It isn’t my first Christmas although almost so, that part of me hidden for half a century, its twisted discovery filling a hole that I never knew existed, yet always knew.
This is the strangest Christmas, a time of gathering, now in isolation, only pixels and prayers on a too flat screen, and it is hard, in times of want and suffering, to recall why we celebrate this day.
A child was born, and now countless others will be, and it is only the children that recall his message, and truly understand peace.
I always imagined it would somehow be romantic, not in the Hollywood sort of way, but in an idyllic, picturesque manner, even if that denied basic reality. Reality, when it comes to origins discovered is overrated, for the normal percolation time is denied, and the impact is sudden with no restraints to temper the blow. Way back when, you learned by stories told by the elders, who know, or led you to believe they did without question, who painted word pictures, drew out fading photographs that barely seemed real. You believed them because they knew, knowledge directly proportional to their age. For me it was the inside of my cheek, a wait, and an email, and then news, place names barren of detail, Lithuania. Later, village names, and only then visions of pogroms, of flight, of a desperate search for freedom and West Virginia. Details were added, but the picture was monochrome, a barren, wordless palette and no brush to be found.
There is a reason for all things and therefore there is a reason for this although we cannot begin to fathom what that reason could possibly be, which should be reason enough, for reason has a twisted soul: now playful, now angry, now vengeful in irregular turns without warning. The problem with seeking the reason for things is deeply hidden, and not as some imagine that it is difficult, no, the problem is that the search for the reason has its own reason needing to be discovered and so on recursively back to the Big Bang which still, to this day, has the ultimate undiscovered reason.
He had always wanted to be a scientist. He wasn’t particularly good at math, biology or any of the other sciences, but dreaming didn’t require that sort of aptitude. He imagined he was part of a great scientific breakthrough, something that would change man’s understanding of the universe and life itself. He knew such discoveries were few and far between, but they did happen, so he had a shot. Then, reading some science magazine he discovered his quest. He would find the God particle. He wasn’t sure what that was, but he knew it shouldn’t take a great mind and a magnifying glass to find a particle that looked somewhat like him.
It wasn’t so much that it slipped away this morning, I’ve come to expect that, and I know there is absolutely nothing I could do to stop it. It wasn’t even that I couldn’t recall what it was precisely that was gone, for that is the nature of departure and longing. It was more that I now cannot determine what it was the replaced it, and my mind is supposed to be engaged in a net zero sum memory game, for that is what gives me hope for tomorrow.
It’s all a question of knowing where to look for one, but ask what would you do if you stumbled across it. It’s not a simple decision, nor should it be. The better question still is how you will know when you finally find it, for it is marked only deep within your heart.
She likes to tell him that he came from a small village in Lithuania. He prefers to remind her that he was born in the District of Columbia which has never been mistaken for a small village in Lithuania, although he knows he could find several who speak Lithuanian there. And, he points out to her, that would only be half the story, for he is certain the father he has never met never set foot, genetic or actual, anywhere in Lithuania. Still, in his dreams, he can sit with the grandfather he never met and they will converse in Lithuanian.
In a small storefront, in an older neighborhood of the city, I found it. Sepia coated with a fine sheen of dust and neglect, it lay on the table amid a stack of others, as though a leaf of phyllo in a poorly made stack fresh from the oven. I knew it as I looked at it, touched it gently, that it had once held a magic incantation, that if you allowed it, could take you on a static journey where stillness was infinite. I read it though it was wordless, but clear, it was a map to the country of dreams. Not mine, I knew. Mine had the mundaneness of Chinese menu ordering, column A, column B, or sorting socks still hot from the dryer. I saw in it possibilities, where ties and restraints could have no meaning, where crawling and flying were coequal skills and walking was so evolutionarily regressive. I thought of purchasing it. The price was certainly reasonable. I thought of framing it with archival mats, and encasing it in museum glass, hanging it on a wall, or placing it behind the mattress where it might seep through like a ferryman plying the river of night, never quite touching opposing shores. I left it in the store that day. I haven’t gone back to see if its patina has grown. For me it could only be an artifact. A map is of so little use, if you have no destination.
The hardest part, surprisingly, is finding that one odd thread where you least expected, and following it back until it merges with another, and another still until you recognize that it is a weft, and the warp slowly becomes more apparent. Still it is nothing but carefully interwoven threads until you allow yourself to step back, and a pattern appears slowly, growing more clear as threads are recognized, and the twisted threads of DNA eventually reveal a rich tapestry of the family you never knew, never expected to know, whose blood runs through your veins and arteries and, ungrounded from your long held beliefs of self, you find footing in a soil unexpected, but which touched deeply does feel so very much like home.