Christmas used to be that one time of year when magic seemed really possible. Every year we’d all pile into our big American-made car for Christmas Eve at Mamaw’s, and on the way home we’d always gaze out the back window, looking at the star-filled sky for some sign of Santa, as we raced home to beat him. After we were too old for that, we’d watch for the equally elusive southern Mississippi snowflake. There was magic to be seen, even if we never saw it.
Christmas meant a twinkling tree, special food, a few unexpected gifts, and Christmas music. That was about it…and it was enough. I don’t remember commercials telling us to give the “gift of asphalt” to our loved ones by getting them a Cadilac. I certainly don’t remember commercials telling us to mock and make a fool of Santa by getting the best deals on extravagant electronics. In fact, I don’t remember many commercials telling us to buy anything at all for Christmas! There were decorations around town and in stores and Christmas specials on TV. But outside of that, Christmas was a bit more personal…and less in-your-face.
Even my oft-grumpy father found magic at Christmas. Sure he’d often have too much to drink, but he still found his own magic. He seemed to live for going out to find a tree, usually on private property out in the country, just past an old crossroads called Zetus. He bitched, sometimes yelling at the tree, sometimes at us. Mama usually did her own arguing over the tree…usually that it was too big. Sometimes it was an outright nightmare from cut to finish. But I think he loved it. It was his thing. And when he was done, he’d have a few more Miller Lites.
Maybe it’s part of getting older, but I don’t see that magic too much anymore. Sure, smiling kids peering in a store window is enough to give you a giggle sometimes. But so many more are simply sitting in front of TVs being told what to want, if not what to demand, from Santa and their parents. The decorations now are more “buy now and save” than they are sincere wishes.
This doesn’t mean all the magic is gone. I still watch the sky, just in case. I still browse the Christmas ornaments in the store, even when I don’t put up a tree. I still try to catch a glimpse of Santa in the mall, and can’t help but smile sometimes. I still eat too many cookies and too much candy, even if they’re not as good as they once were. And occasionally, just occasionally, there are glimmers of hope for humanity or signs of sincerity. But in this fast-paced, over-commercialized world, that’s about all the magic that’s left in Christmas.