Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Post-Family Christmas

5:00 A.M. awakened from a dream about losing a camera and struggling to figure out how I might get it back. The usual vague surroundings, people who seemed one-dimensional, almost like characters out of Kafka.

I became aware of Judith also tossing and turning and finally pulling the CPAP mask off her face.

“You’re awake, too?” I mumbled

“Lying here awake trying to figure out why I can’t get Dropbox to show all my files I have stored in it.”

We each have a number of computer devices: smart phones, iPad tablets, desktop and laptop computers, and spend a good portion of every day interacting with them. She has just installed a new computer and has been fighting with the Kafka-esque forces of the Internet, both human and digital, for the past couple of weeks, getting it set up to do the things (faster, she hopes) she used to do on her old machine. I have been trying to edit some video made fifteen years ago by both of us on camcorders of the time. Our newest computers do not have the proper connections to transfer the videos from the camcorders, so adaptations must be conjured.

“I’ve been obsessing about how to get those old videos digitized before the cameras become completely useless.” I turned and propped my head with my elbow. “Those pictures are our history. They have to be converted or they will disappear along with us.”

“We might as well get up,” she said, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed.

Christmas morning is our time, just the two of us, with candles and champagne Mimosas and sherried eggs parmesan. We open the few gifts that each of us has thought to buy—often “for the house”—and those received in the mail from relatives. It’s a good time for us, an intimate celebration of our life together. We’ll visit or phone our relatives and friends later in the week.

Judith took her dog Buddy out for his morning walk, and I lay down on the couch for a nap. That was about 8:00 A.M.

My childhood Christmases were filled with people and gifts and excitement. My grandmother’s home was alive with adults and children, loud and gay chaos. At least, that’s how I remember them. My father would load us all into the car, piled with gifts, and drive through the dawn (sometimes well before dawn) trying to be the first of the family to arrive. Home again, exhausted, at the end of the day after having eaten too much turkey and sweet potatoes and candy. I used to get nostalgic about those holidays, but that feeling has faded over the years.

When Judith and I married, our respective children had long before departed for other parts of the country. We managed, once or twice, to collect a reasonable number of them to celebrate a holiday with us, but mostly we’ve been on our own for twenty-five years. Her Jewish childhood didn’t include much recognition of the holiday, and neither of us associates Christmas with religion, except perhaps peripherally, given the culture we live in. She likes to decorate the house with lights and a little tree. I enjoy her enthusiasm, but seldom initiate anything special for the holiday. Probably the exception is champagne for breakfast.

This year was different, of course, since we rose so early and occupied ourselves with computers for a couple of hours before our “Christmas Morning.” We’ll meet a small group of friends later in the day for a movie and dinner at a restaurant.

I read someplace a long time ago that people adjust to old age and inevitable death by gradually losing interest in the world. That seems to be the case for me with holidays, at least. My interests have broadened over the years to things that held no fascination when I was younger, but the intensity has diminished. If I’m nostalgic about anything these days it’s for passion. Oh, to be fifty again!

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