Christmas tattoo

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dear Santa,

It’s three in the morning, if that tells you anything.

I’ve tried every one of my sleep remedies except the self-hypnosis CD, which… well, too bad you can’t just slap it in and let someone lull you down, but you have to learn the routine and I haven’t gotten there yet. Generally, I start with a passionflower tincture. Then if that doesn’t work, a valerian cap.  Then Calms-Forte. Then I go into deep breathing and shoulder dropping and relaxing my eyeballs out of that text-reading position and into the far-horizon one, as if staring out over snow or sand or spume just as far as closed eyes can see.

My last resort is always the same: I tell myself that sleep doesn’t matter that much, so it doesn’t really matter if you don’t get enough of it some nights. Eventually, though, human beings do need rest and rapid eye movements; so, then, I think briefly about tossing back half a Valium with a squirt of St. John’s wort… but generally don’t. Tonight, as the stars throb and gleam in their deep vacuum of space, I’m writing you instead.

You’d think I was asking for sleep for Christmas or something, after all that! Seems a bit rude to me — like asking for a blindfold during the Nutcracker of life. But, yes, on a side note, if you can slip me some fairy dust every once in a while to knock me out, I’d be grateful. Oh, and more dreams like that recent one where Richard Gere has a note delivered to me (with a key in a Ziploc) about meeting him at Hotel Valencia for the one night he’ll be there. Gosh, that might be all I ever need, really.  Next time, I’d like not to wake up in the middle of furiously texting him back from the Thunderdome. As a matter of face, let’s eliminate the Thunderdome completely, however much I like the idea of Richard Gere in my post-apocalyptic world.

Anyway, you know this, of course, about my childhood: three in the morning is about the time, on Christmas eve, that I would pop awake for a brief spell and pad down to see if the cookies and milk I’d set out for you were gone. At the same time, it was as if my whole head was sprouting ears – instant chia seed antennae — for hearing even the faintest, most distant and mellifluous sound of your sleigh bells. Ching, ching, ching.

All those years dreaming of a cheerful ribbon of northern lights, reindeer air-galloping, pulling your mysterious Swedish-fish-and-loaves, ever replenishing version of a sled, loaded down with every conceivable elf-made toy, from Twister to Creepy Crawlers and Picadoo, two coveted items you would have had to have been around in the 60s to appreciate. Consisting of little aluminum molds out of which were made spiders and quilt-like squares with something called Plastigoop. From Mattel. We cooked plastic in aluminum squares, without ventilation, for fun. And you let us!

In those years of waking up to a black sky and imagining a rainbow of sparkle hoof prints and sleigh contrails so vividly, it was like a permanent swipe had been tattooed across my heart. A banner reading, “Believe or die.”

Naturally, it was the anticipation of Christmas I internalized – sealed with carols, and cookies, and crafts, and the smell of pine — this idea that normal life had been suspended and compressed into a five-sense present moment. In the waiting-hoping place, everything was, on a quantum level, different in my brain and heart. Like glass, it was neither liquid nor solid but some soft, sweet, stretchy, magnanimous in-between state. One of possibility.

What is this place, where anticipation has not yet allowed expectation to turn it from sweet cream to sour milk?  Where hope floats instead of blindly groping for the life ring? Where the plasticity of our faculties and talents — and of life itself — become self-evident, like Silly Putty in our hands?

Whatever it is, can you pipe in a little from my childhood this Christmas?  Just get me started. Let me jump on the trampoline of make-believe and bounce until I’m high enough to feel that moment of suspension, that sustained moment where everything – absolutely everything — of great importance happens.

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