Sunday, December 25, 2005

Peace on Earth, Good Will To Men

Merry Christmas!

Here at home, it's spring-like weather and the house is full of people. My cousin's children are here tonight, too. She's an ICU nurse and her husband also works in the same hospital, and they both have to work this weekend, so the whole family on both sides is pitching in with child care. Her boys are 11 and 8 and her daughter is 4. The eight year old fixed me with an eagle eye at Thanksgiving and announced that he couldn't talk to me because he didn't know me-- I am a stranger. We all laughed at that, and I told him that I wasn't a stranger, I'm his cousin. He looked at me skeptically, claiming never to have seen me before in his life.

"Dude, I was there when you were born. I changed your diapers when you were a baby."

"Nuh uh."

"Deny it all you like, but your mom will back me up when she gets here. And if you don't want to wait for her, go ask your grandma."

"Don't need to. I know you're a stranger."

Repeat ad nauseum. Then he suddenly switched tactics, insisting that I am from California. No amount of talking could dissuade him.

So, when we pulled up in front of the house after Christmas Eve services, he jumped out of his mom's car, where they had been waiting for us to get home, and yelled for the whole neighborhood to hear, "HEY! THERE'S THAT GIRL FROM CALIFORNIA!!"

I love kids. They are pure entertainment.

Speaking of Christmas Eve services, this year's pagent as (unintentionally) hilarious. The schtick was that the youth minister was "interviewing" people at the Nativity. Joseph was a fifteen year old boy who kept making gestures like he was starring in "Yo!Bethlehem Rap!" or something, the Angel of the Lord wore jeans and high top sneakers and said "Duuuuuh!" in response to one of the minister's questions, and the Wise Man's accent wandered from Yiddish to French to Spanish to German to Japanese to British. Hi-lar-i-ous. And very cute.

All night, Portia (the four year old) kept asking me how Santa would get in to my parents' house if we didn't have a chimney. I told her that Santa is magic and doesn't need a chimney. She asked again and again, and each time, I told her that Santa could visit any good child, even if they don't live somewhere with a fireplace or a chimney. Sunday morning, I came out into the living room and she ran over to me, yelling "Santa came! He IS magic!". If that doesn't get you right in the ol' soft spot, you're made of stone.

All through Christmas services at church, she sat on my lap and moved my arms so that they were wrapped around her in a tight hug, leaning back against my shoulder. When the choir sang an especially cheerful song, she clapped along softly, turning to grin back at me with excitement. As soon as the service was over, she jumped into my arms for a huge kiss and hug. I was in heaven. What a sweet child!

We played with her new toys all afternoon and she made up story after story about her new dolls. She's an especially articulate little girl and a most vivid imagination. I was constantly cracking up at her little snide remarks (So sarcastic for one so young! It runs in the family...) and she was thrilled with the attention.

Christmas was... different this year. I knew that it would be; after all, I've spent almost every Christmas for the past eight years with Finbar and his family. I miss his mom especially deeply. And the traditions in his family are so different from the traditions in mine that I was worried that it wouldn't feel like Christmas. But having Portia here really saved Christmas for me. I was able to see Christmas for its magic and dreams; instead of seeing the things I am missing, I felt the things I can have, if only I will reach out for them.

The story of Christmas as told in the Gospel of Luke is one of the most moving pieces in the English language. "Fear not! For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy!" And that's the essence of what Christmas should be, regardless of your beliefs. Peace on Earth, good will to men.

May the season bring you a joy so deep and profound that for even one night, you feel no fear, only peace.


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