It’s Christmas Day in Newhall. Elsewheres, I hear as well. I’ve been in homes, sometimes not mine, for 70 years now. I think the first three or four December 25ths, I was more suspicious than joyful.
My folks were not big celebrants. Growing up there were years when there wasn’t a tree in the house. Mom and Dad were stuck in some ancient karmic wrestling match. Had no idea how to be in a two-person polite society, yet, couldn’t imagine a life apart from each other and domestic insanity. They’d often confess to me, as if I were some 2.5-foot-tall referee, that they stayed together because of me, although if I could be kidnapped by benign pirates or left at a coffee shop counter with enough loose change to last me until 18, well. At least I’d be well-read.
I was 8, maybe 9. I sat Mom & Dad down for a heart-to-heart. I pointed out that Christmas had just passed and they had given me, without festive wrapping, T-shirts, underwear, socks, paper and pencils. For Christmas. I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t hurt, more frustrated. I explained a foreign concept: that children liked to tear into packages containing something called, “Toys.” Four months later, my birthday rolled around. I hit the blankety-blank lotto. A giant battleship. Army men. A Jeep with double machine guns. An actual BB rifle. How happy my reaction made them. It was something you rarely saw on their faces — Joy.
When I left home as a teen, I vowed I’d give myself Christmases I never had. Lights were in every room. As a homage to King Kong except with a better ending, a stuffed gorilla in a Santa’s cap instead of an angel adorned the tree top. For years, I hosted a gigantic chili party. Friends brought a cool decoration to get fed. Afterward, when the party slowly shouldered, I’d sit by myself, smiling, content, warmed by the flickering lights. Yippee. And Coyote. Over decades of Christmases, people gave me treasures of the heart, some touching, some truly beyond Men’s Argosy Magazine weird. There was the sweater somehow tailored to fit a chimp my sister-like substance Tweedie gave me one year. Or maybe two. My best pal Phil gave me an epic, lighted seashell frame of The Savior walking atop the water.
Phil may not be making Heaven this time around because if Jesus is at the gate, he might just glance down from His podium, sigh wearily and offer: “Oh. It’s you…”
I rebuilt those Christmases, that childhood, I never had. Last Christmas, I was on the phone for 12 hours with friends and family. There was our old Christmas Day custom where Dad, in his later years, and I would drive to find something beautiful, a snow-covered picnic bench in the mountains, a log at the edge of the Pacific. Quiet, we’d both smile as the sun hit our faces and the waves crashed.
I rediscovered a gift this year. Unique. Familiar. Unlike Christmas Fruitcake, or, worse, Organic Christmas Fruitcake, it can be opened and enjoyed over and over and over again.
It’s Yippee Coyote.
This year. 2020? Spit. Hock, ptooey. Joy? Serenity? They’ve been hard to find but 2020’s not to blame. My own griping and stubbornness is.
There’s a place beyond peace and serenity. The poet Robert Browning years ago suggested that me must find a way for the imprisoned splendor to escape. That’s a huge statement. Whether you want to believe God Himself put it there or some random DNA, it implies that we are filled with imprisoned splendor. Our task? Express it. Paint it. Shout it. Write it. Dance it. Let it go.
Let someone — a stranger, friend, family member — know how impossibly wonderful and grand it is to see them. Hardest of all? It might be our own bent reflection in a car windshield.
How often do we utter this unfamiliar prayer: “Yay! It’s you! I am SO absolute chimpanzee backflip happy to see you!!”
My mom and dad, for all their trials and torments in their oddball parenthesis, I look back and see they couldn’t hide that twinkle when they’d see me. And yet, I’ve dear friends who could easier pass a bowling ball than erupt in uncensored happiness. Often guarded, waiting years for some fatal blow that will never arrive. I’ve friends who literally shout, “Yay!” when they answer the phone.
Another picks up the receiver, without looking who’s on the other end, and asks: “How can I make your day better?”
And, he means it.
Today? Christmas in Newhall? Today can feel like our world is literally dying from a lack of love. My fault for not only seeing it that way, but also giving it the dignity to believe it. Today? I’d rather live in a place of honest Yippee Coyote. Hooray. Three cheers. It’s YOU! Certainly, one doesn’t have to go hysterical cross-eyed and start doing the frug as if an extra in a Billy Idol video.
Billy Idol’s 65. How’d that happen?
On a Christmas morning or sultry August day, it’s a compelling gift, to give beyond all that’s in the world, yet quietly confined to our hearts. It’s not without risk. You have to take a chance.
It’s a daring adventure when we can regard ourselves in the bathroom mirror. Looking back can be wrinkles, imperfections, defeats, a heart broken more than once.
But past that? There’ll be a smile, perhaps a giggle, if you’re lucky. Maybe the gift of a cleansing cry will visit when we can finally offer ourselves a simple gift and say:
“Merry Christmas and Yippee Coyote! Yay! It’s you…”
John Boston is a local writer.