I went for a walk through downtown Portland this evening and it finally dawned on me: 'Tis the season!
I'm not quite sure why today marked my sudden awareness of the encroaching holiday. One might have supposed that Christmastide would have settled in as I stood in line at Trader Joe's listening to Macca's proclamation that everybody everywhere was "simply having a wonderful Christmastime!" I'm sure this song has played each time I've visited TJs in the past month and a half, much to the chagrin of the store crew members. Apparently my years of saturating my brain with The Beatles has rendered me immune to the implications of this ditty.
My Christmas oblivion is partially steeped in the fact that I've been stuck in some sort of theatrical chrysalis of research and rehearsal for the past month. Those who are fluent in the language of theatre might consider this my personal "living the dream" moment. My other friends and associates probably assume that I've had my head up my ass for the past four weeks. The truth probably lies somewhere between the two.
I'd adopt this as my official excuse for a delayed reaction to the holidays, but truth be told, Christmas has taken me by surprise for several years now. I think my new holiday tradition involves a pattern of avoidance and subsequently, a nostalgia for a particular holiday tradition at the Casa de Crow (also known as my parent's house).
Mama Crow is admirably gentle, generous and all other sorts of soft, comfortable words that begin with the letter 'g'. My mother has run a gift tree for what must be thirteen or fourteen years. She calls this project Christmas Gift Tree. Whereas I might shout out loud "LOOK AT ME AND MY PHILANTHROPY," Mama Crow stands quietly by with a clipboard full of loose-leaf binder paper taking names of gift givers. If someone takes notice of her efforts, her humble response seems to suggest that gift tag ornaments on the tree appeared there as if by magic.
While I was growing up, I was often recruited to help with the preparation for Christmas Gift Tree. Thanksgivings were spent with cramped hands from cutting out bells, stars and heart ornaments from construction paper. These ornaments were strung and labeled with an intricate alphanumeric coding system best deciphered by Mama Crow herself. Each ornament was checked out and returned with a gift. Even as a young upstart, I remember being pleasantly surprised by the high rate of return, and by the generosity of the gift givers.
The entire Crow family Christmas decoration, tree trimming, etc. is postponed until the last gift had been delivered. Our family gifts are stashed away, or not yet purchased. Indeed, this is Crowcrastination in the best sense of word.
My favorite part of the Christmas gift tree is a single moment. It's the moment that sums up what Christmas is about in absentia of both sales totals and religious rituals. It's the moment where the switch is thrown and I'm suddenly ready to accept that the holidays are upon us. Unfortunately, I've missed the opportunity to experience this sensation for the past several years because I don't live near my family. But even when I'm not around to experience it, I accept the reality of the holidays only after I recall the memory this moment.
After the gifts are returned, there is one day in December where you can walk into my parents' house to find not one corner of free space. On this day, I will walk into my childhood home to see literally hundreds of beautifully wrapped presents to go to children I will never meet. Each gift is a little representation of the dose of joy it will bring both the giver and the recipient. Collectively the packages, for a split second, bring me an overwhelming sense of happiness. I am so proud that my family can contribute to this project. Mostly, I am proud of Mama Crow and thankful for her gift of a memory that represents everything that is right with the world.
There's my Mama, who deserves a more quality photograph.