December 26th, 2019

“People say we’ve got it made
Don’t they know we’re so afraid?

We’re afraid to be alone
Everybody got to have a home

John Lennon – from the song “Isolation”

I attended Mass on Christmas Eve. It was late in the afternoon. The church was crowded, much more so than at a Sunday service. Everything was decorated for Christmas, to enhance the festive mood. I went there by myself. It looked to me like all the other people had arrived in groups, most likely as families. There were many faces that I didn’t recognize, and those faces didn’t recognize me either.

Before the liturgy started, Father Michael asked everyone to turn to the people standing around them and greet them. That’s what we did. The folks on every side of me shook my hand, and smiling, said, “Merry Christmas!”

For some reason, I replied to all of them in German. I said, “Frohe Weihnachten!” I guess I did that because that is what I would say to my wife, Karin. I also did that to see if anybody would even notice.

No one did.

That set the tone for the rest of the Mass. I was alone in a crowd. I suppose I could have asked Stefan to come with me, but he was busy with his new girlfriend. I didn’t want him to come to church with me out of some sense of filial duty. I didn’t want him to spend time with me reluctantly.

I could have gone to party after Mass. Freya, a woman I know from Voces de la Frontera, had invited me to come to her house for a get together. Freya is really nice. She lives across town from me, at least a half hour drive. I know her, but I wouldn’t really know anybody else at that party. Once again, I would be alone in a crowd. I considered how many drinks I would require to become even remotely sociable, and then I compared that number with how drinks it would take to get me busted for drunk driving on the way home. The number was nearly the same. It was best for me just to stay home.

When I was working as a supervisor at a trucking company, we always had a holiday party. For members of management the gathering was mandatory. Forced festivity is repugnant to me. I can’t deal with fake joy. I experienced the same sort of thing when I was an Army officer. Formal military affairs were never optional. The results in both the corporate and military environments were usually the same: massive drinking and mindless conversation. I learned to hate Christmas parties.

I have nothing against celebrating Christmas. I would just like to be able to do so in a spontaneous way. Christmas parties, even among friends, tend to follow certain scripts that don’t change from year to year. That can be comforting. It can also be boring.

I am glad that Christmas is over.


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