Love in the Times of Hammocks and Terraces

December 19, 2019 4:02 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

 


Versión en español.

Embracing the Holidays’ Contradictions

The holidays are a strange time. It’s hard not to feel a longing to reflect about the year that’s about to end, but it’s also hard to find the time and focus we need to do so when everything is so hectic with end-of-the-year deadlines and social gatherings. And then, for those of us who exchange gifts during Christmas time, there’s the gnawing guilt about feeding capitalistic systems and the environmental cost of our present giving. Business Leader calculated that if we were to place the Christmas cards we send in one year side by side, they would go around the earth’s circumference 500 times. We can see that image as an inspiring metaphor for our love for each other or as a threat to our already fragile planet. We can also accept both versions of that gargantuan string of cards and embrace the contradictions it awakens in us.

This morning I was reading the “Editor’s Note” in this month’s Entertainment Weekly in which JD Heyman, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, reminisces about receiving a Kenner Death Star Space Station for Christmas as a boy and how that was the best Christmas he’s ever had. As I’m guessing most readers of the piece did, I stopped reading and wondered what my best Christmas ever was. The answer appeared immediately. Twenty years ago, I brought my boyfriend, Nate, from Ohio to Venezuela to meet my family. After a wonderful Christmas lunch, we were on a hammock on my grandmother’s terrace, which overlooked Caracas, the city of my birth. My brothers, who were little boys at the time, were laughing and rocking us. As the hammock moved forward, Caracas seemed to be opening its arms to us as if hoping to hold us, but it never managed to do so as the hammock would rock us away from it time and again.

For once, my two lives—Venezuelan and American—were in one place and they fit together beautifully. As I smiled at this novel and rare feeling of wholeness, Nate turned to me and said, “I think we should get married.” No ring, no kneeling, no planned proposal of any kind. I don’t know what I said, but the answer was—and twenty years later remains—an absolute yes. My favorite Christmas is the day the love of my life and I decided to commit to walking this world together while sharing a hammock above a city that, because of bureaucratic and political nightmares, I cannot go back to for the time being in a house that we’ve now sold. The love, though, remains and has become stronger and richer than it was that afternoon two decades ago. I do believe love—deep, messy, costly—is what the holidays are about at their core and why I look forward to them every year.

Our New Focus Group Screenings

Alex typing in a group of eight total people
We hosted two focus group screenings at our house of our newest rough cut of my feature documentary The Weeping Season . During the long and animated discussions after the screening, we received transformative ideas for the film, which my editor Cristina Carrasco and I are adding to yet another draft of the film. Bringing four generations of one family, three countries, and a multiple mysteries together into one film is no easy feat, but thanks to the ideas shared by our fantastic focus group attendees, we’re getting closer to making a film that gets to the heart of the story.

Unearthed Photo of the Month

a photo of Alex and her extended family
After my grandmother died in 1998, Christmas dinners at her house ceased. We’d all grown up and had partners and other lives that called us away from each other on that pivotal day on the Venezuelan calendar. And yet, it felt strange not to come together as we always had for Christmas, and so the Christmas lunch was devised as a perfect compromise. We’d see each other during the day and then go on our way as the evening fell and other commitments beckoned us. My grandmother’s Christmas celebrations had always been overly formal. She wanted it us all to be flawless and refined, like we were performing in a 1950s Christmas musical, but her progeny has more of a 1960s soul and we never quite fit her director’s vision of how a family should dress, talk, and behave during Christmas—or at any other time of the year, for that matter.

Our Christmas lunches together after she was gone became half homage, half teenage act of defiance. In the once grand terrace with a lopsided menu that due to poor planning often included three kinds of mashed potatoes and no vegetables, we came together over chipped, mismatched china. We invited friends, ex-boyfriends, and ex-husbands, and in my case a husband to be. My friend Bero played the piano, children chased each other with piercing screams of joy, and after hours of laughter, we all went our separate ways. It didn’t last long, our Christmas lunch tradition. Grandmother had been the force that, in her own disapproving way, pulled us all together, and without her we all went in different directions. We sold the house a few years ago and now none of us live in the same city. We are spread around the world and no longer get that incredible gift of being in the same place at the same time anymore. Not even for a single afternoon out of the year. While it lasted, though, it was our disjointed and giddy Christmas miracle.

Announcing the Second Issue of constellations

video call with constellations team of eight people
One of the most enriching aspects of my career has been to work with editorial teams on digital publications. This week we announced the second issue of constellations: a cultural rhetoric publishing space, the peer-reviewed publication of which I’m a co-founder and editor-in-chief. In my introduction to the issue, which represents a year of tireless work by our editorial team and authors, you can learn about our process for bringing this journal to life and about the spectacular and transformative articles featured in this issue.

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Versión en español.
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This post was written by Tiffany McIntyre

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