Pedro Ávila

Waterfalls of warm light fill the room from all corners. Chorals of ancient voices of Nat King Cole and some other white dude pour out from a CD recording in another corner of my parent’s house. The night is eerily clear and a dry and mild chill fills the air outside. Nothing a light sweater won’t fix. The cars are stowed, the garage is closed, the neighbors visited and now it’s time for just us. The heater was cranked up to obscene temperatures that could have had us lying around in shorts, but Dad fixed that quick, as dads always do. So now it’s more bearable. The kitchen hasn’t started going full force yet, but Dad is in there, crushing cranberries for his sauce, so I’m sure it will be soon. I am recently arrived from Amsterdam, my brother from Barcelona, and the rest of the family from their various corners of the Bay.

Christmas at the Avila house is an altogether relaxing thing.

I’m certainly privileged in this respect. If there’s one thing I have an unfaltering intolerance for during this season it’s the bullshit I see many of my friends going through. The topical application of traditions unconsidered and outdated notions such as caroling, Christmas cards, and jingle bell rock are abhorrent to me. The visiting of friends and other family members that are completely out of touch for the rest of the year and now, suddenly, want to know everything about you and your year, and I’m expected to have a quick answer or even care when they start telling me about theirs? No thanks.

These are the people who barely squeeze out the right names when looking at my brother and me next to each other, the ones that have some faint remembrance of some of my ordeals during the year, the triumphs, the stories, the tribulations and so forth… these people don’t deserve details. What they get is: “Things are great, yeah. No, work is good. It’s all adventures out there. No, yeah, it’s totally legal.” But what they deserve is closer to a grunt.

I listen to my friends talking about their conversations with relatives who don’t leave the farm more often than necessary to pick up the mail. I hear others discussing the travels they must undertake to see parents because they’ve up and moved to Florida. I hear the shit people talk about at Christmas parties and I cringe.

Sales tax increase? Are you kidding? Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated and you’re worried about what some politician is promising for a primary that is roughly 6 months away? Well.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m Mr. Holidays – I love putting lights on the house and leaving cookies out for Santa, that ever elusive and nefarious persona used by the conglomerates to their own ends; I love Christmas trees. Never mind that I also enjoy using the lights to design runway patterns on the roof or the front lawn, and that I leave the cookies out myself so that I know where they are and can check on them periodically during the night, and eat them myself in case he takes too long.

No sense in letting that spoil, you know? Waste not unto others that which thou somethingsomethingsomethingsomething… isn’t that in The Bible?

And never mind that Christmas trees are among the most pagan of symbols that they decided to incorporate into Christianity during the council of Nicea back in three hundred something AD. No; that shit is deeply rooted in the minds of Americans now, and it’s as good as red, white and blue.

But, seriously – don’t get me wrong. I like Christmas. I like having family together, eating great food and having turkey AND ham in the same meal. Hell, I’m even ok with being forced to take vacation time, not being able to fly anywhere for a solid period of 5 days and not having the option to NOT drink eggnog at some point during December.

But having to smile to people who might as well be at the bottom of a swamp during the rest of the year; having to give them the time of day and miss even a second of anything else you’d rather be doing; having to pause your Family Guy DVD so that you can superficially thank whoever brought that box of See’s Candies you hate so goddamn much is an affront to my enjoyment of this holiday.

That I still manage to enjoy it is a sign of how unselfish and decent people can be, even if it’s only once a year. Even if it’s just me. I guess that’s good enough.

Merry Christmas, all.

Pedro Ávila Pedro Ávila

For a reasonably sane & productive member of society (arguable, but let’s not complicate things), I’m far too mobile and unrooted. I travel quite a bit for a job that is simultaneously my greatest privilege and my worst burden.

So I write. And I write. Travel pieces, political journalism (a stretch from ranting but, still), short stories, poetry and other such riff-raff. I contribute to a handful of publications and will probably just keep going until something gives out, or someone gives in.


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Of smiles and roars