Monday, December 12, 2011

Ooh, Shiny!

Please welcome today's guest blogger: writer, editor and rock'n'roll goddess Susan Helene Gottfried.

"Ooh, shiny!"

It's become a catch-phrase in today's Internet culture. Back in the Disconnected Ages, I had a shiny of my own: Rock and roll shows.

You know: concerts. Pyro. Lighting. Men sitting behind drum sets and with guitars slung over chests. Live music, baby. There's nothing else like it.

Then comes the ultimate in shiny: one splash of light in a dark arena, even if that puddle is the stage or if it's the singer bathed in a narrow spotlight. There's magic in those lights. There really is.

It stands to reason that I'd love Christmas, right? It's the same spectacle: lights cutting through a dark night.

I do love Christmas lights, don't get me wrong. I may not be the world's biggest fan of those trendy synchronized light shows, but I simply adore the sight of a tree in someone's front yard that's been well strung with a set of white lights, a trunk whose beauty has been emphasized by what looks like blankets of bulbs.

The problem here is that, unlike when I was intending to work in the music business and be part of that onstage shiny magic, I can't be part of Christmas. Not really. Not without feeling like I've betrayed something essential within myself -- and that's before I consider how fast my parents would disinherit me if I strung up lights in the spirit of the season.

So I stare at the gorgeous yards of my neighbors. And the neighbors who live two, three, four neighborhoods over. After all, why limit yourself to an annual treat you truly love to gaze upon?

I come home from that light-gazing to a menorah, which I'll light for eight specific days. Candles, not electric lights. They burn down in an hour or three; they seep in around curtains and blinds and blaze all night long. They may flicker and dance and fill me with a sense of peace that Christmas lights never can, but ...

They're not Christmas lights. They're Hanukkah candles. They're a shiny of their own, they probably save my electric bill hundreds of dollars every year (Maybe it's only ten bucks. What do I know? I've never done it, remember?), and they set me apart.

But at the same time, they remind me that even if I buy blue and white lights and tell everyone they're for Hanukkah, I still won't fit in. This time of year, I'm an outsider, driving past, imagining the time spent decorating, the good-natured arguments between spouses, the mad dash to buy presents, the happy faces on Christmas morning.

Yes, it's an idealized version of how it probably unfolds. And yes, every year at this time, I'm glad I don't have to face the mad rush of grumpy shoppers or fight with my family over whose house we'll be going to, when and for how long. There are a pittance of benefits to being an outsider this time of year. I'll take them.

To all you who decorate for Christmas, thank you on behalf of us whose beliefs don't allow it. Thank you for your shiny, shiny lights.

Susan's latest short story, Mannequin is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.  If you're an indie writer in need of a quality, affordable editor, contact Susan through her website West of Mars.


  1. Thanks for hosting me today, darling! And all those kind words? Sheesh. Keep this up and you'll spoil me -- and I will NOT complain!

  2. Always glad to have you visit, Susan!

  3. I'm so glad I clicked over from WoM to read this Susan, because this? This is EXACTLY how I used to feel when I lived in the States, right down to the fantasies about how I would decorate if only I were able... And as much as I loathe the idiots currently in command of the Israeli government and the path they're forcing us down, this cuts right to my core and reminds me why I ever wanted to be here in the first place. In a country where December 25th is just another day, where Happy New Year is the right greeting in September, where the holidays and culture and sense of belonging are all mine to share.

    Come visit some December, you can't imagine how refreshing it is. (Not to mention how much warmer ;).)

    My photography is available for purchase - visit Around the Island Photography on etsy and Society6 and bring home something beautiful today!

  4. Thanks for visiting, Robin. Honestly, I could use a warm, relaxing December myself right now. And your pictures are fabulous!