Valley Pike: Reflections . . . from a state of merry flu

Posted: December 18, 2013

Christmas beckons. It’s but a week away, and I’m in my usual (for this time of year) merry state of flux. Those “silver bells,” they jingle. Can I be “jangled”?

Perhaps, but fortunately I have this column, which is part antidote and part blessing. It affords me momentary respite — time to entertain idle thoughts and reflections about what has long been my favorite time of year.

Oh no, you say, not another maudlin lament about how Christmas starts too early and ends too abruptly, like at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 25. No, that’s hardly my intent here, nor is another round of hand-wringing over how the “reason for the season” either gets lost in the shuffle of commercialization or marginalized in a blizzard of ridiculous lawsuits about manger scenes in public squares.

No, this is personal rather than editorial, an explanatory exercise. What does Christmas still mean to middle-aged me? It means . . .

Singing a carol a day to the ladies in The Star’s bookkeeping department. Now I can’t carry a tune across the street, even in a bucket, but Laura, Debbie, Jane, and Joan suffer my ineptitude happily, especially when I stumble over the words to “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”

In a similar vein, lyrics mangled, sometimes deliberately (“We three kings of Orient are/Tried to smoke a rubber cigar”), and sometimes inadvertently (“Whom angels greet with Ann the Sweet”).

My wife and her Beta Iota sisters in Alpha Delta Kappa sorority observing their annual “Christmas Jars” tradition. They made their (not-altogether) clandestine run earlier this week.

Holiday movies, and stealing a few hours to watch ’em. For Toni, the standard is “White Christmas”; for me, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and (for some reason, perhaps Tea Leoni) “The Family Man.”

Rotary’s annual party with the Evans Home kids. It’s the one meeting of the club I never miss — for obvious reasons.

Two series of trips to our drafty attic, the first to haul down our copious Christmas “stuff”; the second to return it. I relish neither, but the second is laden with an extra layer of grumpiness, as it signals an end to that “most wonderful time of the year.”

A cherished albeit fragile creche scene fighting a losing battle to the forces of time. I won’t belabor you anew with the once-told tale of Mary and Joseph’s yearly “trek” to Bethlehem ... across a living-room radiator. Whether or not they “made it” depended on my behavior. It was often nip and tuck.

“O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night” — they never sound better than at Midnight Mass.

Memories ... of delicious anticipation and childhood wishes fulfilled (snow on Christmas morning, a Johnny Reb cannon or a lever-controlled hockey game under the tree) and of events initially harrowing but now altogether hilarious — such as the Christmas I hauled my new cattle truck into the bathroom and, for some unknown reason, flushed half its inhabitants down the commode). In O’Connor family lore, it’s still known as “The Toilet Christmas.”

The long-lingering suspicion that one Christmas morning I actually did see Santa. Funny, isn’t it, how dreams can meld into reality when you’re a kid?

Recalling how you felt when you bought Christmas gifts for the first time with your own money. That paper route had its benefits.

And now, H-words — hectic, hurried, harried. We travel at Christmas, so our timetable inevitably gets pinched, squeezed — no matter how much we plan, no matter how early we start our shopping and other Yuletide activities.

Trying earnestly to see the goodness in folks, and wondering why we can’t do so all year long.

The birth of a Baby, whose subsequent suffering, death and resurrection has forever translated to the rebirth of us all.

Merry Christmas!