I’ll be honest, this post has been a struggle for me. I want to be sincere and deep and Christmas-y, but not cheesy nor stereotypical nor cynical. I started a post about hope last week, but I gave up when I realized that my post about characters who needed hope was going to be the exact type of link I ignore on Facebook.
In an attempt to avoid cheese, I became a bit cynical. I became a bit of a Scrooge.
Rather than talk about A Christmas Carol, though, I’d rather focus this week on something that I’m thankful for: friendship. I think the best way to combat tiredness from overplayed Christmas songs at work, unending social and political debates online, cheesy TV movies, consumerism, and expectations of shallow Facebook posts is to stop and celebrate the very things that I want to read more about this time of year.
This year, I’m celebrating Christmas first with friends, and second with family. What that means is that this week, I’m fighting my Christmas Scrooge with memories of friendships. What better way to remember friendships on a literature blog than to celebrate three types of friendships that I recognized in my life in 2015?
Jane Bennet was one of her sister Elizabeth’s best friends. There are many things I love about her, but my two favorites are her graciousness and her kindness. Over the last few months, as I graduated college and started working, I discovered that I knew more Jane Bennets than I had thought. My friends encouraged me and prayed for me and asked me how I was doing when I was struggling through rejection in job applications. They give me the benefit of the doubt when I am an unreliable friend, and it makes me feel loved.
Mr. Knightley was the one person who ever told Emma Woodhouse that she was wrong. Dear, sweet Emma, she was well-liked and well-regarded by her community, but she was a bit of a know-it-all. Sometimes her pride and big talk were harmless, but other times, she truly hurt people. Mr. Knightley was the only friend who ever told her that she was wrong. I realized during an Austenland party at my house that I have my own Knightleys who will bluntly say, “You are being that person right now. Stop it,” because I am obnoxiously pointing out historical inaccuracies during a fun movie. There’s a time and a place for everything, and a Knightley knows how to (kindly) shut you up.
Cosette’s mother was obviously Fantine, but she (spoiler alert!) died before her daughter grew up. There’s a sentence in Les Misérables, when the author is describing adult Cosette’s clothes before she actually meets Marius, that basically says that the women in the town could tell from the way that she dressed that she did not have a mother, because a mother would tell her that her gown fabrics were wrong and she was dressed inappropriately. I might be cheating in this one, but I currently work in retail, and my coworkers have taught me more about style in the past few months than I had expected. They have taught me about confidence and belts and ankle boots. They have helped me find clothes that don’t make me feel so short. As I have helped customers define personal styles, my coworkers themselves have helped me do the same. My coworkers have been to me what Fantine (hopefully) would have been to teenage Cosette.
I am thankful for the friends who invite me home for Christmas, who teach me through their words, actions, and warm hugs what friendship truly means. These friends come from every one of my life stages – childhood, college, and grownup adult jobs – and they chip away at that cynicism that creeps up from commercialism.
Q: Is Christmas about giving?
A: It most definitely is, and friendship is one of the best gifts I could hope to receive or give this year.
Merry Christmas, you wonderful you. Make some great memories and hug your friends and family for me.