As I have mentioned more often than is really necessary, I liked Star Wars when I was a kid. I really, really liked it. And before Jedi came out and Vader was revealed to have a boiled-fish, soft-unripened-cheese, triangular, vulnerable under-helmet head, I was more scared of him than of just about anything else, which was unfortunate, because he lived in my closet.
I'm not sure why I decided he lived in my closet and not, say, in the equally sinister under-bed region of my room. But rule the Empire from my closet he did, and sometimes I could actually hear his breathing when I was trying to get to sleep and trying to ignore the fact that my closet had a door, and that doors both concealed things and could be opened by things that were concealed. Things with black-gloved hands that could mime-strangle people and actually cause them to die from strangulation.
Probably inspired by my mother's "don't be scared of earwigs because they can crawl into your brain and befriend you" story, I dealt with my terrible fear of Closet Vader by deciding that spending so much time in my closet had led to his observing me a great deal and to his realizing that I was a well-meaning, thoughtful, and decent young person. He had been lurking in my room in order to kill me, but after getting to know me, he just couldn't do it. Did he therefore leave my closet in order to return to a far-flung galaxy? No. He decided to live in my closet forever more and to protect me from the other forces that menaced me (centipedes, mostly, and something else I'll reveal next week).
What I find somewhat discouraging about my budding imaginative powers is that, as far as I can remember, I used them to save only myself. I don't think I imagined a fully reformed, child-protecting, Rebel-Alliance-embracing Vader. He was still pretty much evil and nasty and rebellion-crushing—I just made him make an exception for me. If I had it all to do over again, I would absolutely speak up for Admiral Motti.
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The Castrophizer's earliest artistic response to Christmas (1982)
Please note: The following observations apply equally to non-Christmas holidays that involve families, reproaches, and long-simmering resentments sitting down together at a table to eat.
We recently purchased our Christmas tree. It was all trussed-up and anxious looking, but we had high hopes, and when we took it home and liberated it from its twine, it proved to be the tree equivalent of a pimply and emaciated twelve-year-old. It is sparse and spindly when it should be dense and luxuriant; it shrivels where it should proudly spread.
My father reminded me that this should remind me forcibly of the Christmases of my youth. Our trees were often waif-like unfortunates. We would argue over which side was the most defective so we could turn that side toward the wall. Often there was no least defective side and we just had to make do with a holiday vision of spectacular arboreal deformity.
I may never have a polished, self-respecting tree. (I am clearly beginning to build up to an unsolicited Christmas gift of ponderous insight and dubious value). No one has a truly stately and flawless tree. Or if they do, they also have a weight problem and parents on the verge of a divorce. Nobody has a Christmas that is not in some measure grim and disappointing. So no matter how bleak and joyless your Christmas ends up being, don't flatter yourself that you're interesting or singular. Someone, somewhere, is having a worse one.
Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.
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