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Metaphor In a Red Suit

On Christmas Day at some point in my mid-20s, I was taking my afternoon walk under the relentless Ohio snow when I realized the holidays no longer dazzled me as they used to. I still enjoyed giving and receiving presents and, being an extrovert, I looked forward to the wondrous marathon of evenings spent with family and friends. And yet, December had slowly lost its ability to delight me in the ethereal ways it used to. It took a few more pensive walks to diagnose my disillusionment as a side effect of early adulthood. I grudgingly accepted the loss and moved on to dissecting other pleasures and disappointments during my walks. Then a few years later my niece Seda was born, and as soon as she became a toddler, awed by waking up to half-eaten cookies and empty glasses of milk, the holidays regained the ineffable flair they’d lost.

Seda turned 16 this November, and now I get to watch my own boys, nine and six, become transfixed by the rituals we’ve perfected for the five grandchildren in the family. Yes, they are riveted by the gifts that suddenly appear under the tree on Christmas morning, but they get gifts for their birthdays too. What makes this experience unique is the fact that the rules for how the world works keep getting broken over and over. William, my eldest, spends significant intellectual energy trying to negotiate it all. How come Santa lives forever? Does Mrs. Claus also live forever? How can one person see what billions of children are doing all year long? He doesn’t wonder about Santa’s ethical choices regarding who is good and who is bad because, as keen as I am to have my boys believe in magic, I don’t want them to think someone so powerful would go around punishing children for petty transgressions. As much as 2020 has proven otherwise, I want them to grow up thinking those in power can be egalitarian and compassionate, and that they should be too.

My biggest apprehension about the whole Santa story is that it paints generosity as male and white. At some point the boys will figure out their relatives fabricated all those inexplicable events, and having been upset at my mom for lying to me when, at five, I realized that Santa wasn’t real, I’ve been preparing my maternal explanation for years. I plan to tell them that, while the man they’ve been grappling with doesn’t exist, the need to show love and look after each other is the realest thing we have in our lives. Santa is simply a metaphor for those feelings. Unlike the metaphor, though, those who make Christmas magic possible come in all genders and races, and that’s a message I want them to always keep in mind. Even in early adulthood, when they too become disenchanted by the holidays for a few years.

Andrea Chignoli Joins The Weeping Season Team as Consulting Editor

We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Chilean editor Andrea Chignoli as consulting editor for my in-production feature documentary The Weeping Season. Andrea, who began editing in 1995, has consistently done transcendent work in award-winning films, including NO, a 2012 Best Foreign Language Academy Award Nominee starring Gaiel García Bernal, and The Viper Club, featuring Susan Sarandon, which screened in the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018. During the first two of five sessions we are spending with Andrea, she has transformed our film in ways we would have never imagined without her guidance. We can’t wait to continue this work with her in 2021 as we craft a version of the film that gets at the heart of my father’s disappearance and its decades-long aftermath. We’ll have a draft ready this spring, so stay tuned here for a call if you’re interested in providing feedback.

Unearthed Photo of the Month

When my niece Seda was two or three, her father, Spencer, began to don the red suit. He’d grown up going to the Catskills, and his early-morning Santa visits felt like being transported to a stage with a 1970s stand-up comedian who had a constant dialogue going with the audience—a little raunchy but always sweet. By the time his daughters began to sabotage the show by calling him Dad, it was time for our toddler William to see his father in action. My husband Nate’s Santa has a more absurdist sense of humor than Spencer’s, but he’s just as quick-witted. He makes a flashy entrance, trades barbs with everyone, complains about the endless photos, and then vanishes into the yard, presumably to visit other children. We used to come up with elaborate excuses for Nate’s absence during Santa’s visits but gave that up because our sons are so transfixed they don’t even notice their dad is missing. A few weeks ago, while looking at some photo of Santa in a magazine, William turned to me and said that the real Santa is skinny, not fat, and that he wears a fake beard and has fake hair. I was hoping he wouldn’t ask why the real Santa would do such a thing because I had no plausible answer to offer. His childhood brain, though, had no interest in asking those kinds of questions. I guess if you accept that a person can deliver gifts to children around the world in one night aided by his flying reindeer (who somehow never make it to our house on Christmas morning), baffling sartorial choices are utterly irrelevant.

My Short Documentary Teta: A Nursing Mother Tells Her Story Is Available on Vimeo On Demand

Teta, my award-winning documentary that has screened at film festivals around the globe, is now available on Vimeo on Demand. The film tells my story of nursing my son Santiago for 22 months as a working mother, arguing that, besides nourishment, the breastfeeding journey creates lifelong bonds between mother and child. With its sweet, hopeful message, it can be a fun film to watch this holiday season, especially for those interested in motherhood and the ways in which family love shapes us, both parents and children.

Our Third Issue of constellations: a cultural rhetorics publishing space Is Out

It has been a difficult year for getting anything done, and publishing peer-reviewed scholarship is a complex, multilayered task even under the most favorable circumstances. This is why I couldn’t be more excited to announce the new issue of constellations, the journal of which I’m the editor-in-chief, is published. Check out “What We Did the Year That Everything Blew Up: An Introduction to Our Third Issue” to learn about the daring and diverse scholarship we feature in this iteration of the journal.

Small Wonders to Add to Your Holiday TV Watching Schedule

The editorial team at agnès films: supporting women and feminist filmmakers, has put together a list of the kinds of TV episodes that will help you disappear into marvelous worlds as we collectively say goodbye to this mess of a year. Written by Mimi Anagli, Jennifer Bell, Mitch Carr, Kara Headley, Allison Simpson, and myself, “The Holiday TV Episodes That Will Help You Get Over the 2020 Blues” is guaranteed to satisfy your TV cravings and put you in a more hopeful mood for 2021’s arrival.

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