A “Merry Christmas” Reflection

Today is the day that enchants the minds of children and provokes a curious admixture of joy, sorrow, angst and consumerism for adults. Yes, today is Christmas. May yours be merry.

Some thoughts:

  • When I was a kid, Christmas was a time of magic. Part of the magic was a two-fold sense of expectancy — the secular acts of gift-giving, feasting and school vacations, on one hand, and the progression of Advent on the other. Now, I look forward to my annual two-week vacation, but the religious aspect feels disconnected. Partly, I think, because of my church-hopping over the last several years, and partly because most of the expressions I see of authentically Catholic Advent/Christmas observance feel increasingly trite. The depth is missing. The sense of spiritual challenge is gone. Many years ago, my friend Mitch observed that one of our priests only really had five homilies, the contents of which changed like a paint-by-numbers game. Advent/Christmas feels a lot like that, now: Pick a generic theme as your base color and paint over last year’s season. We’re depriving ourselves of something important, I think, and it doesn’t feel like it’s a one-priest or one-parish thing.
  • With temperatures fluctuating between the mid-50s and mid-60s over the last few days, it hardly feels like Christmas. Apparently this is West Michigan’s 12th “green” Christmas since 1905; usually, we have at least an inch or two of snow cover. So the fact that I could sit outside on the front porch on the 23rd or 26th, in shorts and a T-shirt, to enjoy a cigar — well, that situation is a wee bit out of the ordinary. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.
  • Gift-giving, for me, is a stressor. There’s the embarrassment of forgetting, the awkwardness of one-way exchanges, the frustration of thinking of just the right gift, etc. But it is what it is, I suppose.
  • Recent holiday events have been pleasant. We did Christmas Eve with my mom. Among other things, I got cat toys, and Murphy even played with one at some length: A bird that, when batted, makes a chirping sound. I heard chips all night. #YayFun. And last Saturday, we visited my grandmother for the maternal-family party. Got to meet baby Emma for the first time.
  • Speaking of my mom’s party, three things of note transpired. First, Katie showed up, which was nice. Second, there was a serious discussion about a family trip four years from now — a three-week summer trek by rented RV to Alaska. And third, my brother trumped in the annual game of “rearrange mom’s ‘Merry Christmas’ blocks” … xmas
  • I welcomed Tony back last Sunday for a podcasting session. That was nice. And in the last few weeks, I’ve had dinner with Abbi — she just got back from three weeks in northern India and brought me back a lovely hand-woven cashmere scarf — and cigars with my old college friends Matt and John. I haven’t seen John in many years, so it was an especially joyful experience to re-connect with him.
  • I’m in the middle of a two-week vacation. Lots of stuff to accomplish, but progress is already solid. I’m remembering, however, the biggest reason I wanted an office for Caffeinated Press: Cats. Specifically, that Murphy either wants to sleep on me, or walk around the house yelling loudly to get my attention. I’ve never seen a cat as quite as co-dependent as he is. Fiona, his sister, hasn’t moved from her pillow in the sun over the last four hours. Murphy, however, has been a very loud, very fuzzy shadow all day long. Makes it hard to work in peace.
  • I’m keeping friends who’ve had relationship damage over the last year in my thoughts as they experience the holidays in a less happy light.

Merry Christmas and happy Hannukah, and may you have a safe/happy/healthy/profitable new year.

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