With Christmas only weeks away, and having spoken this morning with a Canadian friend who is enthralled by the Christmas spirit (though selectively only for snow on Christmas Eve and morning), I find myself drawn to the festivity and reminiscing about a childhood journey to Florida over the Christmas holidays when I was eight years old. We then lived at 4412 Edmunds St NW in Washington DC. Before our departure from home to our destination we had exchanged gifts with our cook named Dina. She lived on the third floor of our house so we were like family. I don’t recall what we gave Dina but I distinctly recall what she gave me. It was a snow globe with two or three goldfish swimming about. I remember this especially well because my hobby at the time was collecting tropical fish. I carried the snow globe with me to Florida and back. However upon arriving home, and in my gusto to exit my father’s 4-door Oldsmobile to greet Dina who stood awaiting us in her grey dress with crisp white front, I dropped the snow globe on the concrete garage floor. I don’t need to tell you what ensued. I have no doubt it broke my heart as well. I loved my snow globe; and I knew how kind it was of Dina to have bought it for me.
The more penetrating aftermath of this maudlin affair is that it preserved a metaphor for the lingering significance of loss and for the features initially inspired. Had I not broken the snow globe it would likely have vanished from view, abandoned on a shelf or thrown into a bag for donation to a second-hand store. Instead I have retained the same magic of the globe that it had for me decades ago. These are clearly qualities which far surpass the thing itself; and for which there is no token or replacement materialism. Only yesterday by entire coincidence I surfed the internet to see if it were possible to replace it but nothing of that description was found.
By odd extension I apply this symbolism to another of life’s putative losses; namely, social conflict. I realize that paints a broad canvass, and it is intended to do so. The scope of human friction is as boundless as the imagination. As I get older I recognize my incremental descent to a curmudgeonly character. Were it not for this thesis surrounding clashes I would unquestionably be ruled by disappointment. Now, however, adopting this purification mode instead, I find I am able not only to rise above the strife but further to derive from it a considerable source of bookish humour. It enables me to taste all the fruits of the vine, nor merely those ripe for the picking but also those green and sour. Both are nutritious though admittedly sometimes harder to swallow.
This theme is equally applicable to major confrontations as it is to the more common low-level skirmishes that occasionally discolour one’s daily progress. As I say my advanced age has unfolded a crotchety demeanour by which I more readily perish at the way people are going to the dogs these days. But thanks to this snow globe image I am capable of distracting some good from the bad. It is more than not crying over spilt milk. It is adapting to the misguided threat of unconsidered anger and resentment. Living as we do equally in two countries throughout the year, we have frequently encountered circumstances – some personal (like daily conversation), others public (like politics) – which trigger differences amounting to what appear to be abuses of etiquette or conflicts of national heritage. Having travelled reasonably extensively I am accustomed to the exchange of national slurs between any number of countries. Although the acrimony experienced most commonly does not equate to national or cultural differences, it is certainly one of those instances which easily attracts rebuttal because of its perceived polar extremities. If one is looking for obstruction it can always be found.
In truth the reality of social accommodation is that it mandates the recognition of stupidity when the occasion permits so to speak. The blunt admission is that those who propel inadequacies need not be glorified by their indignity. Instead it behooves we who pretend to discount the malicious behaviour to redirect the distillation to more fruitful advantage. From even the most base ingredients is derived the finest liquor.