To some, such a notion might seem like heresy, but lately, I’m repositioning myself vis-a-vis the canonical figures of Christmas. I want to add a Mother Christmas. No, not in Father’s sleigh. He can soar with his huge pack of toys and goodies down whatever chimney will allow. Tight spaces make me nervous. I want to give her a clam shell conveyance, drawn by sky-dolphins all harnessed with stars. If live dolphins can lift drowning mariners from the sea, their souls in heaven can easily transport Mother Christmas on her clam shell (hints of ropey-haired Venus).
She doesn’t carry a pack, but a dainty purse, for her gifts are celestial, little touches of fairy dust. (I know, she’s beginning to resemble Pinocchio’s Blue Fairy.) She walks on transparent fur-lined slippers (Cinderella grown up) across snowy or sandy fields, into huts and mansions, to sit beside the trashy, nasty, pained and sorrowing. Listen, Christmas isn’t only for good little girls and boys, but the bad and sad ones along with their grown-up selves. Think of her as the kindest, most lovely white-haired teacher you ever met, and you’ll be close to her charm.
Her skin has an array of hues which change in reflections of those before her. She is brown, black, tan, pale. And her cloak is a motley of feathers and fur, leaves and grass, quartz and coal. No point in frightening those who meet her for the first time. She envelopes her visits with favorite scents–baking cinnamon and cloves, fresh sea air, a spicy barbeque, coconut milk, the fishiest of fish.
As for gifts, silence is the first. The silence necessary to hear the quiet rumblings of deepest grief and aching desire. This Christmas she hears the despair of a gypsy family in Romania whose home, lawfully built on a parcel of land, is threatened by the return of wealthy former owners ousted by an outmoded communism. She listens to the whispers of children who’ve walked with drought-starved families in Africa toward the mirage of plenty that retreats each time they approach it. She cradles Black children in the wealthiest White country in the world whose well-meaning teachers can’t erase their own ignorance of racism.
Silence goes a long way if it’s sprinkled with the fairy dust of compassion, but it only fills the toe of a stocking. So Mother Christmas must cook up a whole passle of notions and remedies which extend far across the years into hearts and minds pulled tight with refusal. She must open them to think wisely beyond their borders, to resist beliefs based on privilege, to embrace what is less but ultimately more. To reuse and remake. If you think Father Christmas has millions of lists to check for who is naughty and nice, consider Mother’s undertaking. She’s got the whole world in her hands, not to mention the winds and rains, the seas and lands, the critters and trees. This Christmas Eve, I’m going to set out a plate and cup for her, and under the cookies and milk, I’m going to slip the extra I might have spent on baubles. Along with that, my thanks for all she has accomplished this year, and a promise to heft part of the job myself. To write and speak and act. Given her gi-normous work, it’s the least I can do.