Sunday, November 22, 2009


Fiberoptic tinsel twinkles rainbows in our Christmas tree, bedecked with ornaments, each a special memory from Christmases past. I'm already making lists for this Christmas ~ the menu, gifts for each guest, centerpieces, the short devotional to honor Jesus, the reason for the season, and the carol we'll sing together.

Webster's defines a carol as a song of joy or mirth, a popular song or ballad of religious joy. "Oh come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel." "He rules the world with truth and grace." These are just a few carol lyrics that make true peace dance in my soul.

Since I'm into Christmas, I went to see A Christmas Carol yesterday thinking I would not have much in common with grouchy old Ebenezer Scrooge. But an unexpected moment brought my handkerchief out to dry my cheeks. During the spectre of Christmas present, old Ebenezer lost himself for a moment and joined the children dancing in a circle. His white nightgown flapped and his long nightcap flopped as he skipped and pranced. Then he eagerly lined up with the other wildly chattering children to receive a small gift. He held the tiny, shiny red box close to his heart as though it were a treasure. Then when he returned to his viewing spot at the edge of the festive scene, he noticed a small girl sitting alone. She had not gotten up to get a present. Slowly, tentatively, Ebenezer gave her his shiny red box. His face registered sadness for his loss until he saw how happy it made the girl. As he returned to invisibility on the outskirts of subsequent scenes, he remembered this joy of giving, which contributed to his grand generosity of spirit at the end of the play.

Since I've had joy in giving for as long as I remember, I didn't expect to identify with Scrooge. But I have to admit, my heart is not all that childlike any more. I seem to be dragging a sack of sadness and responsibility as big and bulgy as Santa's bag of toys. Would I lose myself in undignified dance? Would I squeal in unintelligible delight? Would I line up eagerly to get a gift, or would I hang back pretending it didn't matter? Would a simple gift thrill me? Would I give
away my only treasure?

My tears during this scene surprised me enough to ponder these questions of cynicism, hope, sophistication, simplicity, keeping, and giving. If I were musically inclined, I'd write a carol about a little girl shyly giving the humbuggy parts of her heart to Jesus and then closing her eyes and holding out her hands to receive whatever He might put there. Lo and behold, He puts His own hands in hers. The best gift of all.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Who Ya Gonna Call?

I first encountered the "community stylus" at a Walgreens pharmacy counter. I prefer swiping my credit card through the brown magic box, then signing a paper receipt with my own pen. But that day when the pharmacist pointed to the little Etch-A-Sketch screen on which only their stylus would write, I thought eeuuww. Every hand that has signed with this stylus belonged to a sick person. What is Walgreens thinking???

Now the community stylus is everywhere. Okay, I'm used to it now, and it's no big deal. Except these days every newspaper contains at least one article about flu AND H1N1 flu. Newscasters yammer on about flu pandemic. Most grocery stores provide antibacterial wipes for the handle of your cart, though I've yet to use one. We commonly see people wearing surgical masks in stores. I have no idea if it's because they don't want to infect others or don't want to become infected themselves. But seeing a mask on the person who precedes me through the checkout line makes me wonder if after using the same stylus, I will be moaning like the Ghostbusters, "I've been slimed." Then, who ya gonna call?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Things I Learned When I Was Supposed To Be Learning Something Else

Tonight our book group met to discuss The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Shaffer and Barrows. Five of the six of us found the book delightful; one thought it was "feevty-feevty," a reference to a past read, The Geography of Bliss. Our book tonight was a series of 1946 letters that wove a story into accounts of the German occupation of the island of Guernsey during World War II. We met for almost three hours, but our book discussion occupied probably only half an hour.

Our first tangent was actually related to the book. One of our members had researched and written a paper on the German POWs who picked fruit at farms in Michigan after the war. The farmer she interviewed spoke German to the POWs who worked for him and corresponded with them after they were sent back to Europe. She told stories of how devastated and poor and hungry Europeans were for years after the war ended. She said rationing in England didn't end until the sixties.

One thread in the book was love of literature, so I suppose our meanderings into The Iliad, The Odyssey, Charles Lamb, The Gift, Nicholson Baker, Richard the Third, Barbara Pym, Beowulf, Seamus Heaney, James Joyce, (and authors and books and reviews I can't begin to remember) were just more threads woven around that theme. Seamus Heaney and James Joyce came up because one of our members is spending five months in Ireland, where we all thought we should also visit on our group trip to Guernsey, which now seems like a pretty attractive destination. Someone quoted someone as saying Ireland is narrow and deep, and the U.S. is broad and shallow. The shallowness is our relative lack of history, but also the naivete of not having experienced the devastation and poverty and hunger following world war on our soil.

Oh, and tonight I also learned that there are mythology geeks; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were named after Renaissance artists because their creators were artists; e-mail is for old people, which four of us apparently are, because we don't send text messages; none of us would read a book on a Kindle; you can make your dog lie down by pointing at him and saying "pow"; one recipe for food-allergic children resembles potato-peel pie; and salt-and-pepper potato chips are the new "in" snack. Okay, maybe our meeting wasn't as hilarious as the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society meetings were, but it was certainly as engaging and eclectic.