The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 26, 2012

Joe Hadsall: Christmas and I have complicated relationship

By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor

JOPLIN, Mo. — Sure, I have some great Christmas memories with friends and family, such as the time a family member wrapped a Christmas present for my sister in a Tampax box, or the first time The Lovely Paula and I went to a work-related Christmas party -- it was at the Tower Club in Springfield, and everyone was as quiet as a funeral. Except for blabbermouth me. I'm still amazed my jokes went over as well as they did, because I'm SO not the life of a party.

I like the lights. Those are pretty. And thanks to LED technology, they're are pretty awesome these days. If the new Geek Central had an outside power outlet, I'd probably start embracing my inner Clark Griswold. (Funny story: We've lived here for almost 18 months, and I still haven't found an outside power outlet.)

I can't stand the music, as a whole. Too many unoriginal rehashes, simplistic verse structures, major chords and WAY too much sugar. Jeremiah Tucker said it better in his column last week.

Granted, the Christmas music that I love, I really love. I made a Christmas playlist for TLP last year that features some of those songs. Among my favorites:

I also love giving really good presents, when I score a grand slam. TLP says I'm a gifted gifter, and that makes me swell with pride.

I wish I could concentrate on those things I love. But the outward symbols displayed by everyone else push my inner feelings around. Everything I think Christmas should be gets roughed up and shoved to the side, replaced with what society says I should be feeling:

It's the forced happiness that gets me, I guess. Greed mixes with jealousy and sours me on the whole experience -- I envy those who seem thrilled with the holiday, then get mad at them for being so happy, when in reality, they probably have many of the same issues as me.

Maybe I'm a Grinch at heart. But Christmas funk is a real thing for a lot of reasons, and I have to deal with it in order for me and mine to have a good holiday.

And here's how: Magic. I believe in it.

I couldn't really put my finger on it until I re-read one of the most famous letters to the editor in existence. Francis Pharcellus Church, the editor who told Virginia that there was indeed a Santa Claus, wrote this near the end of his letter:

"You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond."

There comes a time when we know we are at the limits of what we know. We realize that something has structure, order and logic, even though we can't identify it to save our lives.

For some of us, it happens when we think about quantum particles spinning in such a way that they can replace processors in computers. For others, it happens when we rap about magnets, wondering, "How do they work?" That's not an issue of being smart, but of being knowledgeable. Knowing those things means that we can replicate those things for ourselves.

But nothing about Christmas can be replicated. Miracles abound every year. The feeling finds different nooks and crannies of our hearts every time.

Magic is discovered, whether it's in giving the perfect present or playing an epic game with the family. The glow of Christmas hits us all differently, and even the grinchiest of Grinches finds a way to celebrate the beauty and wonder of this world.

I have no explanation for this magic, yet I believe it happens. It's an old, powerful source of supernatural energy that will last as long as humanity, no matter what happens to us.

This should mean a lot coming from my Grinchy self: I hope you and yours have a truly happy Christmas. I hope you spot the magic easily and abundantly, and that you can appreciate the mystery of its origin and persistence.