Sunday, January 1, 2012
If people ask me whether I'm stressed out, I say, not particularly, but the truth is, I don't know how to spend a day without feeling tense for a part of my waking hours and my dreams. If nothing else these past ten days, I'm angry that I can't seem to get over this mild, but persistent cold that keeps itching my throat, keeping me up or waking me up in the middle of my sleep.
Probably in order to relieve this daily and nightly stress, my brain sends me back to winter holidays from decades ago, when for two weeks, from 21/31 to mid-January, I masterfully, completely--relaxed. I'm talking of course about 1980s, my elementary school years, especially the first half. All those winter breaks have merged into one long film reel of images and sounds of my childhood room.
The plastic tree, the same one every year. "New Year's fir" is the precise literal translation. Not just a tree, a fir. And no Christmas. Different kids celebrate different traditional religious holidays with their families, or, like my family, don't have a religion, so the holiday we all have in common is New Year's and of course Day of Children's Joy, 12/31. But even the Day of Children's Joy is not a big deal to me, except that there are no classes, and you go to school in order to get a package from the fat man in a red, fur-trimmed suit and a matching hat, and a white beard and mustache, the man we call Deda Mraz (Grandpa Frost). I don't remember ever actually believing Deda Mraz was a real person, so I must have figured out very early on that this is someone dressed up for a performance, and that the adults in our lives buy us presents, and that's okay. And it's not even the presents that are very important to me. December 31 is exciting because it's the beginning of my winter break, two weeks of my solitary rituals.
I wait, patiently, for the dusk. Turn on nothing but the string of lights on the tree, stare for a while.
Then turn on the reading light by my bed. Sometimes I read a book cover to cover in one day, like Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole Diaries. Sometimes a book takes a whole break. Sometimes it's a book of stories, a story a day. Or a book of poems, which then makes me write my own poems in a notebook.
My sounds come from the old record player, with its small wooden body and speakers, and the records I associate with winter the most: The John Lennon Collection with a lyric sleeve, 45s by Yugoslav bands Grupa 220 or Rani Mraz. Although I normally dance a lot to records during the rest of the year (at home alone; with friends in their rooms; during my twice-a-week ballet classes; at my school's dance parties), during the winter break I play the records and just sing along quietly, sitting or lying still. Side A until the silence of the final, wide groove. Either the needle snaps back on its own, of I have to slide it back. I flip the record to side B, careful not to drop it, careful not to scratch or grease up any of the grooves. Put the needle back on. Drift away with the melodies, lending the imperfection of my voice to the voices of those sensitive men writing songs about Peter Pan.
No one is sick. The adults in my life are not fighting, and they and the rest of the world are letting me have my solitude and my sweet leisure.
My brain sends me these images of stillness, soothing quiet, and spare but warm and colorful lighting.