Sunday, December 19, 2010

Drew Graduates, Olivia Captivates, I Ruminate

This holiday season's posts have shown that I have been fortunate enough to experience a plethora of spirit-lifting moments. I have to admit, however, that a combination of this past year's loss and mental anxiety have left my holiday spirit a bit lacking. Dad's passing was a tough ordeal but the outpouring of love our family received kept us going. It is, however, the first Christmas without Dad and this season has left me more than a tad bit melancholy.

In a conversation with Keith this morning. I was reflecting on some difficult holidays my family endured when my sister's mental illness was at its peak and the horrific public and private dramas that were the norm for our Christmas holidays. Nothing would concern me more than for my very spiritual parents to be "not be feeling the spirit this Christmas". Not ones to be beaten down for long, my folks and my Dad in particular, would realize that sometimes they needed to look for and at times, desperately search for spirit-lifters. They would find it through their church, not necessarily from a certain sermon but from working with the Holiday Food Basket program or through the Clothing Center. Sometimes, Dad would gather the three of us in he car just drive around town to gape at the holiday lights and those drives, like the ones he took us on when I was a child, would become some of my favorite Christmas memories.

During these over-the-top days of retail insanity, I often find myself worn out body and soul and in that position of looking for signs of holiday spirit. One unlikely sign strolled in by the name of Phil Donahue. Yes, the famous talk-show host strolled into our store and asked for a copy of his wife Marlo's book. He then asked a bookseller to photograph himself holding the book so that he could send it back to his wife while telling her how much he missed her. Well, damn if my heart wasn't warmed by ol' Phil himself.

Leaving work on Friday, I was supposed to join some co-workers to celebrate our friend Drew's college graduation. After eight hours of unrelenting customer-induced fresh hell, I will admit that as much as I adore my co-workers, the last people I wanted to spend time with were living reminders of the day we had all just endured. So, I took a little side trip strolling through our Zona Rosa shopping mecca and let the frigid air settle on me while taking in their holiday lights. Zona Rosa's lights reflect Kansas City history as they originated as the downtown crowns that were staples every year. Watching the families cavort around the giant tree in the courtyard reminded me of those drives with Dad and indeed helped to recapture a bit of that elusive spirit. Regrouped, I walked on to Stone Canyon Pizza and joined my fellow retail warriors. As Drew was responsible for turning me on to The Mighty Boosh, I gifted him with a book on the truly twisted BBC TV show and a card signed Old Greg. It was good to kick back with my cherished bookstore buds and enjoy a tasty slice of spicy South Of The Border Pie with a glass of Sam Adams Winter Ale. We all wished the mighty Drucifer well in his latest step towards world domination. Oh, the places he'll go...

Saturday and Sunday, another spirit-lifter would enter our lives in the guise of one lovely little three-year-old named Olivia. She and her mother Lisa, an old college friend of Keith's, came for an overnight visit from Omaha. We met at Bravo Italian restaurant for dinner and it wasn't long before I was utterly captivated by the charming Olivia. She would draw a picture of me and we would eat big bites of our dishes together (hers a ridiculously decadent macaroni and cheese, mine a seriously savory Chicken Scallopini consisting of grilled chicken topped with portabello mushroom, provolone cheese and a crazy good lemon-caper sauce with a side of herb linguine). Olivia sat directly at my side and at one point touched my cheek with her finger and said' "You're my best friend.". Whatever cynical armor I was donning at that moment shattered at her very touch. We gleefully moved on to dessert.....while Keith and I dug into our chocolate-chip bread pudding, Olivia sat on K's lap and devoured her ice cream down to the last drop by throwing her head back, bowl and all. Now that's the way to eat dessert. We followed dinner with our own stroll through the Zona Rosa lights. This time, we watched as Olivia ran and danced around the courtyard, completely awed by the ginormous tree with the ornaments as big as she is and the gently falling snowflakes she tried to catch on her tongue.

On Sunday, we took Olivia to Crown Center for some truly kid-oriented fun. The Nutcracker Soldiers lined the shopping center and the Crayola Cafe was packed with children. Lines wrapped around the corner for the train-themed restaurant and the Christmas play. We walked outside where Olivia would play with abandon around the Mayor's Christmas Tree and I would photograph the skaters gliding around the Ice Terrace. We were amazed by Santa's Gingerbread enormous display created by the chefs at the Hyatt and Westin hotels complete with three lococmotive trains. Once again, seeing all of this Christmas hoopla through her wondrous eyes makes it all feel a bit childlike again....the best way to experience it, let's face it.

I suppose this post reeks of a tad too much treacle. It almost gave me a sugar rush when I re-read it. Then I re-read the last two sentences I just wrote and remember that its far easier to fall back on a full plate of cynicism and bitterness and I'll have that with a side of snark, please. Sometimes, though, its good for me to work a little bit harder to get a little tasty reminder of the magic of Christmas. I just need to check out those lights again or revisit that childlike wonder.....

Recently on an exhausted drive home from work, I was mentally sifting through the night's events, when I saw a fiery streak across the sky. This was not a typical falling star. What in bloody blue blazes was it?! Was I hallucinating? Was I having my first UFO sighting? Is Santa doing a trial run? I was so mesmerized by that awe-inspiring sight that I nearly wrecked the car. I arrived home, burst into the door and asked Keith if he'd heard of any strange sightings in the sky this week. The K-Man consulted his trusty Evo sidekick and as it turned out, that night was the clearest opportunity to view the Geminid meteor shower. I was under a strange spell from my unexpected view of this made all of my little anxieties seem that much more minuscule. Talk about childlike wonder.

It appears that I am still learning from Dad. He taught me how to find the holiday spirit amid great family strife and now I've learned to seek it out during the down times. I'll miss him this year but I still feel his presence....when I look at the Christmas lights; when I watch a child's eyes light up and even during the occasional meteor shower.


Charlotte's Web of Books said...

Where is that dern "Like" button when you need it?

Happy Holidays to you & Keith! May you have a peaceful holiday & a joyous New Year!

Confounded Cook said...

Thanks, Char....may your Christmas and New Years be peaceful and joyous as well.

Anonymous said...

Another one to bring tears. Great post Greg. I'm happy to be spending some time with my B&N buddies Tuesday night.

Confounded Cook said...

Thanks Kitten, can't wait to spend time with you as well.

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