A Christmas List for Santa

“You’re just being sentimental.”

Sentimental. Sentimentality.  These words more often than not are used as a judgement to label the recipient deficient. We encounter the word when reading reviews and critiques, in the academic world among those appealing for so-called objectivity.

It’s no wonder so many fear being damned as sentimental.

For perhaps a surprise consider the Merriam Webster dictionary, where sentimental/sentimentality is defined as tenderness, love, sadness seemingly expressed in an excessive or foolish way.

Ah hah! The dictionary author says “seemingly,” which I would suggest implies that sentimentality is not false feeling, nor as is often taught, a feeling inappropriate to its stimulus.

(Most definitely false feeling exists. We experience it every day in ads and especially in 45’s tweets.)

It’s that time of year when most joy and merry-making would disappear without the authenticity of sentimentality.

As our dear friend Mary Ruefle (Our fathers were college roommates.) writes in her extraordinary and wonderfully subversive-for-the-good-of-all book Madness, Rack, and Honey, “Why is it that all the great stuff is never in keeping with what you are always told: don’t be sentimental.”

Sentiment. Mental. What a lovely and whole coupling.

So, ’tis the season to be merry. And nostalgic. And sad. And wistful. And rich with seemingly inappropriate love.

As is every season, day, hour, and minute.

A repeat for this season–

A Christmas List for Santa

A Wednesday afternoon with no thought of Thursday

Three weeks in the woods, two by myself, one with my father

My father

Cups of tea, plates of sugar cookies, the first ones I ever made,

the dough still sticking to my fingertips

Comic books from the late ’40s: Little LuLu, The Green Hornet, Felix the Cat

Every creek from the upper peninsula of Michigan

The last page from twenty unpublished novels

The ease of a dog’s sleep

Five gold rings

A moon-draped evening among the birds in the hemlocks

Any snow-covered pile of leaves

Photographs, I don’t care how many, of my daughter just before

she smiles for the camera

Seven moments with the lucidity of cutting yourself with a bread knife

Whatever happens between what happens

The liturgy of an old monk laughing

–Jack Ridl

From Practicing To Walk Like A Heron (Wayne State University Press)

Don’t forget to check out Holland Weekly at hollandweekly.com

On April 1 (perfect!) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

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