Is it strange to think about having Christmas every year in the southern hemisphere? At first it doesn’t sound odd to live in Ecuador or Australia. I guess if one likes those sorts of places. But then really pondering the idea of Spring rubbing shoulders with Advent and putting out Santa Clause with his reindeer in the front lawn in summer is just strange. I just don’t think I would be comfortable with that kind of change.
A couple weeks ago I saw a Christmas tree already standing in the diner off Howell Mill. I noticed mostly because it wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet. But I’m bothered because somehow, every year, “the holidays” eclipse Autumn. Winter is never cut short by the ground hog, and Spring always releases into Summer, which the South truly hangs on to. Winter Solstice doesn’t even begin ’til December 21st, yet somehow Autumn ends in the heads and hearts of Westerners right after Turkey Day. Can’t Advent and Autumn exist together?
Recently in Atlanta, some of the underpasses had been cleared of homeless people and their few belongings. Then as I was driving with a friend of mine, he turned to me and said, “The bums are back,” to no dismay, and other conversation ensued. But my mind was elsewhere, stuck with the thought, and remembering last Christmas morning making egg and cheese sandwiches with a “sister” of mine for those poor, homeless folk before heading back to visit our families.
And that’s where I find myself this morning, the same Island, passing the same security guard, off the same Gray Fox Lane with the same drive way I’ve been going to and fro for over sixteen years now. And I think about John Krasinski (The Office) and his girlfriend in the film “Away We Go.” They’re in their mid-thirties hoping to find the right place to rest their heads, flying from city to city in search of the perfect home to settle down in. Whether in Arizona or Canada they leave each place longing for more. Their hearts search on. And they visit old friends and family members in hopes of some connection that will last. And in “Away We Go,” Alexi Murdoch plays in the background, singing their soundtrack as they face the troubles of this world; parents that don’t love their kids, losing loved-ones, leaving loved-ones, miscarriages and all the chaos of reality. They are homeless in a sense, and don’t find what they are looking for until the end of the film. One virtue they do cling to as they journey is unconditional love. It’s the syrup that holds all of life together, as their married friends from college describe to them at the diner in Toronto. You can have the pancake, and the house made of toothpicks and coasters, but without the syrup, it won’t stick. It’s the love, even in the worst of times.
I wonder what it would be like to watch a movie like that with a homeless man. I wonder if he would enjoy the ride and then tell me how lucky they are. I wonder if he would say he has syrup in his life. Because he knows that all of us are longing for place, just in different ways.
Or maybe it would be strange and awkward because he thinks I’m not grateful for my past and all the syrup that I have. Maybe it would be like that moment at a party, where you are facing the person in front of you, and while they’re talking to you, it dawns on you and you realize that you keep sipping from an empty mug, an empty glass. And you want out, at whatever cost, because you’re a phony. And you just don’t care about the person in front of you.