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Nor was it any satisfaction to be shown the Mask, and see that it was made of paper, or to have it locked up and be assured that no one wore it. The mere recollection of that fixed face, the mere knowledge of its existence anywhere, was sufficient to awake me in the night all perspiration and horror, with, 'O I know it's, coming! 0 the mask!
---Charles Dickens, A Christmas Tree, 1850
Despite my resolve to ignore the season, I sat by the fireplace that Christmas Eve, acutely aware of my aloneness. Haunted by the image of crackling hearths in the homes surrounding me, I felt pressure to at least build a decent fire.

I was not alone in my ambivalence. One friend had left gleefully for the Bahamas to escape Christmas. A co-worker, chronically depressed, had announced with dark vigor that if things hadn't improved by Christmas Eve, she was going to kill herself on New Year's. I believed she was serious until, at the last minute, she maxed out her credit card for a sudden trip back east to be with her family. The problem remained: Many of us wanted desperately to love Christmas, yet, in truth, we dreaded and loathed it as a dark passage we were forced to endure. Once a year. Every year. For the rest of our lives. Staring into those lonely flames, I decided someone should collect the stories and do a book on this Christmas Blues phenomenon. On the back of a Christmas card I made a list. What were the essential elements to fulfill the myth of a perfect Christmas? 1. You had to have love, both familial and romantic. 2. You needed a fair amount of money for gifts, decor, feasting, traveling, entertaining and a general sense of well-being. 3. The holiday must have personal, spiritual meaning for you, preferably of the Christian variety.

That night I felt none of these elements were in place in my life. A harsh light was focused relentlessly on my failure as a human being - failure to have garnered my fair share of love, wealth and spiritual meaning. Christmas to me represented an unfair hope that, at the stroke of midnight, Santa Claus would come down the spiritual chimney and heal everything: familial pain, torn relationships, shattered ideals, global disharmony, my bank account. I expected more than Christmas could possibly deliver. I needed to lower my sights to some simpler, and survivable expectation - something like the innocence of tiny tree lights or falling snow.

I tossed my list into the flames and watched the fire die out.

Our Editorial intention is not to negate or attack Christmas, but to take a good hard look at the painful and ambivalent aspects of the season. When a group of people admit harsh social truth together, they create an experience of cultural bonding, which is a powerful antidote to cultural alienation. As Jewish co-editor Zelda Gatuskin said at one of our editorial meetings, Because of this anthology I feel less alienated from the whole Christmas thing. I care now; I want people to have a good Christmas! Co-editor Harry Willson told me, It did me good to wallow in it, out of season, and to find so many kindred spirits. It is no coincidence that I myself have had not only survivable but enjoyable Christmases during the two holiday seasons which have passed while we put together this anthology. I believe that is largely due to the empowerment I have felt in reading the Christmas Blues stories of other people and knowing we are helping to put these stories into the culture. In a way, this is our own Christmas carol, collectively sung in a minor key...

PAGE TOP Michelle Miller, March, 1995


Coral Calais Suter

In the dark
round the corner
at the far end of the hard blonde floor
something shines out there like aquarium lights
blue beneath a pine bough
orange against a brittle green sphere
red shooting up at a spun glass reindeer
which twists slightly
astir with the dawn.

This golden waiting.
All night we have huddled
not wanting to breathe too hard.
Gimme morning.

Scrambling down the hall.
Gimme stuff, new, now
ripping through the papers, tossing ribbons.
Gimme what the ads promise:
curvy bangs, sweet pout, tight jeans.
I wanna Barbie. I wanna pert little nose and teeth formed from pearls
wanna charmed life
water in the desert

Don't wanna
taking up raw space at the toe of my stocking
where the pretty chocolate pieces could otherwise
cluster and hide.
I won't eat it
gonna feed it
to the dog.

Gimme fire
Gimme power, wild will, forked thunder
a forearm, bold and muscled, rising from the steam.
Gimme back that ray gun
better gimme that back;
you're gonna break it, make it ugly, make it old.

lemme out
of this flat afternoon,
long and hopeless.
Lemme live back there
where we never go to sleep
always wanting.

Has the best happened yet?
Let me not know now
in a golden morning
in a golden land.

Give me some last gift
hidden low in the branches

[Coral Suter's poems have been published in numerous magazines. She was completing her first volume of poetry and had begun a novel about women and Wyatt Earp. She died in November, 1994, at age 40.]

from the CHRISTMAS BLUES anthology
eds. Zelda Gatuskin, Michelle Miller, Harry Willson
© 1995, Amador Publishers

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