Wednesday, November 02, 2005
it had to be you...
I’ve got a secret that I have really told no one. I’m going to share it with the Shelf faithful today. See, we are dedicated to our huge fan base here at the Shelf; even if we don’t know who you are. (Thanks for reading, Mom). Anyway, we deliver the goods to you, dear reader, without fear of condemnation. Repeat the Shelf mantra: “Think for yourself, think for yourself.”
Enough of that. Sit down, my children, and you shall hear the deep dark secret I hold so dear. Here it is: Every November 1st , I listen to Harry Connick Jr.’s When Harry Met Sally Soundtrack. That’s it. I know, I know- you are shocked beyond words. Utterances fail your tongue, and you are left feeling empty and alone… so utterly alone. Right? Right?
No? Oh, well then let me explain. You see, I love the fall and winter seasons. Especially fall. That’s when the air is crisp, Mother Nature’s color palate increases, and the holiday season kicks into gear. It’s the season for apple cider, football, carnivals and fairs, warm pumpkin pie and bread, not to mention Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Some people don’t like the hustle and bustle or the cold. I find it strangely comforting. I don’t like the crowds or the noise that accompanies the holiday shopping or traveling- but it is a small price to pay for the fun and the traditions that accompany them. With me it has been an ongoing tradition to listen to that soundtrack the day after Halloween. Sometimes for a couple of days. I have worn out a couple of tapes, and now have a CD. I love the music and I am a big fan of the artist, but that particular album reminds me of fall and winter. It gets me in the mood for the Thanksgiving season and then Christmas with out going straight to the Christmas music. There is no Christmas music on the album per se, but the cuts Autumn in New York and Winter Wonderland fit the bill perfectly for music that aren't exactly Christmas carols, but just right. The album provides a lifting mood- that that special time of the year is near and there is some time to shed a little of the year’s blahs and troubles and just enjoy chilly nights, hot chocolate, and good books or movies. It’s time to spend with family and friends and think more about others.
I don’t know why I have listened to the album every year after Halloween. Probably because it was this time of year when I first saw the film and went out and bought the soundtrack. Maybe because it was this time of year when I popped it in long ago when I was thinking about my friend with whom I saw the movie. Maybe because years later, the songs make me think of my wife and how much I love her. Maybe because the music just kind of fits with my mood and the weather. But somehow along the way – it became a comforting personal ritual every year around this time. It has become a quiet, personal tradition.
Traditions. That’s what I’m really driving at. Most families have them, and almost everyone has personal ones, whether they realize it or not. You see it is a signature human affect to produce rituals. That’s what traditions really are; they are rituals. Since mankind began to place its collective size 11s on the earth, rituals have been a part of the Human experience. Consider this: death is an upsetting occurrence, as is illness, disease, even birth to some degree. Natural phenomenon such as the weather, natural disasters, and Pauly Shore are traumatic experiences. Humans have sought to explain or provide meaning to these things to give stability in a seemingly chaotic existence. Rituals help make sense of and give meaning and context to that chaotic world. Many facets of life have certain rituals that accompany them. All a couple really needs to do to be legally married is for some authority to take their word that they want to be married, take the word of a witness and sign a document saying that they are legally married. And yet there are so many different rituals associated with marriage that the publishing industry alone makes many millions of dollars annually on magazines and books on weddings, wedding planning, and wedding dresses.
Now consider all the other things in life that we enrich with rituals and traditions: Birth, death, birthdays, and rites of passage. These things not only provide meaning to these parts of our lives and prevent them from feeling hollow, they also strengthen the bond between those who share them. Holidays are very much the same way. Cultures, communities and families all have holiday traditions; some that are so fundamental to the holiday that they would not consider celebrating without them. Perhaps it is your grandmother's dessert at Thanksgiving, or trimming the tree with music and hot chocolate at Christmas. Whatever the case may be, I believe that traditions and rituals can be good. We should not be so inflexible that we cannot live without them or let a little hiccup ruin our whole experiece. They should be respected, understood, and held close- but they should not supersede the holiday or the family itself. I am grateful for the many wonderful traditions that have evolved in my own family- and grateful that my parents saw to it that they were carried on. I am grateful for a spouse that has respect for them, even though she is far away from her own family, has come to embrace these traditions and family as her own; and started a few for our own little family in the process. These things and people have enriched my life beyond measure.
So dear Shelfers, you will forgive me if I have put the curmudgeons hat up on the hat rack for one day and got a little introspective. I also hope that when you run into someone who may act a little kooky or have strange little traditions, that you will show the respect that you are known for. Sometimes, those little rituals and things provide the kind of stability someone needs. This is a fragile, unstable world at times. We need to give room for all the normal, stable things we can. Even if it involves turkeys, reindeer, ghost and goblins, candy, and jolly, fat men in funny hats. Oh yeah, and Santa too. You will have to excuse me now, Harry is singing Autumn in New York again. Adieu.
You know, I have a theory that hieroglyphics are just an ancient comic strip about a character named Sphinxy.