Of Jingle Bells And Corduroys

Snug Harbor Christmas FriendsThere are optimists and there are idealists. One expects good things to happen. The other believes that good things would happen if only there were more sentient robots and flying cars.

Optimists are often misrepresented as idealists, but it’s an unfair comparison. Everything is good, or if it isn’t quite, then goodness is certainly on the way. There must be a pony somewhere in all this horse manure.

An idealist, on the other hand, is a completely different bird. In flocks, they’re likely to argue with each other about who among them actually exists. Solipsistic silliness.

I didn’t know that I needed to learn any of this. Regardless, and like the cold wet mush of melted snow slowly soaking through your winter corduroys, the clarification was made for me on Christmas Eve, 2007 at around 10:00 PM.

Snug Harbor Christmas Lights 2008For some weeks I had been collecting sleigh bells, and by Christmas Eve I had about four dozen of them tied together and hanging from two long sticks. Their sound was impressive. Jingle bells on a grand scale.

It was just past nine and the red, green, and gold lights in our front yard twinkled merrily. Thousands of happy lights glowed all up and down our street, surely a harbinger of marvelous Christmas magic to come.

Mrs. Spookyblue and I, bundled up against the biting cold, piled into the truck and drove off into the night. We wound slowly through our neighborhood with the windows down, heater blasting, and our sleigh bells filled the night with Christmas music. Indoors, children heard the call. They tore down stairs, up stairs, piled into great laughing heaps before picture windows, eyes big as Frisbees.

Jittery reindeer“Santa,” they shouted, scanning the sky for a tell-tale sparkle or the leading red dot that was surely Rudolph’s nose.

Parents nodded knowingly and spoke in that sing-song reserved for children and puppies, “You’d better hurry, and get into bed! I sure hope he doesn’t pass us right by!”

With a squeal they ran and jumped and flew into their sheets and blankets and pillows. Then, after all edges were tucked and foreheads kissed, and with silver starlight shining softly through frosted glass, they, one by one, dropped off to sleep. And the last thing they heard, before toy dreams came to play, was the sound of distant sleigh bells. Sigh.

At least that’s how I imagined– well, I don’t have to say it, do I?

In the real world, a cold trickle of suspicion played down my back. For 45 minutes we drove up and down city streets, meandered through subdivisions, and cruised country lanes. And I shook those bells. I shook them until my arms fell off, and I think we saw a total of three people. If you count the police cruiser that trailed us for the last mile. Suspicion became realization, then cold wet disappointment. I put away my bells and rolled up the window. It was a quiet ride home.

The problem with idealism isn’t that one might strive to bring the world closer to his ideal. It’s that the idealist often doesn’t realize what he is. His imagination leads him down a road to glory or ruin, but he amazingly ignores the ruin part. If he’s lucky, he’ll think to himself, “things didn’t work out last time, but maybe this time. Maybe tonight.”

An amazing creature, the optimistic idealist. Oh, he may sulk for a while. A year, even. But he’ll eventually go inside, change corduroys, and run back out to try again. What’s wrong with falling in love with a dream, after all?

Now. Where are those bells.

Merry Christmas!

One Response to “Of Jingle Bells And Corduroys”

  1. Great story, I may just have to start collecting sleigh bells for next year myself!