How a mute neighbor girl taught me to fight Christmas cheer

augieblackandwhite3I enjoy the holiday season. Now you have it: my public confession.

I know, we are not supposed to “enjoy” a season that highlights the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. We are not supposed to “enjoy” the tradition of frenzied consumerism. We are not supposed to “enjoy” a religious holiday that is offensive to so many clever people. I know, I know.

My only consolation is that I am not alone. Millions of Americans currently derive warmth from the Christmas season. If you are one of those people, hopelessly happy, read onwards and bear witness to my story of struggle and triumph: how I learned to fight Christmas cheer — and win.

My enjoyment of Christmas goes back to my childhood, even though I was often alone during the holidays, as my father’s work that time of year kept him busy and in the Bahamas, and my mother was often away with friends, getting rest at spa resorts. Despite this, I really liked Christmas — what I could see of it on television, anyway. The giant, sparkling Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza. Reruns of the “Little House on the Prairie” Christmas episode when Laura gives Nellie her pony and Nellie vows, “I’ll be good to him.” That McDonald’s commercial when an ice-skating Ronald lifts sad little Bobby into the air while cartoon forest animals watch in awe.

When I was about fifteen, we lived in a large house in the countryside and our only neighbors were a family who didn’t like us, a couple of college professors and their daughter, Olive, who was a little older than me and just as unfriendly as her parents. Her coldness may have been a result of the fact she was mute, the cause of which — physiology or psychology? — was a frequent topic of discussion between me and my parents.

Still, I was enchanted by Olive. She had the most striking horn-rimmed glasses, milky skin that seemed to have never touched the sun, and shiny black hair, bangs trimmed short — a very unusual look for that time, and one that gave her instant credibility as an intellectual. Because she couldn’t speak, she would communicate with me by slowly mouthing words, lending our short conversations an impediment I found very erotic.

Pages: 1 2 3 4