Tuesday, December 24, 2013

ghosts of chrismas past

The other day at the gym, A Very Kardashian Kristmas was playing. Or, if that wasn’t the title and spelling, it should have been. All the Kardashians and Jenners and their significant others wore fluffy bathrobes and shiny, ironed-and-curled hair, including Bruce. (I think the rumors that he wants to become a woman are probably untrue and definitely gender-variant-phobic in a variety of ways. But he really is looking more ladylike lately.) 

The camera zoomed in on giant nutcrackers and flickering candles whenever one of them got particularly boring, which was a lot. They exchanged gifts. Kim would open something like Apple TV, and one of the others would exclaim, “But Kim, you could buy every show on Apple TV!”

But at least there's divorce and rehab in this scene. So they're just like us after all.
And just in case that doesn’t convey the true meaning of Christmas, they also watched old home videos—the girls in matching velvet dresses, Kim with no collagen in her lips, Kris looking exactly the same as she does now. There was even dark, grainy footage of Robert Kardashian, the dad they lost.

My dad videoed every Klein family Christmas morning from roughly 1982 through 2003. It’s strange to watch the DVDs he painstakingly converted from VHS and be steeped in the utter past-ness of it. To try to reconcile my memories of uncontainable excitement and the delicious plastic smell of a new My Little Pony castle/nursery/ice cream shop with what’s on the screen: dated clothes and hairstyles, blurry footage and our little pathologies, like when my mom says, before anyone opens a gift they didn’t specifically ask for, “Now, I just happened to find this, and if you don’t like it, you can throw it away.”

Susan, my dad and Cathy in 2006. It was Christmas Future in 2005; it's Christmas Past now.
There’s footage of me opening birthday gifts in our motor home one year, when I must have been in seventh or eighth grade, all Sun-In bleached bangs and sarcasm. But I was usually a nice kid on holidays, and I exclaim with genuine joy when I open a book of cartoons titled All I Need to Know I Learned from My Cat. We all laugh at advice like “Nap everyday.” It’s like an archeological dig for the origins of internet humor.

The cat's not wrong.
At CalArts we were always reading and writing things that “problematized” memory. I thought it was postmodernism, but now I think it’s just getting old.

Even when I was little, the holidays made me wistful. Maybe it was the music, maybe it was something I smelled on the adults around me. Maybe it was knowing that I was lucky and another year had gone by and my parents would die someday. Maybe I knew, somehow, that I lived inside a video I would one day watch.

I’ve been in a strangely good mood these past few days. Almost giddy. It’s more like my seven-year-old version of the holidays than anything I’ve experienced in the past few years. I imagine snow and new things born in the dead of winter. It’s been a year since I had surgery, and this year I can move my arms freely, and that’s part of it. And I have a bunch of days off, and I can use them however I want. (Who finally put her giant jars of coins in the Coinstar machine at Vons yesterday? This girl!)

It’s also gratitude. I’ve broken down at several random moments, thinking how lucky and undeserving I am (and it’s true—because if I don’t deserve the bad shit that’s happened recently, I probably don’t deserve the good stuff either, or at least not more than anyone else, because we all deserve food and shelter and love and creativity). I only know how to swing between outrage and mild guilt. And right now I’m rocking the mild guilt. Right now I’m doing something that looks a lot like loving life, although I’m almost afraid to type it. I don’t have everything I want, and I am underlining that for the universe/Santa to know: Just because I’m having a good time, doesn’t mean I don’t need a baby. And I know this won’t last forever, because getting old is knowing that nothing does. It’s what makes existence feel muted and grainy as an old home video.

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