Wednesday, December 26, 2007

`An Unpleasant Whiff of Apprehension'

The ham is sliced and Tupperwared, the wrapping paper recycled. Jigsaw puzzles have been put together, taken apart, reboxed. The cookies are stale. We watched The Christmas Story twice and one-fifth of the 300-cartoon Looney Tunes Golden Collection. Yesterday’s gift-heap has sifted into domestic anonymity. Where did Christmas go?

The Christmas constant is post-Christmas dolor. Once this meant reality’s letdown after months of anticipation. Now? I’m not sure. Time passes audibly at Christmas. Children age, memories form and decay. The gimcrack and the eternal come face to face -- another year evaporated.

W.H. Auden wrote For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio over the terrible winter of 1941-1942. Newly returned to the Church, Auden sought “to redeem from insignificance” the dailiness of daily life and the enfeeblement of Christmas into a mere holiday. He captures our weakness, human failing and inevitable sadness:

"Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes --
Some have got broken -- and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week --
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted -- quite unsuccessfully --
To love all our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But for the time being, here we all are,
Back to the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry
And Newton's mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it."

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