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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

entry arrow3:36 PM | How to Greet the New Year

Last night, when the New Year came around, I marveled about how things seem to fall into place when you least expect them to. There had been so many reasons for moping away the last days of the old year: less than a week before New Year's Eve, in the middle of frantic considerations for entertaining holiday guests, the car suddenly wouldn't start -- it needed new batteries; then my phone would not ring; my digital camera would not shoot properly, even with new batteries; my deadlines loomed like Damocles's sword; and the Internet broke down from the sheer weight of moving earth and brought a digitized world to its knees.

It was too easy to panic and curse.

In the days going into the battleground of Christmas cheer, I waded through the filth of my apartment, all housekeeping duties neglected because of demands on time and parties to attend. My bedroom was a sea of glitter and dirt: there were shreds of gift wrapping and red Christmas ribbons lying about, all of them marked with a sense of guilt that what gifts I had bought were simply not enough. Will Mother like the orange blouse I bought for her? And the necklace? Will my friends appreciate the DVDs I bought for them? Did I still have a chance to even brave a maddening crowd to get my own cake from one of the patisseries in town, or was everything too late?

It takes strange courage to look beyond the immediate awfulness of things during Christmas time, and just settle for a kind of inner quiet. That attitude, I think, colored my entire run of the holiday season. I had no intention to succumb to the madness. It was enough, so I thought, to already feel my age: at 31, it has become more acute this painful knowledge that Christmas is meant for kids, really. I have spent the past five years barreling into the season with fervent intentions to catch the so-called "Christmas spirit," haunted of course by ever-glowing memories of Christmasses past when I was also a kid, and December always seemed a Wonderland. I had many techniques to capture that spirit: one was inundating myself with Christmas carols blaring out of my stereo; another was to watch Christmas movies that never failed to move me even after repeated viewings. But this time around, the effort felt forced. I decided to give myself a break, and grow up.

It has taken a mere baby to give me that courage. Mark has a beautiful niece named Dewey who is all of four years; her grandmother and assorted relatives and ninangs and ninongs have taken to showering her with gifts from dolls to clothes to (believe it) make-up kits for tykes like her. I can still see the sparkle of joy in those four-year-old eyes as she beheld the world to be a gigantic place bursting with gifts. For her, this is the life: there are lighted up fir trees with tinsels and golden balls, there are never-ending feasts, and on two midnights, there is the strange revelry among adults who suddenly pop fireworks and gobble cakes and lechons and fried chicken and macaroni salad and bihon and ice cream, all to the soundtrack of karaoke music in the air. For a child, Christmas and New Year are strange times when all ordinary things -- like sleeping by bedtime, like eating squarely to quiet doldrums on appointed times every day -- are suspended. To a child, all of these must be magical.

Our unspoken tragedy as adults may be that we long to continue this childlike wonderment of Christmas things, even when age and circumstance (and consciousness) no longer permit it. By the time we turn to knowing grown-ups, Santa is dead, and Christmas now becomes a shared conspiracy among adults.

It has not depressed me, this realization.

So on New Year's Eve, in the afternoon leading to it, Mark and I went to have an hour-long massage at Urban Nirvana, which was a lovely time except for the sudden shrill of out-of-tune vocalists welcoming their Sunday at the adjacent Maranatha church. (I almost gave up on Christianity right then and there.) Then we watched George Miller's Happy Feet and wanted, for a short while, to be tap-dancing penguins. Then, when night approached, we quietly visited Mother and brought her a bottle of mudshake. The alcohol made us merry. Then Mark and I proceeded to his mother's place, where we ate to our fill, and surged through the first morning of 2007 crying to a sudden viewing of Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies. Then we all slept.

I woke up in the early morning promising not to make any resolutions. Cruising the quiet Dumaguete streets on the first day of January, everything in the world seemed heavy with life and promise. Everything seemed new, and capable of rebirth. Then I had my early morning walk. Then I had had my breakfast of crisp bacon and brewed coffee. Then I had my music.

Suddenly, outside, the drunken and drug-addicted neighbor -- perhaps because he had been waken too early in the new year -- started his usual tantrums, scaring away the vestiges of the morning silence with his screams and taunts thrown at no one in particular.

That sketched in for me the very truth about life, something we scarcely acknowledge with every passing season: that while many of us hope for the better especially in the New Year, some things do change, but some things do remain the same.

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