Dear T. Ruth,
Well, here we are, old friend: Finally, at the time of year we know as the “holiday season”—or just “the holidays.” You don’t have to be an etymologist (a word nerd) to suspect that “holiday” started life as “holy day.”
As you well know (because you are, after all, the one and only T. Ruth), about half a millennium ago, starting in England, “holy day” became “holiday.”
Imagine if we called this time of year “the holy days” or “the holy day season.” It would take on quite a different aura, don’t you think, almost like a halo. It would cause us to look more inward, no doubt, to remind ourselves that all that glitters is not gold.
The trouble is that “holy days” sounds very religious, and the truth, T. Ruth, is that America is becoming noticeably less religious. You don’t have to search very far online to find ample data on how indifferent to religion the millennial generation is; they are the future, and the future is here, so the elders among us will just have to accept that as fact.
Now that I’m thinking about it, T. Ruth, how many of us elders treat these holidays as holy days anyhow? How many baby boomers are all that religious to begin with? It’s as if we’ve carried forth a flickering torch—gasping for oxygen—in teaching our heirs to devalue what the pre-holiday ancients called holy days. By our own actions and behavior over time, we’ve served as role models for the next generations in how to minimize the meaningful and maximize the material. The holidays are more holly than holy.
More recently, T. Ruth, we’ve done a great disservice to your legacy by letting you be mercilessly mocked, even as your evil twin—T. Ruthless—is sanctified as the savior of those who deny that you even exist.
“There is no real T. Ruth,” T. Ruthless fanatics like to say. Or they claim there is more than one of you; there are many T. Ruths, as if something so irrational is even possible.
They fulfill their own fantasies by creating false idols in your image. With some susceptible folks, that sleight of hand works, believe it or not. Sad as it sounds, they willingly fall prey to the phony images, and start to not even recognize you, T. Ruth, when they see you in the flesh. Denial is not just a river…and so on.
I must admit that, at first, when I didn’t see you come around much anymore, I thought you had abandoned us. As often happens, I was a fool. It is now painfully obvious that it is we who have abandoned you.
We once worshipped you as unique and redemptive. When questions vexed our existence, we’d seek your unerring guidance: “Let’s see what T. Ruth has to say about this.” You were a mutually assured paragon of purity. Now, you have been soiled and sullied, through no fault of your own, by those for whom purity is poison and deceit is self-preservation.
Our hearing the nuance in what others have to say has been impaired by noise; our vision has been blurred in seeing right from wrong. We only want to know right from left, red from blue, rich from poor, holy from unholy, standing from kneeling, fake news from self-serving news, pro- from anti-, you from me, him from her, us from them.
Noise is a despot. Nuance is a snowflake.
Oh, how I miss you, T. Ruth. Or maybe I sort of see you and just don’t recognize you as quickly and easily as I used to. You once were plain as day, all things to all people. I am so very sorry for our loss, and for our doubting your righteousness.
It pains me that you don’t come around much anymore. And when you do, you are tragically disfigured. Yes, I know what you’re about to say: It’s up to us to once again find it in ourselves to honor your beauty, your purity, your unique qualities. Just give us some time, and we will restore your faith in our faith in you. We seem to be getting there, slowly but surely.
Happy holidays, holy or otherwise, to all.