For me, the holidays are the time to take to the couch, cuddle up with a soft blanket, plug into the old movie channel and cry. What a year we've had, and how ready I am for it to be over, already. Going back to the 1940's, with its cinematic themes of sacrifice, disassociation, and pluck, is somehow comforting.
In the last month of our beloved nonagenarian neighbor Bob Nash's life he told me he'd heard the song, The Bells of St. Mary's, in his head, all night long one sad evening when he was ill.
Tonight this wonderful time-travel piece played on our satellite. Those rich dulcet tones of Bing Crosby's voice evoke his era (and the season) to perfection. When he and Ingrid Bergman sang the theme song with the sisters, I sobbed and thought of Bob, and his last days on the planet. I miss him. He was my ballast, a part of my heart. I know it was "his time," but so what? It is a loss I honor, every day.
Seeing the dewy skinned and trembly voiced Ingrid in a nun's habit mystified me. Bing, with his Roman collar and boater hat, worked behind the scenes to make the nuns' dreams come true: the local tycoon (Henry Travers, Clarence Odbody to fans of It's a Wonderful Life) donated his building for their school. When the rich man finally gives in, a mongrel terrier he's befriended yelps and yawns in the pew just behind him. (I think the dog inspires his benevolence more than the church and the beautiful nun, but that's just my take on it.)
Yes, just transport me to the mid-1940's, when life was so much clearer. This time of year, the weepy hormone, Estrogen, gives both sexes permission to shed some tears remembering our dreams of holidays past. Call it a massive, culture-wide, anniversary reaction to our dysfunctional world.
So what can we say as we approach the end of this annus horribilis? Well, we learned a lot, our souls pressed to the windshield of the speeding car headed into the bottomless lake. Our hearts grew, as we realized we were surviving, not crumbling. The only way to do this in difficult times is to expand, not contract. And that means pushing our hearts to the breaking point, filling them like grand balloons, almost to bursting, but not quite.
The best part of the December holidays? January and the New Year is right around the corner, beckoning to us like the sweet nymph she is. And this year, on January 20, church bells around the world will ring out a new and beautiful song.