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is it over yet?
holiday memories in faded 8mm color
by robert a. melos

My Holiday Spirit is off somewhere resting comfortably, not knowing it is late again this year. Truth be told, my Holiday Spirit has been late for the past couple of years. Oh it does eventually arrive, disheveled with a bad case of bed head and a cantankerous attitude, but somehow it just isn’t the same as when I was a child.

I vaguely remember Christmas Days gone by, when I was five, or six or seven. Those holidays were filled with anticipation, excitement, and joy. Now the holidays are filled with dread, disappointment, and disillusionment. My Holiday Spirit didn’t age as well as I.

My early Christmas memories are recorded on Kodak 8mm, as are the holiday memories of most people of my generation. In my more sentimental moments I’ve toyed with the idea of transferring them to videotape, but the moment passes or something else takes my mind off the past and I forget about the preservation of my memories. On the other hand do I really want to see those moments, reliving them in vivid if slightly faded color?

There was the Christmas I got a peddle-car. I guess I was about four or five. I remember waking up on Christmas morning and running out to the living room. We had a big living room, with a large picture window with sunlight streaming though it making the tinsel covered tree wrapped in lights sparkle all the more. The white cotton tree skirt covered with silver and gold glitter was buried beneath the presents, and they were all for me. Well, almost all for me.

I’m an only child, and I was spoiled rotten. I admit it, and have no shame. All only children are spoiled rotten. Maybe it’s the parent’s way of making up for not giving me a brother or sister to play with? At that moment I didn’t care because I was filled with joy, and a bit of greed. I had a living room full of toys, and a copper colored Cadillac to play in.

That peddle-car was later sold for $2500 on e-bay and now sits in a Cadillac showroom somewhere in Southern New Jersey. Back when I was four or five I never gave the future a second thought. Life was lived for the moment, and for tearing open more presents. Oh yeah, I had quite a haul that holiday.

I remember the year when artificial trees became vogue. Not those silver tinsel trees like my Aunt Hazel and Uncle Fred had. You know the trees. They were on a rotating device that had a color wheel with a light behind it shining up at the tree making it appear to be changing color. The silver tinsel reflected the colors, red, yellow, blue and green. Those were popular in the late 1950s or early 1960s, but that wasn’t the type we had.

No, we had the full seven-foot Douglas fir, with the bushy branches. Those were the fun ones to put together. Each branch was color-coded at the end of a thick spiral of wire that was to be placed into the tiny holes of a wooden pole that made up the trunk of the tree. The green plastic bristles of the branches were so long it was difficult to place ornaments on them. That tree got a traditional angel for the time, because the pretty colored, and very old, glass spiral that fit nicely on the top of an old fashioned Norfolk Pine was too thin and fragile to fit over the thick bristles on the top of the artificial tree.

That tree, here is an irony, now sits in my neighbor’s backyard. She loved the idea of an artificial tree, and placed it outside in the middle of her yard year-round so the birds would have a nice place to nest. Don’t try to figure out my neighbor, I didn’t.

The seasons changed, I grew up, and somehow the world became not so nice. There were the years after my grandmother died, and then after my father died, when I insisted on putting up a tree. In fact we got a real tree the year my father died. I was determined to have a happy holiday, even though I wanted to cry and felt very sad throughout most of the season.

Part of me didn’t want to even celebrate that year, but life has a way of going on. That was the year my cousin Cathy got engaged in our living room. My entire family and a large group of my friends from both high school and college had gathered at my house and, after dinner, when everyone was sitting around the table picking at the remaining ham and nibbling the last of the rolls, Cathy’s boyfriend very quietly slipped out to his car and returned with his present for her.

No one even noticed what was happening. Cathy was sitting on the organ bench (mom was a music teacher amongst other things) and Mark, her now husband, very quietly proposed. Our Aunt Anne, who would be gone by the following March from a fast growing skin cancer, sat next to the tree and Cathy’s parents were sitting right nearby. The rest of the family was all busy talking and enjoying the holiday as usual.

Cathy is now married for 12 years and has two children. I remember my mother crying because my father wasn’t around to see Cathy getting engaged. My mother cried more often after my father died, but the holidays kept coming.

There was the year I came out, when we didn’t have a tree. Well, we did have a tree. The tree was ceramic, about three feet tall, and had a little colored plastic light at the point of each branch. The holidays had gotten to be a lot to deal with, and the ceramic tree was one of three my mother had gotten from relatives and friends as gifts over the years. It’s a very pretty tree, but it makes me think of those older people who can’t deal with all the fuss and bother of the holiday so they just put up a very small non-obtrusive decoration to remind them of the season, but not too much to overwhelm them when they aren’t feeling all that much in the spirit of things.

By that point in time my Holiday Spirit barely made it by December 24th. It showed up to wish everyone a surly “season’s greetings,” and promptly departed after a couple of eggnogs and after grabbing a handful of sugar cookies. For the past couple of years my Holiday Spirit actually skipped all together. There was a brief moment when it surfaced in August, and I broke out the Merry Christmas Charlie Brown videotape, but it left half the way through How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

My Holiday Spirit isn’t a Dickensesque type, and really doesn’t bounce about wishing “a Merry Christmas to all, and God bless us everyone.” The way this year has been going I doubt if my Holiday Spirit will arrive much before November of the next Presidential election year. Not that my Holiday Spirit is all that political minded, but between wars, terrorist threats, and the very real possibility of amending the US Constitution to become a document supportive of bigotry, I’ve got a feeling it just won’t be in an eggnog and cookies mood. As for those fading 8mm memories that are lying in a shoebox on plastic spool upon plastic spool, I won’t be taking that trip down memory lane this year.

No. I don’t think I want to see my past again. Not because I’m ashamed of it, but because it’s too painful to remember how innocent and wonderful the world was, when I juxtaposition it against what has become of the world. As Carly Simon put, “I haven’t got time for the pain.”


Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos


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published: 6.14.03

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mary snow
11.30.03 @ 8:37p

Those old memories may seem to be a trip down depression lane, but sometimes it's nice to sit back, remember your youth and innocence, and be happy to have had a time when you didn't know sorrow, a time when sadness was something that happened to other people. They say that changing your actions can change your attitude. Maybe it's time for you to go all-out decorating; maybe your Holiday Spirit will join in the festivites.

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