An old spirit, glimpsed

An old spirit, glimpsed

We got a Christmas tree!

Christmas at Byblos Café & Lounge

Christmas at Byblos Café & Lounge

It’s one of those bizarre occasions which I would normally never be excited about, but for some reason, this year I am. As soon as Dani talked about getting a Christmas tree for the restaurant, I offered to shop for it. One reason I volunteered to do this is that it’s been quite possibly a decade since I put up a Christmas tree, and another reason is that if it were up to anyone else, we would end up with one of those hideous multicolored trees from the ’90s.

So last Thursday, we followed Yen Tyng’s advice and ventured to Petaling Street — no matter what anyone thinks of this touristy abomination, it’s still the place to go when you want anything that you know would be grossly overpriced in a mall — which is lined with stores peddling their wares at wholesale prices. We went to Petaling Street with the intention of procuring not only a tree, but also party favors for the restaurant’s New Year’s Eve dinner. Apparently, thinking of ways to lure the hoi polloi is what we do for a living now.

The weird thing about me is that I take to a project the way a hitman does: with single-track concentration and almost tunnel-vision precision. Normally I don’t like shopping with a man in town, especially a man like Dani, whose impatience is so palpable I could cut my teeth on it, but that day, I made him hanker along behind me with a laundry basket full of white and gold Christmas ornaments, all the while resolutely ignoring the increasingly dumbfounded look on his face.

Setting up the tree was strangely therapeutic for me. Walking round and round and round a tree, trying to figure out what would look best where, takes a certain kind of concentration that temporarily drives everything else from your mind, and for almost two hours, I saw little else but the tree, and the ensuing glitter that flew off the gold ribbon and stuck itself to my skin.

The tree was finally completed yesterday, after I proved my point that the gaping holes between the branches needed to be filled, and a tree topper had to be bought. When I stood back and surveyed my work, that familiar little feeling of accomplishment stole over me, followed by something I haven’t felt in a long time: peace.

I will admit that the last thing on earth I expected to bring me any semblance of peace was a Christmas tree. When I was a child, my grandmother used to tell me that Christmas was not about Santa or reindeer or presents — needless to say, I grew up with an acute awareness that Santa Claus most certainly does not exist — but about seeing the good in others, remembering the good things they have done, and appreciating what they may have had to give up in order for ourselves to enjoy what we have.

My own anger and bitterness towards so many things and so many people have long since eradicated every other good feeling in myself, but looking at my Christmas tree yesterday spared me a moment of clarity in which I saw how just how much I’ve lost to that negativity in my life. The circumstances of my life are such that I will never always have everything I want, but what I have at any given moment is what others can only dream about, and as sorry as I am for that, the only thing I can do is appreciate their sacrifice, and appreciate what I’ve been given.

So even though we have a ways to go, Merry Christmas, everyone.

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