I remember the sleepless night before, the Eve that stole my slumber, the running in the sheets to try to wear my young body out. I remember the listening, the search through the drywall, the wood, the insulation and siding, for anything that just might be bells in the cold, still air. I remember the mouth dropping in awe every single staggeringly early Christmas morning. I remember it was never, ever, about the gifts, it was always, Always, about the magic.
I also remember, more than all things now that age has advanced and knowledge grown, now that time and tide have taught me more than I thought it would, that there was always a center to that magic, an eye to the hurricane that was the holidays, and that my parents were that eye. They are it, still. This Signal Fire is, in the simplest terms, a testament and a thank you to the two that infused more magic, more belief, more beautiful warmth than anyone would ever believe. This is a thank you to those who planted that seed of magic deep enough in the soils of my soul that nothing this world could throw at me in the two and a half decades since, could kill it. It’s here, in me still, and it always will be. Life is short, suffering is everywhere, why not celebrate what we can, while we can, with every single person we love? Why not, indeed?
For us, our little family out of billions of little families, Christmas was, and is, the holiday. Sure, we did other things to celebrate the other holidays, but nothing ever compared or mattered like this festival of lights, of cloves and spice simmering on the stovetop, of the warm glow against all the snow outside. The photo above (and if you’re not reading this whilst listening to it, how dare you) is actually the house I spent more Christmas mornings than anywhere else in. It’s my parent’s house, still, and where Christmas morning was spent this very year. You can see its gingerbread like stillness, the magic that comes naturally with it and sticks to you. You can see why, among ten thousand other reasons to love this holiday, the role it played in all that magic. Now, 40 and a half years of life under my belt, I understand in a way only time can teach you, just how valuable all that magic was, and more, how valuable it is to have it now. I have seen that feeling of mystery and fascination fade in so many I know, seen this holiday become a source of frustration, of sadness, of stress that manifests itself in every way from creases on the bridge of a nose to migraines that spread across the surface of their skull and bring weariness before the first song finds its way onto the radio on Thanksgiving day. I have seen in vibrant examples, how this holiday hasn’t “shifted” into one of mass consumerism, but has always been, even though that went so largely unnoticed by my own naive eyes based on the how my family celebrated it, where the emphasis was put, not on gifts but on moments. I know now just how ugly and gross and purchasey (not a word) this holiday is, and always has been, but I am thankful at how insulated I was from that truth as I grew, as I formed my own deep-seeded(not seated, seeded dammit) beliefs on what it should be, and why it should be that way.
I believe Christmas to be about family, and not necessarily the one you’re born with, but the one you call family. Those you love, those you hold tight like winning hand when you’re all-in and have nothing left to lose. Those that stick, and are there no matter what comes, no matter what goes, those that would give up all and know you’d do the same to keep them smiling. Christmas is about magic, about the possibility of some perfect magic, and not the reality at all. It’s about the belief that we can be better, do better, give more, and that feeling you get when someone slowly opens a present you picked out just for them, whether it cost a nickel, a grand, or nothing at all, can actually last all year if we let it. It’s about bringing kindness back to Christmas, which is why Sarah and I wrote North Pole Ninjas, why we spent our time and money making a float in our little town’s Festival of Lights Parade this year, why Sarah dressed up and sweat six pounds of sweat as the Sensei, why we donate to the charities and put our metaphorical and very real money where our mouth is for the charities we love. I believe Christmas has never been about how much Santa brings, what shape the tree is, or if there’s a tree at all. I believe Christmas is the memories, and if you don’t have good ones to fall back onto, it’s about the ones you can make for yourself going forward. It’s about the passing of the torch, and dammit isn’t this here Signal Fire about exactly that? Passing the torch of light and magic that cannot fade, that doesn’t know how to singe itself to ash and smoke and the charred remains of what was?
I don’t know what Christmas is for you, I don’t know the stories it tells when you tell it, but I do know that I have enough hope to spread around that if it’s not yet magic, it can be and will be for you soon. I know we can change our own stars and we can decide so many things in this life, why not start with magic, and adding more to our days? I’ll leave you with this, a caption to a photograph I wrote 9 years ago, and I’ll say this: Thank you for the magic you all are in my life, thank you for helping me do what I love, how I love to do it. Here’s to the magic.
“It’s not what you get, it’s not what you give, it’s not what you wrap or how much torn paper fills the garbage bags behind the coffee cups that balance on the arms of couches. It’s not the receipts or honey glazed ham. It’s not the thank you notes unwritten or the heat from the stove, burning bright. It’s not the carols or the “Christmas Story” repeating on TBS. It’s not the Scrooge, it’s not the Grinch, it’s not the Tiny Tim or the Charlie Brown. It’s the magic. It’s the magic and it’s always been the magic. It’s the belief despite it all. It’s the not sleeping a wink all Christmas Eve because morning cannot come soon enough. It’s the thought that Maybe, just maybe, you Did hear hooves on the rooftop. It’s the warmth and the soft glow of lights. It’s the magic. It’s always been the magic.”
Happy Holidays everyone.
It will never fade,
the magic that you gave us,
all the memories.
Song of the Week
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