I hope all your Christmases were everything you hoped for. There's something circular about that sentence. Mine was a mixed blessing. You’d think just knowing the Savior came into the world at a certain point in history would make it a completely non-mixed blessing, but I ain’t that good a Christian yet. I want things my way. It began Christmas morning with a phone call from Elizabeth from way up in the snowbound north. She hadn’t been able to get enough days off work to make coming home worthwhile. Her mother had to hand me the phone after about a minute because she started crying and couldn’t stop. It was Ebe’s first Christmas away from home – ever. May it be the last.
Here she is at home last year. If you look real close (enlargeable, twice over) you can see the imp in her eyes:
But we did have Bern with us on whom to lavish much attention, and her dog, Cedar, who may have gotten even more, and three kinds of pies (blueberry, pumpkin, mince), Mary of Puddin’ Hill pecan fruitcake (from Texas, I think), homemade pumpkin bread, a sweetly evil concoction called poppycock, a tin full of three kinds of popcorn, and I’ve been munching away ever since and haven’t gained a pound. Perhaps most important was my Dad’s homemade eggnog. It didn’t last long. And Mary Helyn made a sweet potato pie that I can’t stop eating. I hate sweet potatoes. You serve them to me as a regular dish and I’ll dig in the dirt for grubs before I touch them. But this stuff…I’m going to write a children’s book called ‘Yam I Am.’
If it’s becoming obvious I don’t have much to say, well, hang in there; I’m just getting started.
I’ve been averse to sitting down at the computer. Don’t know why. Christmas does that to me. Oh, I remember something I ought to say. Those of you waiting for chapter 7 will have it before the holidays are out. Those of you who don’t know what chapter 7 is probably let a lot of good things in life pass you by.
But even if I have nothing to say, this is not true of others, like Jeff Culbreath in anticipation of Christmas. And Zippy, who hates divorce, which he calls a "heinous, evil, wicked crime," and which we call justifiable redundancide; and Kevin Jones, who found himself referenced by Reuters; and Peony, who is, shall we say, profound in her silence. All that white space? Pay no attention. There’s something behind it.
Anybody know anything about this place? I see it on my sitemeter pages and it links to me way down in the left margin under "random". Figures.
Bernadette went to church one Sunday in Naples a few weeks ago, and ended up sitting in the crippled folks section. Actually, it was labeled "Disabled Seating." The church was full when she arrived but there were plenty of seats in the crippled section and she didn’t want to stand all service and besides she had a non-Cath friend with her. So she entered the section and all the old crippled people looked at her like (in her words) "they hated me for being young and healthy." They took a seat anyway. An usher came running up and told her this was the disabled section. She said she knew, and would get out of the way if any more cripples showed up. When it was time for communion, she tried to lower the kneeler to, uh, kneel, but some old guy at the end of the pew had his foot on it. She looked at him, but the old fart waved her off with a "fuggedaboudit" gesture. So she knelt on the cold hard floor. When she tried to get up to take Communion, the usher came running over again to tell her she had to take it where she was. Okay. When the eucharistic minister stopped by, she practically tried to shove the host down Bern’s non-Cath friend’s throat, requiring Bern to physically intervene. After the disabled old crippled folks had received, they got up and spryly hightailed it out of there before the recessional had even started. Ah, American Catholic fellowship. No wonder we’re bursting at the seams with converts.
I’ll tell you what. Let’s do some in-depth movie reviews:
- The March of the Penguins - Worth seeing. You can marvel at the cinematography; revel in the narration by Morgan Freeman, whose voice, in its ubiquity, must be on loan from God; and trouble your head about how a bird that can’t fly (though in the water it’s the ocean’s swallow) chose to live out its reproductive cycle by taking 70 mile hikes into the most inhospitable place on earth, where the average year round temperature is 58 degrees below zero. If you have trouble coming up with an answer, just take the easy way out and say "evolution." That’s what my students do when I read them "The Spider and the Wasp." What’s "The Spider and the Wasp"? you ask. Some other time.
- The Island - Skip it. The storyline’s old (cf. Logan’s Run, THX1136). Cloned humans in a futuristic society gain the capacity for independent thought, rebel, and run away. One subject their independent thinking discovers is sex. And do they indulge it? What a stupid question. (No graphic nudity, however. Which is a good thing, is what I meant to say). And does it affect the innocence of their previous friendship? Of course not. It’s just sex. In the immortal words of Scarlett Johanssen, "Why haven’t we done this before?"
- Serenity - Worthwhile fun. Some language, no sex that I remember. But then my memory ain’t what it used to be. Just kidding. I’d remember it if I saw it. If it was any good, that is.
- The Forty Year Old Virgin - rented it but for some reason never got it into the DVD player. So you tell me.
- Dark Water - A well-done supernatural thriller up until the end, which I can make no logical or spiritual sense of.
- The Exorcism of Emily Rose - When Hollywood prefaces one of its spookytaculars with the advisory that "This film is based on a true story," it means they’re about to falsify as convenience demands. Where it’s falsified I don’t know and neither do I care. In spite of the fact that this movie gave my children nightmares, causing them to wake up at 3 A.M. sharp (the significance of which would be clear had you seen the film, which you’re not going to do), I cannot convey how simply awful it is. Emily Rose does go through some contortions that would arouse envy among a Cirque du Soleil troupe, but unfortunately she has less personality than that of her demonic interloper.
And that’s it for the movies. Your idea of ‘in-depth’ might be different than mine.
- Oh, yeah, I saw a snippet (but probably the crucial one) of John McCain being interviewed by George Stephanapopalopulous concerning his (McCain’s) anti-torture bill. Those of you who don’t like torture will be glad to know that the bill’s mostly against it. Those of you who are in favor of torture will be glad to know that, when the pinch is on, that is to say, when we have in our possession a fellow whose brain needs emptying because we know that if we know what he knows a lot of lives will be saved, then the bill allows it. That’s what I thought I heard, anyway, which sounds like the hard case exception to me and, given what we know of slippery slopes, could amount to having no bill at all. Of course, I don’t know whatall’s actually in the bill, because I haven’t read it and never will (sometimes I like to rhyme in mid-sentence), but I’m willing to bet Zippy won’t like it. I’d really like to be tougher on torture. I also really don’t like the people who are trying to kill us, so if someone roughs them up a bit (as long as he swears he doesn’t like his work), I have trouble getting my moral outrage in a knot. But I’m working on it. Really.
Oh, I’ll have an article in the upcoming Touchstone. Some of you might remember it from long ago, but it won’t kill you to read it again, and then to deluge the editor with effusively appreciative emails. And, happy coincidence, Paul Cella has a review in the same issue.
And, oh yes. I watched the Christmas Eve Papal Mass from Rome. Almost all of it. I especially liked the parts that were in English (and Latin, Mr. Culbreath). And the architecture was splendid (which is sort of like saying that Michaelangelo could paint). Sure makes the place I attend look a mite barren. Some cute kids representing every ethnicity on the planet came forward bearing gifts or something for the Pope, and they brought a smile to his face that lingered. Didn’t see any (in John Cahill’s helpful phrase) ‘girl altar boys’. I kept wondering if St. Peter’s bones really reposed beneath the altar. It doesn’t matter, of course, but I like thinking about it.
I’ll tell you what. Speaking of rhymes, how ‘bout I post a Christmas ditty that should have been up on that day’s Eve but which laziness prevented? You can read it to your kids. If you don’t have any kids you can pretend to be one and read it to yourself. Maybe someone can think of a title for it:
Of the many places on earth I’ve been,
Each served as home its appointed time;
I’d like one day to go back again,
To the sea to swim, and the mountain, climb –
Like the nearby peaks in New Mexico
Where the snowfall quelled the desert dust;
But soon from there it was time to go
Though a child had given his heart in trust.
We drove by car to Maryland
From whence we likewise took our leave
After autumn burned its colored band,
And the snow fell once on Christmas Eve.
In Carolina I roamed the hills
And tramped through the woods like Daniel Boone,
Saw serpents skate among the rills,
Then camped out under an August moon.
By boat we sailed to Germany,
The deep forest boughs were bent with snow;
The boy choir made fine harmony,
And from there I wished we’d never go –
"But Father," I asked, "when will we stay?"
"Don’t know," he said. "Till my work is done,
Each home is an inn along the way
To shelter us ere this race be run."
I returned in youth to Maryland,
Learned a little of love, a lot of sin,
But I thank that girl who took my hand
For, in grief, I was never to see her again.
I hiked through the snow to find my love,
Leaving my family on Christmas night,
Then remembered all gifts are strewn from above
As the snowflakes fell in the streetlamp’s light.
Though in all the places on earth I’ve been
The heart found a home on Christmas day –
Don’t think I’ll be going back again
To the wayfarers’ inns along the way.
The Christ child, too, in a place was born -
Who would be among men as one of them –
From where, in His mother’s arms, forlorn,
He fled His home in Bethlehem.
Our houses are built in a foreign land,
You sleep within beneath changing skies,
Till the Christ Child takes at last your hand
And bids you Wake, and then, Arise.