I sit in a living room. I sit in Ohio. I sit in Christmas.
I take my glasses off and stare at the tree, at the lights dissolving into complex bundles of spikes and fur that contain the same swirls that every light set in darkness has always contained for me, the same distortions of an eye that never learnt to focus itself properly.
And I remember a time, long ago, when the boy who would become me sat in Christmas, in a chair nearly hidden behind a tree, watching a TV tiny by modern standards but large for then, watching a rented video tape of “The Dark Crystal”, its widescreen letterboxing decorated with something like Celtic knot work instead of the usual black.
I wonder if this is a real memory. I wonder if this is a composite of multiple moments, multiple times. Fragments of my past, jumbled together and brought back by bright lights on an artificial tree with gifts set around it. Was my father still alive at this moment, if it was truly only one memory? He might have been. He might have not. He died a couple of years after that movie first lit up the big screen, and back then it took much longer for movies to go from cinemas to home video; back then filling a wall of your home with video was the domain of the impossibly rich. My mother and I only put up the tree for a few years after he died. I never put one up after leaving home; it’s been long enough since then that people have been born and grown to the beginnings of adulthood since then. A lifetime, it feels like. (I tried making a sketch of a tree once out of a camera tripod and a coil of LEDs and it was at once bright and cheerful, and a pathetic sad gesture against the greyness of Seattle winters, and perhaps a subtle reminder of long-gone days it would not do to delve into when I was fighting off huge seasonal depression.)
(Perhaps it was some making-of piece about the movie, on broadcast TV? I cannot know. I dig for scraps of memory and can conjure one of a video tape in a cardboard case rented from Blockbuster, but it’s suspect. Am I just cobbling that together from memories of renting other movies? So much is a blur. So many years between being and then, with a long stretch of grey where nothing mattered, and would never matter again, and why bother trying to preserve any particular moments of that misery for a future me I couldn’t really imagine? Depression’s a bitch, folks. Depression just chops bits out of your life like that.)
I sit in Christmas, and ponder the fragments of my past.