Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas dogs

For many years, I've been cynically amused by all the talk about the sense of Christmas. Back in the days when I used to celebrate this festive season in one way or another, notably in Brittany in the context of my ex-wife, I was impressed primarily by the immediate family scene. In Christine's ancestral context, this scene—of a theatrical kind on special occasions such as Christmas—was both qualitatively and quantitatively rich in a way that impressed a naive Antipodean such as myself, projected into this new world by my love for Christine Mafart and our decision to marry and have children.

I was conscious of the inevitable backdrop against which our ephemeral celebrations were taking place, and I was often saddened by the idea that it would have been unthinkable for me to ever seek to evoke that backdrop with my wife, who didn't appear to be sensitive (so I thought, rightly or wrongly) to this behind-the-scenes situation. She was always too busy making sure that her parents and siblings were all getting organized for Christmas in an optimal fashion… almost as if it were a military operation that had to be timed and executed ideally. And I might be assigned the unlikely task of opening oysters. (I say "unlikely" in the sense that, during my entire adolescence not far from the Pacific Ocean and the fabulous oyster fields of Wooli, nobody had ever thought it fit to teach me this art.) Needless to say, the Mafart home in Saint-Brieuc at Christmas wasn't exactly the kind of situation in which somebody might suggest romantically: "Hey, why don't we all go down to the beach and light up a barbecue." Things weren't like that.

The absence of three background elements disturbed me constantly. First, there was the harsh outside world, excluded magically from our Christmas celebrations. Second, there was no place in our family festivities for the city of St-Brieuc, the seaside environment and fabulous Brittany. Third, in this merry midst, my personal psychology, with its preoccupations and ambitions, was an empty cocoon.

Today, those events and personal sentiments are far away in my past. And I find myself celebrating Christmas alone with my dogs.

They're warm, well fed and playful. And I believe they're happy. Unfortunately, they know next to nothing about the birth of Jesus. Me neither, for that matter. And the only wise man Sophia and Fitzroy have ever encountered is, of course, me. But they don't appear to be missing out on too much.

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