Monday, December 01, 2014

First Monday of Advent: Daydream

The mental image first appeared sometime in mid-October, I think. It could have been earlier, but that's when I really started paying attention.

I tend to recoil at the kitschy side of Christmas. The annual and predictable parade of cheese-tastic songs that every radio station churns out. The cheap plastic decorations and knick-knacks that litter store aisles. The inflatable yard monstrosities that have become popular in recent years.

I just can't stomach most of it. So many people try so hard to create something magical this time of year, but most of what we have to work with is offensive to the senses and to good taste.

So I was somewhat taken aback when I started dwelling on the following scene: a dimly-lit pub. Tinsel and lights half-heartedly strung along the back of the bar. A tree in the corner that perhaps could use a little straightening. And the company an interesting mix of the lonely and upbeat. It's a few days after Christmas so there's a slight lilt to the proceedings. A low-tier college football bowl game plays on TV while some of the aforementioned cheese-tastic songs play over the sound system.

This was somehow an inviting scene for me. I wanted to be there, to soak in the atmosphere, the decorations, the music, the underwhelming football game. I sat with this for weeks, turning the image over again and again, wanting yet not wanting it, and wondering why this was stuck in my head at all.

It was just as I was beginning one of my early morning workouts that I realized why I wished for this scene so badly: it's because I had actually been there.

It was just after New Year's in 2007. Coffeewife and I, along with my brother and his wife-to-be, made a trip to New Jersey to see my grandparents. We watched the ill-fated Rose Bowl between Michigan and USC, spent a day in New York City, and enjoyed a visit with my father's sister and her family, part of which was spent in a pub still decorated for the season catching up with our cousins. An unspectacular bowl game was playing on the TVs.

I wanted this mental scene not out of some irrational, unprovoked longing. Instead, it was because I associate it with an actual holiday memory spent with loved ones. My grandma died that summer, so this was one of the last times I was able to spend time with her. I'd see my grandfather only a handful of times before his death two years later. As it turns out, that couple of days spent in New Jersey was more special to me than I'd ever realized before just a few months ago.

The first Sunday of Advent is always spent thinking about hope. I suppose that one of my hopes this year is for a moment that only exists in my memory but that I want to re-create. I can keep imagining, I suppose. But I can also make new memories with others I love. Then, in its own way, the hope of this little daydream could come true.