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The first Christmas with Luna

It’s that hushed week between Christmas and New Year’s, when the frenzy of regular life fades to a murmur. Traditionally, I've seen this time as a gateway to other worlds, a cherished opportunity to turn off Slack and Discord and email and immerse myself in a good book or game.

Last Christmas break, I spent my time in Elden Ring's Limgrave. Another memorable year, I lost myself in the pages of The Secret History while nestled in a cozy Dominican mountaintop home. The end of the year is a little sanctuary, where time stands still and it's easier to relax. But this year is not a typical one. Not only do I have a baby experiencing her first holiday season, but I've already watched a lot of movies, and played plenty of games. It started when my daughter was born, and I'd be fixed on the couch with her asleep on my chest again and again throughout the day. Caring for a newborn can be both wondrous and grueling, and in those mentally exhausted moments I'd pop an AirPod in my ear and lose myself in a film or game, my sleeping baby cradled against me.

I spent her naps watching movies in 30 minute chunks, or playing games that let me turn them on and off without much trouble. This may not have been the most cinematic way to experience the films I watched, but it offered a much needed mental vacation from my world of dirty diapers and sleep deprivation. And then, what began as a way to pass the time during Luna's naps turned into a nightly ritual, where I'd finish the films I started when the daily demands of parenting were over.

While in most years I watch maybe a dozen films, this year I've watched 129.

In the book Extra Lives, author Tom Bissell wrote about losing himself for hundreds of hours in the game Oblivion:

In the world of Oblivion you can pick flowers, explore caves, dive for treasure, buy houses, bet on gladiatorial arena fights, hunt bear, and read books. Oblivion is less a game than a world that best rewards full citizenship, and for a while I lived there and claimed it. At the time I was residing in Rome on a highly coveted literary fellowship, surrounded by interesting and brilliant people, and quite naturally mired in a lagoon of depression more dreadfully lush than any before or since. I would be lying if I said Oblivion did not, in some ways, aggravate my depression, but it also gave me something with which to fill my days other than piranhic self-hatred. It was an extra life; I am grateful to have had it.

I found extra life in the movies and games that I played this year. They provided perspective, inspiration, catharsis. Of course, when Luna would wake up, I’d find myself back in the life I’d left behind — but I’d return a little refreshed, bolstered by time spent elsewhere.

So, perhaps because I already spent an outsized amount of time in movies and games this year, I didn't feel a major need to do so during this final, restful week. Beyond that, the dynamics of raising Luna are changing. She's no longer limited to the abilities of an infant, or in need of me to nap on. With each day that passes, my baby is becoming my world, and she's keeping me both busy and content.

I still cherish and value the worlds that books and games can provide. I'm halfway through the book Plainsong (expect a report back next week) and am downloading Cyberpunk 2077 on my Steam Deck as I write this. But these worlds take a backseat to Luna, only getting my time when she's fast asleep at night.

When she's present, I'm trying to be present too.

The longing that I had earlier in her life to escape into fiction has been subtly eclipsed by a newfound contentment in the present. I still value those other worlds, but I'm learning to find enjoyment in experiencing the world through her eyes. It's our world, and it's the only one in which I want to be.

That's all for now.

From the present moment,

~ Drew

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