I’m thinking of a toy. I’ve got no idea what it was called. Some kind of rubber dome. Usually fluoro coloured, or at the very least a “cosmic” shade. The kind of thing they’d give away at Pizza Hut. You’d push the middle and turn them inside out, then place them on the ground. You’d stand there, wait. Wait. Wait. POP! Out of nowhere they’d launch into the air, surprising anyone staunchly anticipating their ascension. You’d tell yourself again and again, “I’ll be expecting it this time”. Never. Like a pop up toaster, this inanimate object had a level of calculating self awareness usually the domain of sociopaths. It would bide its time until the moment you got complacent, then ruin any sense of security you’d cultivated. They were awesome.
I’m thinking of a tree. A Christmas tree. Artificial, no more than a metre tall. Unadorned. We were a Jewish family, unorthodox, which basically meant our parents picked and chose which traditions we’d follow. We didn’t celebrate Christmas. We didn’t do presents at Hanukkah either. I say this not as a cry for me plea. We weren’t hard done by. We had abundant love and never wanted for anything we really needed. As a child I hated Christmas. Christmas was other children bragging about what Santa brought them. Finding connection in a holiday I felt isolated from. The envy I felt for their experiences eventually turned to resentment. I doubled down. Fuck Christmas and its corporate bullshit became the mantra. It’s easy to find justification if you seek it.
Still, there was this one small tree. My mother owned a second hand toy store and she’d occasionally bring things home. I asked for this tree and requested that it be put up in my room for my January birthday. I wanted to wake up in the morning, birthday present underneath the tree. It was a strange request for a Jewish family, but my parents did it. That morning was strange, mixed. There was a joy in finally discovering what I’d missed all these years. At the same time, there was an absence, a hollowness. Where was this spirit I’d seen played out in every holiday special? Wasn’t the spirit of Christmas supposed to infuse my being, resulting in goodwill for all humanity? I’m sure I got a great gift that I loved, but why wasn’t the tree lifting me up to where I expected it to?
Isn’t it odd how much power we give to objects? How we expect them to envelop us in meaning? Why don’t they confirm to our intentions? What’s with this inverse correlation between expectations and results? Furthermore, if we know we’ll crush things under the baggage of these expectations, why, time and time again, do we repeat the same patterns and expect another outcome?
Also what the fuck were those rubber dome things called? I wonder if they’re still fun…