You-who

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, January 1, 2012
Here in Whoville, the year is about to roll like a log on its way to the sawmill. Christmas trees are being lobbed into piles outside. Ornaments are going back into recycled egg cartons. And town-wide, Whos of every age and temperament draft New Year’s resolutions on the backs of holiday cards and on bits of leftover wrapping paper.

Every Who, that is, except for Cindy Lou (now 48) who has shut herself in her bedroom, incapacitated once again by an annual recurrence of post-Christmas stress disorder, which, in her case, manifests as a migraine headache lasting a week, sometimes even more. Generally, she loses five or six pounds and then drinks protein powder throughout the month of January trying to gain it all back.

Cindy Lou, you see — an energetic wife, a loving mother, and a ferocious athlete (on a par with her husband Marty), has never completely healed from that cold, dark winter of 1966, the one when Christmas — every square inch of it — was snatched away by the Grinch. Eventually, yes, reports were of healthy closure. We all know the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes and that he returned Christmas and even went on to become the godfather of Marty and Cindy’s daughter Samantha Who before his passing in the mid ‘80s. We see a bronze statue of him holding a present close to his heart in front of the Whoville courthouse, and we assume the town is healed. For the most part, it is.

But Cindy Lou, still trying to process (in the recesses of her psyche and heart) that harrowing morning when she had come downstairs to find that all her holiday joy, all her anticipation and faith in the magic of the world, had been stripped bare — Cindy Lou has not healed.

Dr. Norman Who, the town MD, eventually has no choice but to conclude that Cindy Lou’s condition has to do with her speaking role in the story (as told by Theodore Seuss Geisel), and with what seemed to be the Grinch’s personal betrayal of her. That these factors have ratcheted up her symptoms into a full-blown syndrome.

Naturally, Marty has underwritten all manner of treatments for his wife. Psychoanalysis with Dr. Vanessa Who (an utter failure), followed by sedatives and anti-depressants. Supplements, essential oils and Chinese pills for her kidneys being wet and cold. Hypnosis, EMDR, tapping and energetic bodywork. Marty, at the suggestion of their son Evan, has tried whisking her off to spas and tropical climes right after Christmas to break the cycle. In the late 90s the family even hires a medium to contact Grinch on the Other Side. All to no avail.

Also, in an effort to address what appears to be Cindy Lou’s feelings of perpetual lack, her family typically buys her mountains of presents. This year? Marty has upped his game and adopted a puppy for her from Whoville Humane, the sweetest, gentlest ball of baby fat and fur, which Cindy Lou immediately names Marvel.

But right on track, two days after Christmas, Cindy Lou reports her first migraine aura, starts gripping counters, and doubling over, and by the 28th she is back in her room, blinds drawn, alternating between throwing up and lying as still as possible. Samantha has since come over with dinners she has made for her dad. And Evan, a middle school science teacher, calls his father daily with funny stories about the kids.

Marty, this very moment standing in the kitchen and holding the new puppy in his arms, is tired. Exhausted. Almost delirious with trying to fix things. Maybe he has made a mistake, thinking his love can heal Cindy Lou. That their marriage can heal her, that their children can. Maybe, he thinks, she should have married someone smarter than him. Maybe he shouldn’t have married a child star.

Outside, snow is falling. Friends are calling yoo-hoo.

Marty puts the puppy down. He pours himself a cup of the dark roast Whoville coffee they always buy around Christmas. The puppy collapses on a flannel bed of cedar chips and closes his eyes, and Marty stands there, mug in hand, listening to the faint sound of large snowflakes hitting the earth and the fir trees and the tops of bird houses. The coffee smells delicious and he sips it even though he knows it will keep him up. Through the windowpanes the watery light of late afternoon, a translucent golden pink, slowly fades. Lavenders and grays steal in behind, and the world dims.

Marty, somehow mesmerized, doesn’t know exactly what it is he is feeling. His shoulders drop. His heartbeat slows. The world almost seems to be breathing him. He takes this in for the two minutes it is given him and then, as dusk enters the house, he begins lighting candles in the kitchen. Lights one for Cindy Lou, lights one for himself and then his two children, lights one extra. It is the best he can do; and, for once, Marty senses it might just be enough.

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