The Christmas season is so polarizing. It is shaped with anxious awaiting, exciting moments and rich tradition, all leading up to that series of smiles, giving and receiving in the morning. But there is another side, a bluer side that follows it. At least for me. This year it came quicker than expected since I had to leave my hometown Christmas night in order to be back in Provo in time for work the next day. Usually I milk Christmas as long as I can. We keep the lights up through January, and keep the tree up longer than we probably should. I still let Christmas music play, and I eat candy well into the new year. But the Christmas blues hit me this year as the present opening ended and a lull fell over our house. Everyone was exhausted and after a hardy and slightly burned breakfast it was nap time for most of us. I was so thankful to be home and around those I loved, but truly bummed that my holiday was going to be defined by brevity. I was also sad because my sister and new niece hadn’t joined us this year. We were staying in my grandma’s house just across town even though my grandma was celebrating with my cousins in Washington. The house was bigger and more conducive for gathering. But it was a constant reminder to me of my late grandfather. In a house full of windows, I couldn’t help but look out them and see the past. I saw myself running around the alfalfa fields with my sisters and cousins. I saw my grandpa teaching us how to move sprinklers and drive four-wheelers. We were never as close as I had hoped. He was surly and prone to grumpiness, and I was rambunctious and wore baggy pants. But he loved me and I loved him. His sudden departure from this world reminded me how much we loved each other in spite of our differences. But Christmas also reminded me of him; it reminded me of him singing in front of our whole family sweet classics and Swedish lullabies. His hugs and cowboy jeans were on the tip of my mind. It is terribly upsetting how obtuse we can be about love and family until a death awakens that underused love within us.
There is an old Yiddish lullaby that tells of a Rabbi teaching youngsters the alphabet. With classical Jewish tradition the Rabbi leaves the children with these final words, “When you grow up, you will come to understand how much pain and how many tears these letters contain. And joy. And majesty.”
A little intense for a group of youths, but truer words have never been spoken. The power and gravity of our words goes further than we can ever imagine. The sentences we utter and the words we choose to use can have glorious ripples or awful repercussions. The tragedy lies in our ignorance. Most of the time we will not outwardly see the happiness or the dread our letters form. But pause for a moment and think of the last genuine compliment you received, how did it make you feel? Was it that hard for someone to notice something about you, and then articulate it to you? No. It was easy, but it likely made us feel very good, and perhaps even imbued upon us a desire to treat another with similar kindness.
I guess I am just nervous. I am nervous that I will live a life where I am not aware of the power of my words. And though I am not a media mogul, nor am I an obvious and influential pillar of the community I know that my words, like everyone’s words have the power to resonate and change. My new dream, my new goal is to make a greater impact with my spoken word. Sure, I am a writer and aspire to touch people with the written word, but Lord knows I speak much more than I write. So I find it profoundly important to do better. I find that I need to use new adjectives. I am prompted to eulogize and compliment people with words they are not used to hearing. Why tell someone they look good today, when you can tell them there skin is shining, or that there hair looks like the hair of a Greek goddess? In short, I am trying to rid my vernacular of tired phrases and overused words. Describing everything as “cool” or “legit” is offensive to the vastness and beauty of the English language.
And on that same token I find it incumbent to rid my vocabulary of negative phraseology. What purpose does it serve me to complain? What advantage do I gain from criticizing and belittling another? Sure, it is outlandishly difficult to eliminate all negative speech from our dialogues, but why not try.
Now the topic of friends. The people we are closest to, sometimes even closer than family and with what words do we use towards them? Are we constantly correcting and judging our friends, or are we using powerful and poetic words to show them their potential? Just something to think about. The time we spend with our friends is incalculable, so why not try to infuse more positivity into one another’s lives? All we have is our actions and our words. Volumes can and have been written on how to change our actions and behave better, but it all starts with the letters of the alphabet. The words we choose to use can change the world. Not only can they, but they certainly will whether we believe it or not.
I will finish with the everlasting words of one of my favorite authors ElieWiesel. In speaking of words, he said, “For some part of every word is sacred; all words should lean toward the sacred.”
I don’t have a first memory of my big sister Brittany. I guess older siblings are things that don’t come into our lives one day, but rather things that have always been there, like trees or the moon. We aren’t cognizant of their existence the moment we come to earth, but they have always been there nonetheless. And there is something wildly comforting about that. We don’t have any memories without trees, and we cannot remember a time when there was no moon; we likewise cannot conceive of a world without our older siblings.
Yesterday Brittany turned thirty. Three years my senior, Brittany was always there at my side teaching, cajoling, playing, and taddling. She was always running around using annoyingly big words and organizing things that kids don’t usually organize. I looked up to her in a way only a younger brother could understand. We were fiercely competitive and at times could not understand how stupid and immature the other could be. Brittany was the ring leader of organized fun in our house for years. She was the captain and my little sister and I were her obedient soldiers. Though many years have passed since we played “house” or pretended we were in college, or put on “circus performances” for our parents, her leadership and voice have remained with me. The things she says even until this day ring with a curious authority that I assumed would dissipate over the years.
But what has always been unconditional love has turned into something even more special. It is easy to love our siblings. Even if they are raging imbeciles, you share blood, and you share experiences you will never have with another. But sometimes is is difficult to like your siblings. They tell your parents when you do moronic things, they hog attention, and they know all your secrets. With Brittany however, I was blessed. I always saw her as a sister and a friend, and as the years trudged on and life got real, my big sister was always there. Our relationship became much more than brother and sister, much more than just two friends; we became two people entwined through eternal pasts and endless futures, with the understanding that one would always, always be there for the other. Maybe this sounds like a cavalcade of tired cliches, but my big sister is more important to me than I can adequately express.
I could write on for pages about what she has done for me, and how she has molded important years of my life, but suffice it to say, ole Brit is selfless and beautiful, a beacon of what an older sibling is and should be.
Don’t even get me started on how much I love my younger sister Danielle. But hers is a different story with the exact same ending, alas, a story for another day.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRITT
“Be nice to your siblings, they’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.”