it’s inside us

Christmas scares me.

Not the holiday itself but that each successive year, despite its ever earlier encroachment, it takes me progressively greater effort to summon the holiday spirit or conjure up a bright seasonal emotion which for decades seemed effortless.

Before Halloween has always been unreasonably out of the question, but before Thanksgiving they say, is now increasingly expected if you’re to enjoy the full value of the magic season even though half the country is still well over 73 degrees.

I say it’s just a little scary when it takes this much work to be merry.

So I went to WalMart.

If anything says Christmas in October, it’s WalMart, but then I found myself shopping retail for the best buy on a holiday goods soon to be marked down.

Then I turned on the radio station.

As if I wasn’t snapping into the season quick enough, 24/7 carols sang the tune, but then I questioned whether a song alone could or even should make such an instrumental shift in my attitude.

Over time, I tried several other near misses, disappointing myself at every turn. Baking, decorating, bad sweaters, none seemed capable of the transitional trick.

I once talked with my Mom about it and she shared with me some memories of earlier Christmastimes when the magic didn’t seem so difficult to come by. I called my kids and chatted about it some and we laughed a little at remembering their first Santa Claus moments. But if I recall, it wasn’t until my son, away at school at the time, said he was coming home for the holidays. That was when I felt things inside me change, much like that Grinch moment where he had encountered an obvious truth.

Christmas isn’t created by things and stuff and trappings. It’s inside people.

It’s our special stories, our humored histories and the secret gift searches we Google in talks with one another as the weather begins to change to hot chocolate and we all grow just a little bit closer.

And then suddenly one morning, that little something tips the scales just enough to conjure that Spirit we sought all along. And for the first time of the season, and certainly not the last, we utter our first “Merry Christmas” to a stranger, and indeed, it has arrived.