Approaching this Christmas Day blog, I feel a bit intimidated by rites and ritual, myth and mayhem. I feel as though I ought to say something profound about this time of year, the celebrations to call back the light, the quiet repose of death and renewal, the collective deep breath we all take as we gather with loved ones and prepare for the new year.
Instead, I think I’ll write about Ding Dongs. You know, the Hostess Cupcake confectionary delight that is a cream filled chocolate cake wrapped in hard chocolate coating? I thought about Ding Dongs because I’ve been thinking about Magic. Fellow ShadowSpinner Cheryl Owen-Wilson wrote about it a few weeks ago in relation to Christmas and storytelling, and I’ve been thinking about the loss of my personal Christmas magic ever since.
When does the loss of Christmas magic happen? When we quietly give up the belief in Santa? When we get too old to get overly excited about gifts? When a loved one dies, leaving an empty place at the table that trumps the pleasant, sparkling fantasy of a world where everything is okay for just one night? When does that One Night get taken away?
For several years now I’ve grieved the loss of my childhood fascination with all things Christmas. The magic didn’t die abruptly, but faded, buried beneath financial panic, grief, tension, stress and remorse. It didn’t go lightly into that good night, for I am a magical thinker, addicted to fantasy, and always have been.
When I was little, my mother used to put Ding Dongs in my school lunches. Being withdrawn and strange, I developed a ritualistic way to eat Ding Dongs, an elaborate peeling off of the hard chocolate coating, nibbling away of the cake in a certain pattern, and then licking the cream out of the hull before devouring the rest. I convinced myself if I did this exactly the same way forever, I would become magic.
Not learn magic, or get some magic beans, but become Magic. Like Glenda the Good or Samantha on Bewitched, I’d be able to wiggle my nose and make all right with the world.
There are two ways of looking at this; 1) I was exhibiting early signs of a psychotic break with reality or 2) My child mind stumbled across the magic of mindfulness. I like number two, because I find it very easy to compare both the swirl of Christmas and the manic, stress-filled world of publishing with a riotous, chaotic cafeteria stuffed with a hundred grade-schoolers spinning out of control on corn syrup and gluten (pre-diagnosis days). It’s perhaps regrettable that I latched on to the meaningless ritual of eating a cupcake rather then say, learning to play the violin, but in my own way, I found a way to ground myself, center into what I was doing, and envision a goal. It’s no surprise that I discovered the power and magic of storytelling around this same time.
As an adult, I apply the Ding Dong Effect to laying down words, one after the other, and believing in the world I am creating while ignoring the clamor of the business side of things, the marketing, submitting, networking and fretting. If I keep the focus on this act of sitting at the computer and typing glyphs into the magic box, I will become a writer worth reading.
Yes, I was a strange child and that strangeness has lived on within the adult, manifesting in the socially acceptable release of story telling. Sometimes I think I believe too much in my stories. Sometimes I still think I can conjure rightness and delight in the world by Making Things Up.
For now, I’ll try applying this story spell-casting onto Christmas, and write the magic back into my world for just one night. Here’s hoping your own Christmas Story has come true, with or without the aid of Ding Dongs.