Winter finally arrived in our desert valley the other day, bringing cold and wind and rain and a crispness in the mornings that has been uncommon in our easy-bake-oven existence here and about. The day’s early sky was still rippled with clouds of gray and white amid the blue background and aimless sun. When I dropped-off my little one at school, the teachers stood around shivering and smiling and talking about the upcoming holidays and mid-word stopped to blow a whistle to tell the kids to get off the ball-field…you know better than that…the grass was covered in frost and the dirt of the infield was darker with a dew that didn’t freeze. It was the first morning of the year when there was real frost on my windshield that I had to scrape off…so unusual…bordering on strange, for here anyway. My little one commented that the ground would be covered with snow if we were up in Utah…a subject of some contention in the household and family of late…to go or not to go…to be or not to be here or there…to throw caution to the proverbial wind and step out on another risk…a risk-taking in a risky time…but we’re not going…we’re here…and another Christmas season is upon us already. It seems that the kids just started school a little while ago and it’s back again. The lights are up throughout the neighborhoods and the stores are crammed with people who are usually doing other things when I happen to frequent the place…more cars in the parking lot, more cashiers at their stands, more people in the aisles, and more stuff and stuff in the air. I put-up our tree that afternoon and got-out the Christmas CDs and still had them turning on the stereo when I wrote this…Jim Brickman, Josh Groban, and three others making the rounds over and again, shedding their spirit and making me wonder again at this person Jesus who is said to have been born in a manger and all of the rest of it. I think this might have been my favorite time of the year when I was a Christian, a believer, a person of eternal hope and non-thought…someone treading in the footsteps laid ahead for me…pulled along by the ring in the nose…non-thought…anyway, I’m not going down that pathway right now, just wanted to say that if I were still a Christian, I would love the words of the music and the thoughts of the season. As it is, I listen to mostly instrumental music and hear only the tunes while the words echo on their own in my mind….resounding symbols of a previous life. It would be so nice to be able to believe that it was all true because it sounds so beautiful in this one month of the year…so comforting, reassuring, or something…but empty…and even sad…sad at the loss of that wrongly-conceived comfort, and sad with memories of being welfare-poor when our kids were little and not being able to provide them with the tangible Christmas gifts that we thought we should be able to provide…and sad with the memories of being a child and feeling that I didn’t deserve the presents…I wondered on several occasions how I could possibly have anything under the tree, thinking the gifts were supposed to be a representation of the love that was being rewarded in substance for my behavior during the rest of the year…and I knew that I had gotten my ass beaten several times, too many times, innumerable times for shit I did wrong and for lies that I told so that I might avoid the ass-beating…and how could they then give me presents for Christmas…and the gall they had that one year to give me the presents I had found while snooping through my father’s dresser drawers and stealing some of his Lifesavers…he had said he was throwing everything away…and he did throw away most of my toys and all the posters and things I had on my walls and on the top of my dresser…all my special things, trophies, souvenirs, mementoes…every damn thing…the things that comforted me when I was in my room and away from him…and I had discovered a poster of a horse in his drawer…and it was under the tree…like I wasn’t going to remember the yelling, cursing, hateful brown eyes glaring, piercing, stabbing into my soul whenever I saw the poster? Merry fucking Christmas…. And it’s always sad in spite of the good times with all the kids over and the tons of presents for everyone…it just is…too many memories that reach beyond the present and cannot be exorcised even with the passing of time…the shit is still in there with painful gashes that are trying to heal…and making tears run with sad joy at remembering my Thanksgiving morning when my littlest one greeted me first thing with “Happy Thanksgiving, Papa.” He calls me Papa when he’s being tender…when he’s being precious, gentle, loving…. “Papa.” I never had a word like that for my father…and my heart is touched.