A human being should be able to
change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, conn a
ship, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort
the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve an
equation, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a
tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
- Robert A. Heinlein
The Annual Yule Do
As a person who likes to sing, I try to learn a new carol every Christmas. In recent years it’s usually been something like Weird Al’s “The night Santa went crazy”, the Arrogant Worms’ “Santa’s gonna kick your ass” or even Radio Free Vestibule’s “Christmas on acid.” It’s a flaw in my internal sweetness-and-light-o-meter that sometimes my natural cynicism blooms around the holidays, although I’m careful not to demonstrate this in front of the boys. Keefe is savvy to the jolly fat man’s true nature by now, but Hugh is at that brief age where Santa is still a very real and magical figure. He hasn’t turned the laser focus of his scientific intellect upon the myth yet, perhaps fearing to burst the bubble on some unconscious level, and the occasion colored his play for weeks before Christmas -- Bionicle heroes brought moral salvation to their villain, the Makuta, with gifts of cookies and cocoa and threats of coal in stockings, and even in pirate games Captain Yellowbutt reminded scurvy crewmates to mind their manners and that “Santa would want you to keep your weapons clean.” It’s was a beautiful thing.
I’m not sure if this trend extends beyond my
immediate circle of acquaintance, but people seem much more aware this
year of other holidays being celebrated around them. One of the
highpoints of my season was Hugh’s kindergarten class production
of The Nutcracker. In this version, the mouse king was replaced by the
pirate king (guess who), and rather than traveling to the land of
sweets and candies the nutcracker prince takes Claire to the land of
celebrations. The kids danced for Diwali, Channukah,
One big surprise this year came home with a compilation CD of Bing Crosby and others singing holiday songs they made classics: there turned out to be a tune I had never heard before -- sung by Vera Lynn, which most of my readers are young enough not to remember as a preeminent musical voice of Britain during World War II. The song is called “The little boy that Santa Claus forgot”, and it goes like this:
Christmas comes but once a year for every girl and boy
Jan immediately disliked it – there’s no optimistic note to redeem it, it’s just heartbreaking. In my usual contrary fashion it immediately stuck in my head. That kid’s still with us today, but nobody sings about him anymore. We’ve got to acknowledge how many people are being left behind by modern success. Take a quiet moment to think about what Christmas in Iraq was like this year. Makes it a little ironic to know that North Americans spend enough on Christmas presents to obliterate global poverty for the year twice over. Feel guilty? Good. Now we can get back to how wonderful our own lives are with a sense of perspective. A carol that serves that crucial function is a fine addition to my left wing musical arsenal. Do something nice for someone who’s got nothing. Donate some old toys to a charity, bring canned goods to the food bank, and thank whichever god you prefer that you’ve still got both of those handy limbs. Lest we forget.
For many of us, myself included, there was little to gripe about this year -- a little extra time off of work, a feast of whatever kind suited our whim and budget, some gifts, and the company of family, or at least sympathetic friends for those whose families aren’t sympathetic. My blood relations are delightful, but I know at least one person whose family uninvited them for Christmas over a religious argument, and others whose folks have added to, rather than subtracted from, their seasonal stress. Whatever happened to peace on earth and good will towards men? Note to self: I will never do that to my children.
I honestly didn’t want anything much for Christmas, at least not
anything tangible -- some more down time, sitting on
couch for a while and having somebody fetch and carry for me, or the
chance to get out for a real date with Janice, those would be lovely.
What I really looked forward to was the giving stuff away part. This year
I made seven pairs of earrings, three statuettes that I intended to be
brooches but am worried are too fragile for that purpose, several pairs
of customized underwear, and music CDs with original art covers (I’m
proudest of “Pirate Santa’s Christmas Treasure”). On top of
Jan bought gifts all year long whenever she found something wickedly
cheap that she knew someone we know will love, and when we look in all
of our hiding places there’s a lot more there than we remembered. An
embarrassment of riches. Going back to the Santa myth I mentioned
earlier, the fat guy really does exist. Not as a ludicrously
philanthropic individual with an arctic refuge, but as a role that we
can all play. When Hugh opened up that pirate ship he’d been talking
about for four months, I got to watch his face, and I was Santa. What more can I ask than that? But easy on the fat jokes
please. I’ve been putting eggnog in my coffee for weeks, there’s
many cookies in the house for willpower to resist, and I cooked two
lasagnas just yesterday. Plenty of time for me to work it off when
running around in the springtime pretending to be the Easter bunny.
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