I will go home to my tree and my dog and face the night by myself for the very first time. I feel dark about this. I wish I did not. I wish I had not joined the ranks of the holiday disappointed. My maudlin cliché reaction to an emotionally charged holiday.
Truth be told, I am not alone. I am not neglected. I am spoiled. Spoiled by having had too many good Christmases.
It has been a formative year and i think perhaps what I really need to do is light a candle. Light a candle and say something about the one that has past and something about my hopes for the year that is coming
So, goddesses, this is what I have to say:
I am grateful for my friends, the ones who gave me love and let me into their lives this year. They welcomed me into their "web" and I love being caught in their world. I am grateful for the kisses my daughter gives me unsolicited and plentiful. I am grateful this year for the man who showed me love and affection and kindness and for his perfect lips. I am even grateful to math, for kicking my ass, which needed a firm boot upside it.
I hope the next year brings me closer into the hearts of my new friends. I hope that I rest more and treat my body more kindly. I hope that I can find the balance between family, school, work, myself and love. I hope that those people around me who have had losses and pain this year find the new one brighter and lighter. I hope to plan, on the 24th of December 2012, a raid into a church, to steal a light so that I can sit around a table with meat pie and polish sweet dumplings and kiss the lips of those closest to me and see if some of these wishes had been fulfilled.
Don't worry, the next post will be funny.
Monday, December 5, 2011
I was sitting around a table one night after my play rehearsal getting to know my cast members in a more intimate way. Somehow that lead to stories of urination. How we got there , I am not really sure, but that is where we were and it was only going to take a turn for the worse. We were talking about the strangest place we had all peed. Nobody had really peed anywhere all that strange, although certainly there had been questionable choices. Ones like in the garbage can of their childhood camp cabin. or behind a mailbox, or on a friend. The thing is, it lead to a story. Regular readers will know I love a good story.
This story is particularly unnerving, because it is impossible to believe that it is true, but it was being told by the person it happened to. It has all the elements of a perfect urban myth... but she swears that it actually happened to her. First I will tell it, and then, well then, I will get to the complicated emotional reaction I had to it.
My friend is Chinese. She grew up in China. She told us that when she was there, some twenty odd years ago, that she had relatives that lived in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. She said this village was remote, very very remote. They did not have electricity. or indoor plumbing. She stressed that "back then" these villages were totally non westernized, completely traditional and technological advancements had not touched them.
Well my friend, only five at the time, had to go to the bathroom. She said to us, they had no toilet paper. Seasoned world traveller that I pretend to be, I say, sure, lots of places use their hands or water to clean themselves. She said , well they used dogs. Dogs? Yes, dogs, to lick them clean. She said they made her bend over and have her ass licked by a dog, whose sole household duty seemed to be the nether region hygiene of their masters.
My brain imploded when she told me this because my first thought was, is she just making fun of my white privilege..seeing if she can make a bunch of stupid Canadians believe that the Chinese have a village where ass licking dogs are valued members of the family? Was she somehow playing in to Westerners love of being repulsed by Asian dog cuisine and referring to it every time they eat in a Chinese restaurant? How could I retell this story without coming off like some Coldwar era Bugs Bunny cartoon, repleat with slanty eyes and buck teeth parodies? And holy fuck, if this is actually true, how does THAT make me feel?
I started to think about the dogs, wondering if perhaps they were repaying some karmic debt. I also have a dog, and he loves poo, and I thought, that would be dog heaven for him, so maybe there is no karmic debt, and what the hell is wrong with me, lumping all Asian cultures and religious beliefs into one? Do Chinese buddhists even have a karmic concept and are they even frickin buddhists in that remote village? My anti oppressive theory readings ringing in my head, scolding me for my racists assumptions and generalizations. I had renewed respect for my friend as I had absolutely no idea if I should believe her and she was extremely convincing. Was she fucking with me? If she was, I respected that. If she wasn't then what a crazy good story she had.
And then I started thinking about the bestiality angle of the whole concept. Wondering if people took the dog to the bathroom for longer than required times, Was there an element of pleasure here, and maybe the good wife of the household, neglected by her husband, might be enjoying her evacuation time just a little too much? I started to warm to the concept and think maybe this was a genius idea, a symbiotic, man/beast environmental solution to deforestation. Why not use dogs? Better than bleach and trees.
I suppose my meandering point is that I am amazed by what a story can do, how it can be hilarious, disturbing, evocative and quite simply incredible. Incredible is the perfect word. So good you can't believe it. I want to believe it , but then it fills me with the unbalanced feeling of being simultaneously horrified and filled with wonder at the prospect of ridding myself of toilet paper forever. Why not have this be the next North American appropriation of Asian culture? The zen of canine. My friend would no doubt pee herself laughing at the thought of us.