I still do an Advent calendar every year. They’re supposed be for little kids to help them count down the days to Christmas, but I think opening tiny cardboard doors with chocolates behind them is an ageless activity. The history of Advent calendars is also rich with cultural meaning and religious connotations, but honestly, the most important thing here is tiny cardboard doors, people. They rule.
The thing is, I suck at my Advent calendar. I suck at my Advent every year. I mean, I really really suck at it. I’ve neglected mine since December 9th, failing to peel back a single tiny door since that day. Now all of the chocolates I have to eat are backed up like a traffic jam. I didn’t say it was a bad thing.
I blame forgetfulness and procrastination. I blame the chocolates themselves, which don’t exactly offer the same seduction and lure of the Klondike bars in the freezer.
Now I have to play catch up, eating a rash of chocolates one after another, and not even savoring the opening of each door. It’s kind of a metaphor for how adults experience Christmas.
When I was a kid, I was on top of my Advent. I did not let a day, chocolate, or door lapse. The countdown to Christmas was too crucial. Those tiny doors remaining were the only thing that assured me Christmas was not 452349 days away. Thank God, it was only ten days away. And then five. And then two. Which even then still felt like 452349 days away.
Christmas was the day when all my dreams and aspirations came true. My aspirations were toys and having them. Having all of them. Christmas was the day I chipped a bit more away at it—my one true dream of having all of the toys and things that there are.
Then we grow up and have no idea what we want. It becomes such a large and looming thing. What do we want in life? Maybe the neurotic ones and the dreamers go on chasing it forever. Or we settle for just wanting to be happy. Yet as children, the answer was quite simple. We wanted everything.
Except for brain-teaser toys. I did not want those. And I used to get them all the time, people thinking I was a clever and curious child. But I was not curious for maddening wooden puzzles or metal interlocking horseshoe things. Since I’m pretty sure the stature for being gracious and grateful for gifts expires after twenty years—I hated them and they made me want to die on the inside. THERE I SAID IT AND IT FEELS SO MUCH BETTER.
Instead I was curious for the same things all children are. Why is the sky blue? How come when I talk into the fan I sound like a robot? And seriously, what type of animal is Snuffaluffagus?
I also wanted to know how Santa could possibly travel the entire world in one night. It would mean he traveled at 3,000 times the speed of sound. At that rate, the poor bastard would burst into flames upon entering the atmosphere!
My mother would wearily mumble something about magic. I accepted it. I also accepted the dog could hear my thoughts. She looked like she could.
Eventually, my questions of wonderment would turn into questions of skepticism. Questions of skepticism would give way to adolescence and broader questions of want and life. Of faith and God. Of love and dreams, and life and death. And I’d learn that there were no answers, and that I was frightened of anyone who claimed to have them, and that I was drawn to those who were just as confused.
There’s always a lot to think about while I eat all these chocolates and stare out the back window. I get good ideas there. I also get good ideas in the shower. Showers are magical and so is Bath Fitter.
But the back window is still my best thinking spot. The squirrels are fat this time of year. Cute fat. Looks like the neighbors finally put away their grill. The ground is a wan grayish and ambered color, and soon it will be covered with snow.