A week from today I’m going home…for a visit…for two weeks.
Two weeks of reunions, refreshment, renewal, resuscitation, rejuvenation, revitalization, and I suspect a bit of recrimination and re-evaluation.
I haven’t been home for the holidays since 2003.
I can’t say I’m a holiday groupie. But, I am a fan. It’s sort of a guilty pleasure. I generally go in to the season with low expectations so I’m rarely let down. In fact, often, when I let it, the holidays can do a real number on me. You won’t find me dressed up like Santa or caroling at people’s doors or anything like that, but I have been known to smile excessively and say “How’s it going, Yo?” to people I don’t know.
You know, cheery, just this side of giddy.
Some people say expect the best and prepare for the worst. God, I like the optimism with a twist of pragmatism of that kind of thinking. So, this year, that’s the spirit I intend to bring home with me.
A couple of years ago, I did a series about my last trip home, called “Home Alterations”. But, that time around was very different. It was practically a fly-by (I was only in town for a few days). The only agenda I had was to do a little hands on support for Obama and be On Location for the event of a lifetime. How could I tell my kids (if I should happen to have some one day) that when the most inspirational game-changing presidential candidate I’ve ever seen was elected I was in Japan watching it on TV? No way!
But, this time around there’s no major event to distract me.
Actually, Christmas has always been a non-starter in the Loco household. Kwanzaa has been the only holiday on the calendar for this time of year since I can remember. My relationship with Christmas has always been conflicted.
That’s not to say I don’t feel the spirit. Hell, Nat King Cole, The Jackson Five, and Stevie Wonder will forever define this season for me.
Yep, love the songs. Love the cartoons, too. Christmas time would not be the same without the Snow Miser and Heat Miser, and a little underrated animation called Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.
Songs and stories like these can melt even the most frigid Judeo-Christian influenced heart…usually. I mean, if Michael can’t reach you, you’ve got some serious issues, my friend.
Christmas in New York helps limit that influence, though. In as plastic an atmosphere as NY tends to become this time of year, it can be easy at times to keep your spiritual distance from the true meaning of the holiday. I’d be damned if I go to a tree lighting in Rockefeller Center, wait on line to snatch a peek at the Lord & Taylor’s Christmas window display, huddle with the masses on the sidelines of the Macy’s Christmas (I mean, “Holiday”- don’t forget your PC) Parade, or wrestle with shoppers in any-body’s store.
Yeah, NY can put a damper on your love for any holiday, especially Christmas.
But, there was always something there that I took for granted until I came to live in Japan. Something essential and beautiful. A feeling that didn’t require any religious doctrine, Christmas parade balloon or theme window to create. It was generated almost spontaneously by the hopes and dreams of millions that seemed to rise in a crescendo. Something that made this time of year a festive time, a time that truly inspires good will towards your fellow man and woman. A renewal in the cold of winter, that made snow more enticing, and the harshness of a NY winter heartwarming…if only for a few weeks. An infectious influence that even an Ebeneezer like me was prone to fall under.
It’s lost here in Japan.
With all of its glitter and its illumination, the holiday season here is really a dark shadow of the truth, almost sinister. If I didn’t know better I’d think it was purposely concocted to mock and undermine the entire idea. It leaves anyone who has experienced what I’m trying to describe feeling ambivalent, at best. Insulted, at worst. That holiday spirit, whatever you want to call it- here in Japan…it’s more like someone turned your most precious book, a story replete with vivid details and savory complex characters that have impacted your very being, that have brought you solace in dark times, that you’ve come to think of as friends, into a 100 minute movie extravaganza staring Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber, AKB48 and Hello Kitty.
Not to suggest a similar feeling doesn’t exist here. It does, just not at Christmas time. I think it’s truly present in spring here. Come Cherry Blossom time and you can perceive it, and it’s cherished in much the same way I think the holiday spirit is cherished back home. And it’s beautiful to behold (though a bit isolating because though I can go through the motions of viewing Cherry Blossoms and getting drunk beneathe the falling petals, I don’t share the accompanying obsession and spirit of renewal.)
But Christmas just doesn’t seep into the soul here. Which stands to reason, of course.
I’m looking forward to re-visiting that old feeling.
My greatest anxiety at this moment is that this feeling I’m dreaming of, which is the same feeling Nat King Cole, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder were singing about, that hopefulness, that cheer, that child on Christmas morning, child with a virgin mother sleeping peacefully in a manger while a little boy plays the drum feeling- that feeling is irretrievable. I took it for granted too long and now it’s gone for good.
I hope I’m wrong.
Anyway, as a treat for my readers, while in my hometown, I will be videotaping the experience of Christmas in New York and sharing it via my blog. I might even throw in New Years Eve at Times Square (something I’ve never done believe it or not) just for good measure. Yep, Loco is going On Location and will be trying to locate this feeling, and documenting as much of the search as possible.
I’ll be hitting some other locales, as well. Places that I may have mentioned in my blog that have given me that warm and fuzzy feeling of home. God knows I need it!
I hope it’s as much a blast as I pragmatically anticipate it will be.
PS’: Loco still wants YOU (to follow him)!