The Zero Mile Post marked the meeting of two railway lines and possibly the beginning of the city of Atlanta. Zero Mile is a series of sometimes fictionalized and sometimes real stories based on life in Atlanta, Georgia.
By Nicki Salcedo, columnist
Holidays, regardless of the tradition, are dependent on ghosts and intangible things. There are angels and miracles and divine messages. We rejoice in the idea of hope and transformation. We celebrate by feasting, because food means love. We light candles, because the flame means life.
We look up at the starry sky.
We get down on our knees.
We push down the pain we feel at the holidays. We shovel our way through life. We struggle when the world says, “Be merry and bright.” I’ve learned some tough lessons this year.
I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas.
Everyone is not filled with the holiday spirit.
I can and will put up the Christmas tree all alone.
The gathering of family might mean an argument. Or two. Or three.
Someone might notice my poorly wrapped gifts.
When the New Year arrives, things might still be undone that I hoped would be done. My life is unfinished business.
I will forget many of the things I’ve accomplished over the year. Next year, I will write down what I accomplish.
I will take pride in being both optimistic and realistic. I walk a thin line every day. Elation and despair. Happy sadness.
I might not get to my father’s grave before Christmas.
My dad loved Christmas. He loved hunting for a Christmas tree. He had Christmas houses that he collected over the years. Each year the village grew until it became a Christmas city with a sizeable suburb all around.
My father acted in the Christmas play at church. He sang in choir. He knew every Christmas song, like he knew hymns. He even knew the middle verses. He enjoyed reading the Nativity story from the Bible on Christmas morning. He loved wearing a Santa hat and passing out gifts.
For the first 39 years of my life, every gift I ever opened on Christmas was handed to me by my dad. He would precede each gift with “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!” Then he’d promptly read the wrong names off of the gift tags.
He would carve the turkey and make egg nog. When he died, my father took Christmas with him.
I don’t want to go to the cemetery to find him. I have brought him flowers for the change of each season. Right now he should have poinsettias, but he has none. I don’t want to go. I love cemeteries, but they aren’t always the most comforting places to be.
I remind myself that he doesn’t need the flowers over his grave. Everything we do after someone is gone is for ourselves.
I think of the ghosts of Christmas past, present, future. Mostly the ghosts of today.
I want my Christmas to be dark like the dark side of the Force and Black Panther. I want dark green trees full of leaves and colorful lights. I don’t not want my Christmas to be white.
I want to argue with my friends about “Star Wars.” They have no idea how happy it makes me to debate the known and hidden powers of a Jedi.
I want to sleep in late, until 8 o’clock in the morning.
I want gifts that can’t be wrapped. Movie night, card games, ghosts, memories.
I want to tend the graves. But not now.
Now I will try to tend to myself.
There is food to make. There are songs to be song. There are candles to light. At times, it is hard to keep the flames lit. It isn’t the darkness we need to keep at bay, but the cold. We need the fire to keep us warm. We need the ghosts to remind us of today.
Nicki Salcedo knows the loops and the back roads of Atlanta. She is a novelist, blogger and working mom. Zero Mile stories appear on the Atlanta Loop on Wednesdays.