There’s a very precise moment when I realize that autumn has become winter. I notice this moment when spring fades into summer, when summer cascades into autumn and when winter eases into spring. In Canada these moments are essential to gauging my year – to knowing how much time has gone by and how much time I have left to get the things done I told myself I would accomplish. Rarely do I accomplish all the things I thought I might be capable of, but I do have incredibly high standards according to my friend Lisa. I miss the changing of the seasons, but I’m not sure I’m willing to give up my endless summer only to regain the sensation of time elapsing.
My lack of traditionalism also hinders this sensation. I do not care for Christmas. I have tried to force myself to like it, but there’s so much to detest about it. When I was a child I loved the feeling of Christmas, but mostly the “traditions” that preceded it. The decorations on the streets would show up, which usually was the signal to put your own decorations up at home. Shopping centres would begin playing carols over the PA, all of which I knew due to weekly sing-a-longs in the school gymnasium. Grandma would show up with a container of sweets she baked as part of her Christmas tradition and mom would make sure there were mandarin oranges at all times – and one would always be found in my Christmas stalking. Nuts and nut crackers would wind up on the coffee table and a bowl of jubjubs or M&Ms would grace some end table in the living room – which was totally off kilter due to making room for the Christmas tree. Family and friends would come over for dinner, sometimes it was a gift exchange, sometimes it was just because Christmas was the only occasion that we actually made time for each other. And the snow. The snow would fall, well not all the time, but it would fall and mom would stir us up some hot chocolate to warm our frozen bodies from endless hours of fort building during Christmas break. Dad would drive us around the neighbourhoods on Christmas Eve to see all the houses lit up awaiting Santa. And then I would try to sleep – eagerly anticipating what laid beneath the tree. So much would be crammed into such a short amount of time. It was wonderful. It was all so rich and exciting.
But then Christmas would pass. We’d still visit. There’d still be cheese and crackers and nuts and M&Ms, but I could feel the magic waning. New Years would pass and then, like a switch, we could only look forward to summer.
As a child it’s easy to link all the happiness and love I felt inside to Christmas – and it made me look forward to it each year. But then things change. I grew up. I moved out. I got busy. And at some point I lost all my heart fuzzies for Christmas. It was probably around the time I wasn’t surrounded by tradition. Or that I felt the greedy pull of materialism invading what I always thought was more about showing people how much you love them. The commercialism of this Christian holiday also eventually corrupted my heart. I know it’s all meant to be about sweet little baby Jesus, but I really don’t consider myself to have a religion – and that too added to me giving up on Christmas. A transient lifestyle also helps eradicate silly sentiments. But I realize now, more than I have previously, that those silly sentiments were what helped me see a year go by. One revolution around the sun.
These days, as I drift through my endless summer, I have few markers to pinpoint a year and gauge if I have accomplished much of my todo list. Moments from last year are blurry because I heed little worry to the weather. It is no longer my time-keeper. And, as I acknowledge that, I realize that I long for the sensations of time to fill me up again. The question is – can I create new markers for myself? Or will I always long to see the first snow flake, my first spring robin and the lamppost decorations going up in November? Is it really a question of time going by, or have I misunderstood all this while what traditions are really about? Perhaps it’s not so black and white. The markers we place in our life to weigh-in our time here can serve more than one purpose – they can help us enjoy our time here too, that is, if we’re willing to put the time and effort into making them a part of our life.