Friday, December 21, 2007

Overheard in a Coffee Shop

Scene: Coffee Shop at Christmastime, complete with flocked tree in the corner, lights around the windows, clientele in red sweaters, and Christmas-y flavored lattes.
A man and a woman walk in together. It is instantly clear that they are the kind of people who are irreverent, funny, sarcastic, popular, successful and depressed. They're clearly "just friends" in the way that middle-aged-several-times-divorced people are.

"Oh, Gaaaawd," sneers the man, running a hand with a large ring on it through salt and pepper hair. "The most wonderful time of the year, eh?"

The woman gives a laugh and fishes in her LV purse for lipstick and her wallet, avoiding his eyes. "I mean, I guess it's nice, but..."

"Nice!" The man seems indignant, and for a moment I think I might get to see what's really getting to him about Christmas. Quickly recovering himself, he lapses back into his lax, sarcastic tone. "It's just morose," he says, "I mean, it's a holiday for religious nuts and kids."

"Yeah," the woman agrees, "I'm not particularly religious, so it's not that special. I mean, whatever," she concludes, with a sigh that belies the season's lack of sparkle.

As the barista hands over their drinks with a flip of her Santa hat and a cheery "Merry Christmas!" both look at each other with a jaded laugh. As they walk out, the man says, "Like hell, it's Merry. I'm just going to drink all day..."

The woman returns, "Now that sounds like a holiday!" and they walk out of earshot, drinking their five-dollar coffee and laughing at the foolishness of the old women, kids and "religious nuts" who get joy out of this ridiculous season.


Why do people resist this holiday so much? Why is it more fashionable to be irreverent and hurried than touched and full of wonder?

I think it's because it reveals our mortality and the smallness of our strivings - and if there's anything that the upper echelon doesn't want to be reminded of, it's that they don't really matter.

Yearly traditions are admittedly a small thing. Twinkle lights, homemade nativity scenes, candlelit services and morning excitement can get tarnished by time. We grow up and are more than willing to trade the 6 a.m. gift exchange for a few more hours of sleep and a sedate cup of coffee at 9 before the wrapping paper starts flying. What is harder to get used to is what these traditions mean. Well-worn carols sung by everyone from Nat King Cole to 98 Degrees mean something that even the most jaded among us cannot shake.

For if the foolishness of 24/7 Carols on Coast 103.5, Holiday latte flavors, and children's excitement means more than that it's just December - then what value have we lost in the rest of life? If one month can hold the salvation of mankind, peace on Earth, goodwill to men - what do the other 11 hold?

This is the great truth that keeps people like the Coffeeshop Couple from embracing Christmas. They are reminded of what they've lost and they cover over their despair with success and sarcasm - plugging the growing hole in their hearts with the clever cover-up that they're too sophisticated for such things.

For me, I'm proud to be a religious nut, and to unabashedly soak up a season built around a profound joy and irrefutable truth.

So here's to Christmas and the discomfort it causes - may it drive those like the Coffeeshop Couple to "the good tidings of great joy, which shall be for ALL people..."

Friday, December 14, 2007

It's the mood, moodiest time of the year...

I love Christmas. Really, I do. It's easily my favorite time of year, (also because I get incredibly spoiled, as it's also my birthday month,) and I love the goodwill and cheer that oozes out of people about mid-December and lingers until sometime in the first week of January.

Personally, though, this season moves and excites me - and in the process, it turns me into a crazy, crying, laughing, moody girl. One moment I can laughing out loud for sheer joy in a parking lot of all places - all of twelve hours later I am in tears for my commute.

I think my poor little self wasn't built for such highs and lows of emotion, and so every now and then breaks down into either maniacal giggles or despairing sighs and tears. Although it seems like the type of problem that dutiful dads, brothers, boyfriends and guy friends leave strictly to the girls to handle, I have a sneaking suspicion that there is a reason for this emotional roller-coaster called Christmastide; as illogical and confusing as it may seem.

The crux is: I'm too finite. The highs of a season built around a concept that I am immeasurably loved by Almighty God, combined with the human lows of overdue bills and holiday traffic collide in a horrifying collapse of mixed emotions. The Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men that blares through my CD player, the love involved in buying the "perfect" gift and the fully-operational mistletoe that hangs from my ceiling make me long to laugh for the pure beauty of it. The flip side of this beauty - the frustration of not enough time, money or energy to celebrate something that should not be a chore but a joy, makes me cry.

I cry not because I'm crazy, even though I feel that way. I cry because I've lost something - we've lost something. Snuggling down with family to watch scratchy re-runs of claymation Christmas cartoons, humming carols in the candlelight, and baking lumpy homemade cookies used to be enough. As children we didn't think about what it cost for the magic - it was just there, leading us into belief and awe with every time-worn step. We drank in the beauty of the season without feeling foolish or analyzing the truth that it is a man-made tradition or just a time of year - we abandoned ourselves to it wholeheartedly.

So this year, rather than indulge in the crying/laughing craziness that tends to overtake me, I've resolved to try to soak it in. To gaze at lighted trees and crinkly wrapping jobs with the wide-eyed wonder I lost somewhere, and soak up the joy of memory without feeling foolish or wishing for things I can't have.

This Christmas, I want to kiss my moodiness good-bye, and grow up to be a kid.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Today, friends and countrymen, I turn 24. I can't really say that I feel older... but 24 definitely sounds older. (You're thinking, "Of course it sounds older than 23, learn to count!" But it really does.) I said that it sounds older to one of my friends who recently turned 30, and she gave me an "oh GOSH, you're KIDDING me, you freaking young thing, go back to the playground," look. And when I told another friend this who turned 24 a few months ago, he called me a jackass, which, although I'm sure it made him feel better, was not very nice. Anyways, I digress.

(Oh, one more thought. 24 also sounds cool because it has to do with Jack Bauer, who makes everything AWESOME.)

At any rate, in honor of being 24, I will now list 24 things that I learned in my 23rd year of life. Glean what wisdom you may.

  1. Go backpacking. In the woods.
  2. Always shop at Trader Joe's. Your tummy will thank you.
  3. Umbrellas are unneccessary. Enjoy the rain - we all know you're not made of sugar.
  4. A room of one's own really is important.
  5. In-N-Out after midnight is usually NOT a good idea.
  6. Hanging out with cool people after midnight, however, always is.
  7. Gmail chat is one of the greatest inventions ever.
  8. Speaking of Gmail, everything Google does is amazing.
  9. Write it down! You think you will never forget - but you do. Having those memories in black and white is so comforting.
  10. Worry less, live more. (No, I haven't figured this one out yet. I'm a work in progress.)
  11. To-Do Lists will keep you sane.
  12. When all else fails, when you're tired, or any other time of the day or night: go to the beach.
  13. Watch the sun set.
  14. No matter the span, time with your best friends is time well-spent.
  15. It snows in Texas.
  16. Guys get together primarily to eat beef and make wisecracks at Monday Night Football. Football is just part of the mix.
  17. Hip-hop concerts are a hard sell in Irvine. It's not quite the 'hood.
  18. Tyrone Wells. 'Nuff said.
  19. The Paint Mare remembers me. I love my horses.
  20. The Firecracker Roll at Mosun's is the best Sushi roll ever.
  21. Taking PCH from San Fransisco to So. Cal. takes forever. Pretty, though.
  22. Double-check your keys before you go into a very old, deserted warehouse - or at the very least, take a cell phone.
  23. Sing.
  24. Love people.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Signing Off

I have a hard time saying good-bye. I'm not much of a crier, but just those two little words are the magic tear-jerkers. I always feel funny saying good-bye, too - like "bye" doesn't quite cut it. Something in my old-fashioned soul swings more towards "Adieu" or "Farewell" - but I always chicken out and say something meaningful like: "See ya."

My idiosyncrasies aside, in my musings about good-byes, I've come up with a few fare-thee-wells worth sharing.

  • "Go in God's grace, and have a great day." Ever since I was a little kid, my pastor has dismissed us with this blessing. When I came back to my childhood church some 12 years later, he was still saying it, every Sunday. It makes me ready for ham sandwiches on the beach, lunch with friends and mowing the lawn - in God's grace.
  • "Bye, bye." When my Dad hangs up the phone, he says "bye, bye." and hates it. "Why do I say 'bye, bye'?!" He would say. "Who says that?" The next time he hung up, though, out it would pop again: "Bye, bye." I think he finally gave up.
  • "LOVE YOU! MISS YOU! BYE!" My roommates and I yell this at each other when getting off the phone. I don't think we ever intended it to be a pattern, but I can't think of a conversation (since we went our separate ways) that hasn't ended this way.
  • "loveyoutoobye" This is how I know Adam is getting off the phone with a member of his family. It's a Nichols thing.
  • The sigh. Apparently my mom and I both do this when it's time to get off the phone. Just a little "time to go" sigh to prepare you for the knowledge that we're about to leave you and go do something else.
  • IM Goodbyes. Yeah, I know, it's pretty bad when you have trouble saying good-bye on IM, but I do. Mine usually go like this: Other person: "Ok, gotta go! TTYL!" Me: "Oh, ok, well, tell me (lists several unnecessary items of note)" Other: "Ok, well, yeah. gtg!" Me: "Ok! LOVE YOU MISS YOU BYE BUT WAIT I HAVE IMPORTANT THINGS TO SAY DONT LEAVE ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" It's completely ridiculous, I'm aware.
  • Flip phones are very satisfying when you hang up. It gives me closure.
  • Hugs. I'm a hugger. I'm leaving, I have to drive home in the cold, so you will give me a hug. It's how it works.
  • The coolest possible way to answer a phone call is with your last name, especially if it's "Bauer." ("Linthicum" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.) "Yeah." and a purposeful snap shut is the coolest way to sign off. I'm not yet awesome enough to employ either one.
  • When you don't know the next time you might see someone, it's always easier to just talk about general things like the weather and real Maple Syrup vs. Aunt Jemima's. This allows us to hold it together until the door closes, at which point we can both lose it out of sight from each other and not feel silly or bad for making the other cry - even though we both know we will. Or maybe I'm the only weepy one and everybody else is debating the maple syrup question for real.