Of Moose and Men: Seek the season's spirit

Posted: Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sitting smack in the middle of the holiday season -- that stretch of time between Thanksgiving and New Year -- is a good time for a reality check. We all suffer from a completely unrealistic vision of what should be experienced this time of year. We are all victims of deceptive advertising. We all have been brainwashed.

How could we be otherwise? We've all grown up saturated with images from the likes of Currier and Ives, Norman Rockwell and Thomas Kinkade. These three purveyors of Americana falsehoods are responsible for producing more disappointed cynics than all of our elected federal officials combined.

Before I am publicly flogged and branded a holiday humbug heretic, let me state that this is one of my favorite times of the year. I still insist on saying, "Merry Christmas," not a generic, noncommittal "Happy Holidays," or even worse, "Joyful Chrismahonikwanza," or whatever the PC police may be offering up this year. This is a season of home and family to me. I still feel the season represents a hope that we may, in spite of ourselves, just manage to make amends for our past, and move toward a better future for everybody.

That being said, there are way too many false expectations associated with the time frame between the fourth Thursday in November, and the first day of January. Most of those expectations destined to become disappointments are directly attributable to those artistic images that have become icons of the season. You know the ones I'm talking about: the glowing, perfect Christmas tree; the perfectly decorated Victorian home; the image of the merry carolers.

Be honest. Don't we all think we will experience those images in real life? How many times have you actually come even remotely close to those images?

Me either, so let's get down to a reality check.

Those wonderful images of Mom, Dad and the kids walking home through the snow with their freshly cut tree? Ever notice how the kids are smiling, Mom is glowing and Dad is walking in a manly fashion, tree in tow (with the help of Junior), axe slung cavalierly over his shoulder? It's a different story in the real world.

The kids, if they aren't engaged in physical combat, are whining about, "Walking forever to get a crummy, scrawny tree, when we could have bought a good plastic one at the store."

Mom may be brightly cheeked, but it's not a happy glow. She wants to know why Dad, "Didn't cut that one down the first time we passed it, three hours ago!"

Dad isn't walking with a manly stride, he's stepping out as fast as he can to get home to end the ordeal.

All those pictures of the perfectly shaped Christmas tree? That's not going to happen with a real tree.

"Honey, I told you that one had a big bare spot on the one side."

"Yeah, and I thought we were looking at the same side when you said it."

What about those precious images of the cute puppies merrily rolling about, tugging on bows under the tree? That's a cute vision, albeit a flight of pure fantasy.

"Great! Just what I wanted, a pair of leather slippers."

"I hope you like them, dear, we can't exchange them."

"Perfect, except what's with the stain on the top, and what is that odor?"

"Well, the puppy got the box open when the kids weren't watching him, and then sort of had an accident. We have more leather cleaner."

Another myth is the ever-popular picture of the merry carolers standing around a bonfire, harmoniously sharing their Christmas cheer by lifting their voices in joyful noise. In reality, at least the Friday after Thanksgiving in Kenai, a desperate and shivering crowd gathers around a conflagration while Mariah Carey lustily moans, "All I want for Christmas is you," from a boom box.

"Geez my feet are cold!"

"Mine too, but my face is burning, and my eyeballs are about dried out."

"Yeah, let the good times roll."

My all-time favorite artistic misrepresentation is the picture of the deer standing in placid and delicate pose, looking toward the warm, snow covered house that is bathing them in gentle light. A bright moon and brilliant stars stud the night sky and serve as the perfect backdrop to the leafless fruit trees adorning the yard.

At least such an idyllic scene is fashioned after something that could conceivably happen; just not to me. Around our neighborhood, we get moose. They stomp up the front drive, trigger the motion light on the garage, and then proceed to lay waste to the lilacs, honeysuckle, Canadian cherry and any other decorative vegetation that catches their fancy. Nothing says "Joyeux Noel" like the frayed stump of an expensive shrub.

I guess the thing to remember is not the stark reality of the moment, but the spirit of the season. Those pictures are simply personifications of the hidden beauty to be found in our realities. May your realities be beautiful and blessed this season.

A.E. Poynor lives in Kenai.

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