A Christmas Memory: If Only in My Dreams

After a decade of institutionalized Christmases in recovery homes and homeless shelters I find myself in a beautiful home, pictures on the walls, warm inviting rooms, and views from every window of the majestic mountains and vast golden fields and canals that separate us from them. Sunsets that evoke a Spiritual peace of mind, some promise that no matter how bad things might get the sheer splendor of every moment is reflected in the sky. 

As a happy child of the Post-War years I fantasized of living in Arabia where common people become princes and carpets fly, I still have flying dreams and I was for a time royal but I have never been to Arabia. The childhood dreams that dominated every holiday made the season all the more magical looking forward to the coming-true years. They came so fast and were so quickly gone and what came of that for me was after-life despair.

Years of wondering what possible lessons there could be in obsolesce and deciding drugs and cheap thrills were the best way to waste the time once I gave up on earning forgiveness or reparations to the many I hurt so badly. Better to forget such enormous mistakes, impossible to face them … like looking at death itself …  easier to die alone without memories. 

A bit of a homeless activist, I got portable toilets in a field next to a school where the walkways stunk of pee and there were piles everywhere of defecation in Riverside, worked with Mayor Mike Gardner who impressed me so sincerely that I got a better impression of government than it subsequently deserved.

I spoke before the City Council in Santa Barbara when the Mission closed and hundreds of us were consigned to the beaches with Mylar blankets. I lived like a king there, an ocean for company and a lagoon of brackish water to savor as a morning greeting … knowing that I was part of the rot that was poisoning such a loving and beautiful city, pristine but for our public desperation … I left, in fact, because I was sick of being ashamed of myself. I always thought I’d go back a hero … maybe that and Arabia. 

The old man 10 years my senior bakes pies that fill the house with spicy sweetness and set off the fire alarms … the dogs ogle their Christmas stockings with admiration … chewing them up is their favorite holiday tradition. A Christmas tree and wreath and decorations everywhere, “And this is fine,” says the Crow (a name I gave him for his ability to make loving life a predatory thing) through cocoa mist, “This is just fine.” Who would have thought making someone else’s dreams come true would be so redemptive. For unto us a child is born. 

After so many years on the road never for a minute believing I deserved it I am home for Christmas. I learned a lot of things, many I didn’t want to know, but the Christmas Message that I want to share with you is something my mother told me one Christmas day long ago: if you’re not paying attention you could walk right passed your own destiny, dreams that come true never look like you expect them to. To which I would only add: it’s easy to get sloppy with perfection looking for its fraudulence … Merry Christmas to the dreamers … in a way we are always home.

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