On Christmas Day, the rain stopped and the sun took over long enough for my annual long walk in Christmas Hat through Golden Gate Park, and especially to remember my friends at the AIDS Memorial Grove. The Christmas tree above is from the east circle below the main entrance to the Grove. Every year, some group of gnomes puts this tree up, and I added a few ornaments today. As I did, a woman of roughly my age entered the circle, and quietly kissed a specific name among those engraved. We each sat silently and thought our thoughts ... and I wished her Merry Christmas as I left her alone.
My friend Kurt reintroduced me to Christmas in 1988 when he invited me along with Tom to cosponsor "A Victorian Christmas Party" in his home. That event is the genesis of the annual party I have co-hosted with various people ever since ... though I did miss two years for reasons that seemed important then but not now. Embracing Christmas is a little like sports to me ... you choose it or not, and when you choose it, you dive right in, you make it your own. I do not believe that there is only one way to do Christmas, and I try to enjoy everyone's different take.
For me it is about Santa Claus, and the deep northern traditions that this composite and evolving character embodies. Of course, there is plenty in Santa Claus that can be laid at the doorsteps of less northern climes ... but what attracts me is the notion of a wizard distributing presents and punishing the wicked all at once. These days, we remember the gifts, of course, but pay less attention to the willow branches and canes with which earlier eras were well acquainted.
The most fun of my annual walk is using the excuse of my silly hat, pictured to the left, to wish any one I pass a jovial Merry Christmas. The more run-o-the-mill middle class the folks are, the less likely they will return the gesture. There are quite a few "You too's" which is not quite the way one is supposed to do it. The appropriate response is "And a Merry Christmas to you also." I find older black men and folks with Russian accents are the most likely to respond in kind ... just an anecdotal survey from about a decades experience. Homeless people often response with a Merry Christmas, though I admit that I tend not to engage the more insane looking of these poor souls. Today I had a Ward and June Cleaver type family that chimed back in unison a cheery Merry Christmas; I thought maybe I had stumbled through a wormhole and I was temporarily in Indiana.
This evening, I will have dinner with my best friends at Solin and Winfield's ... we've done that most every year for over a decade ... excepting the several years when they wre recovering from a nasty fire that was the fault of their neighbor. Sad tale ... but suffice to say that they recovered and their magical home is intact and more beautiful than ever. It is one of those places where Christmas feels native and natural, and the spirit of the season shines.
And we eat and drink and make merry. On Christmas Day.
When we were children, we used to put on a Christmas play every year that we spent with our maternal cousins. It took a lot of doing, and coming and going ... I wish I still had the scripts. There are no photos or videos that I know of, but it was all-consuming, a magical interlude. Sooner or later there would be a little criing and all that, but the day the summit of the year.
Still is for me ... I try to capture the magic in my mind to review it from time to time during the long grind until next year.
So I will leave it at that, and say only this ... Merry Christmas to all!
Photos by Arod ... except the one of me, and I do not remember who took it. The other two are from the AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park.