When I asked my son, “So how was your Christmas this year?” he simply stated, “Awesome.” This year when people ask me how my Christmas was, I’ll say that it was nice and then change the subject. I think I do that every year, though, after each imperfect Christmas passes and we move onto the imperfect New Year.
My son loves Christmas. The gifts, lights, holiday music, and he’s got his dad and siblings with him (who only visit once a year for the holidays), so how could it be anything but wonderful? But for the grownups at our house, it’s always pretty awkward, always less than perfect. That should be understandable, since we are an imperfect family – my son having two parents separated, while being separated from two older half-siblings, all separated by the border of two neighboring countries – Canada and the United States.
But that awesome, wonderful, awkward, and imperfect Christmas we have come to expect every year almost didn’t happen. Something almost separated a young son from his father, and during the weeks of December leading up to the anticipated departure from Toronto to Boston, the sentiment was serious and Christmas was uncertain.
Duality pervades everything in this dimension in which we dwell. At the top, there’s heaven and hell, love and hate, good and evil. Of the lesser dualisms, there’s always day and night, black and white, and there’s also the spirit of Christmas and all its good will towards men, and the spirit of the Grinch that either directly or indirectly tries to diminish it.
Still maintaining the (ahem) child’s transient endurance of anticipation of the magic of Santa’s annual visit, my son – who is an avid watcher of the classic Christmas cartoon Dr. Suess’ The Grinch Who Stole Christmas – said to me weeks ago, “I hope the Grinch doesn’t come to our house and steal our Christmas.” It was one thing to have to tell him that, much like the Grinch, someone stole our spinning Christmas light show projector light from our front yard, but it was another thing entirely to tell him that someone wanted to keep my son’s father – and everyone like him – from entering our country, which ultimately would keep my son’s Christmas from coming.
Donald Trump’s policy to keep people from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States understandably makes sense to some people. Despite the majority of recent terrorist attacks being domestic in nature, the cultivated ongoing fear of Muslim extremist terrorism might make a ban on all Muslims traveling to the United States a logical option, although studies suggest otherwise.
The initial attempt to keep Muslims from entering the Unites States was suspended by the appeal process, but the threat of uncertainty kept some people – those who were born in, affiliated with, or would potentially travel from Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, or Somalia – from travelling to the U.S.
Having been born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, Syria before immigrating to Canada as a political refugee, evolving into a well known and respected public figure both nationally and internationally and living the Canadian dream as a Canadian citizen, my son’s father was naturally concerned about how the travel ban could affect him. After all, his first name is one variation of the most popular name shared by an estimated 150 million Muslim men worldwide, and although not a religious man or practicing Muslim, even the most remote possibility of being accosted, interrogated, detained, and inadvertently sent back to Syria is something for him to fear.
I told my son on November 30 that his dad likely would not be coming for Christmas. He cried. I cried for him. I’ll refrain from describing the lengths that I as his mother would go to just to be with my son, but his father had chosen to forego the risk, which at first I perceived as overreacting. Then on December 4, a divided Supreme Court allowed Trump’s travel ban to go into effect, validating Dad’s fears and diminishing the hope of a happy Christmas.
Stealing decorations had nothing on the Whos of Whoville, for it was love and family and the holiday spirit that made Christmas ‘Christmas.’ The Grinch did leave those superficial aspects of Christmas intact. We still had our presents and decorations – minus one light display projector – but what was truly important, the true spirit of the season, would be missing for us.
No one knew what Christmas would look like, what it would feel like this year. A number of phone calls, inquiries, and contacts needed to be made before anyone could assess the likelihood that Christmas would indeed be merry for the boy. I faced other details such as how many gifts do we need to buy, how big of a rib roast do we need, and would I need to go the extra miles to try to salvage Christmas this year because of a policy that would likely do very little to keep terrorism out, but would certainly succeed in separating loved ones. Even the Grinch himself couldn’t deliver that degree of devastation.
Many are unfortunate in their experience with the impact of this travel ban policy. But after some reassurance from relevant legal sources, Dad and siblings booked the airplane tickets and approached the U.S. immigration line at the airport. Questions were asked, facts verified, and ultimately passports were stamped. Six Canadian feet landed on U.S. soil in time for Christmas.
As with the Whos, for us Christmas still came, as long as ‘we’ still had ‘we,’ “hands to grasp,” and stood “heart to heart and hand in hand.”
Yes, Christmas for the boy was “awesome,” and for me, I’ll stick to my premeditated response of “It was nice.” But in dualistic reality, it felt like a dichotomy of merry and depressing, and was framed by polarized politics and a policy that might keep some undesirable people out, but also some desirable ones, too, like dads who want to be with their kids on Christmas. It might serve to tighten up the border of our country, but perhaps it further widens the dualistic border between wrong and right.
This Imperfect Life
By Jean Perry