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29 December, 2009

Infinite Space Bounded in a Glass Ball

This evening I started to inscribe Little Foot's name in glitter and glue on a glass ball. She has a lot of letters, so I merely did the first four, and will wait until it is safe to turn the ornament without smudging to write the rest.

Her name will join the names thus written on other glass balls in past years: the other three adults in my family, the cats' names, and the snake. Come this weekend, my father and his wife will also get to write their names in glue and pick a colour to sparkle in. This way is in its fourth generation at least, now: my grandmother, my father, myself, my child. As generations of humans before me have done, I take the trappings of my old religion with me when I convert. This is the meaning of my Christmastide.

Meaning is a delicate thing, and one does not always take away what was intended.

Perhaps my northern European bloodline appreciates the placement of an abundance festival in the dark of the year - before the worst of the cold, yes, but in the hints of the return of the sun. Perhaps this is so.

Perhaps I am so marinated in Christianity that I cannot give it all up. I would not be the only one.

But: I come back to the ornament, carefully written upon in glue.

If you spend the dark of the winter with my family, you get a name ball. Your name inscribed in glitter, on a glass or satin-coated ball. This is how it has always been, it was so before I was born, I hope it will be so after I go West. A catalogue of names, a litany of memory.

If you will be back in the dark of the next year, your ornament is set aside, awaiting you: none will put it up but you, for it is yours, the token of our collective memory, the sigil of your welcome. If you do not return - if the travel is too much, if the circumstances do not align, if you will come no longer - then we will put it up for you, and remember the times you were present.

I will make cookies and cake for the season, the one a matter of holiday duty, the other a thing of more general celebration, for when my father comes, because it is hard to be properly festive when it is just us and the constant onslaught of baby requirements, but for my father who raised me to these traditions I can go to the effort. Perhaps I will make a roast, I believe we have one kicking around somewhere. And these will be my offerings of abundance for the season more than anything else, the barest essentials, more important than wrapped-up objects to be presented as offerings to the other: I offer food and the promise of the memory of a name.

To be with my family at Christmastime is to be always remembered, to always belong. To always have a place. When I strip away everything else, I am left with this offered universe, written upon in glitter and glue, held always in company and community. That is the holiness that is written upon my heart in the chill dark of the year, when it might be easy to trip into solitude and isolation. This is the community that I build over time, out of fragile glass balls and glue and memory.

For your ka.


WordK said...

This was my third Christmas away from my family. I've kept one tradition. Every Christmas morning, we'd have rice krispies and frozen strawberries for breakfast. It wasn't just a Christmas breakfast, but it would certainly be Christmas breakfast. And a meal I associate with my father, from whom I believe I picked up the habit of carefully, carefully making sure that the strawberries and the cereal balanced each other out eventually. (Eat, add cereal, eat, add strawberries, repeat.)

I have to have something strawberry-like on Christmas. In Russia, I tracked down a strawberry blin, last year I had my act together enough to get rice krispies and frozen strawberries. This year, I found myself in CVS on Christmas day, settling on a box on Honey Bunches of Oats with those dried strawberries. And then the ritual was modified when I got back to my room, and realized I could leave a dried strawberry on my altar.

As always, I so appreciate that you publish your writing here. And belated congratulations on your growing family.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

So good to hear from you! Hadn't seen you around in a dog's age.

lizw said...

I've seen you mention this tradition before, and I think it's lovely.

Unknown said...

I just want to say that i adore this tradition and would like to steal it. :) Well, not steal. Share. Borrow. Adopt, adapt, transmit. I don't put up a tree, i don't like the trappings of Christmastide, but this -- this may make me want to start. Thank you.