Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Shortest Day of the Year

I grew up listening to Jack Carney's "Saturday Morning Comedy Show" on KMOX 1120 in St. Louis. I was extremely saddened to hear of his untimely passing in 1984, two years after I'd left for college.

He brought relief to my strife and tension-filled teenage years for three hours on Saturday mornings playing old time radio comedy. Every Saturday while doing the Saturday chores from 9-noon, I'd have my trusty portable transistor radio tuned in listening to Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly, George and Gracey and the like. And at no time of year was it more special than the two or so saturdays he focused on Christmas Comedy.

One of my favorites was the Christmas Dragnet you'll find on the Dr. Demento CD's --

But Dec 21 never passes without me thinking of a particular routine by, I think, Jack Benny -- where he does a little speal on his show about a holiday that often gets over looked on account of, or because of Christmas. December Twenty-First, the Shortest Day of the Year.

Summing up, he said, "ladies and gentlemen, let us pause as we pay tribute to December 21st, the shortest day of the year -- "

[there is a quick, single-note trumpet blast]

"Thank you".

Monday, December 20, 2004

Christmas is a Comin'

Went out saturday for what I thought would be a 3 or so hour shopping trip which turned into 5 -- well, I went a lot of places. Had a few places to check out for some gift ideas for a couple of people and was largely successful (not giving away what and for whom) -- and there was the grocery shopping for the upcoming traditional dinners. Also got the few cards I send out mailed out (finally).

We're all set for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners. Oyster Stew & Cinnamon Pears Christmas Eve, and the Prime Rib & Red Cabbage for Christmas Day. Wrapped most of Vicki's stuff although there IS something I need to do for her other gift -- a little manual labor to keep the cost near our mutual quotas. I still haven't done any cookies -- guess I'll be doing those at night this week.

Vicki's birthday was Saturday. Mom and Dad called her and sang happy birthday to her while I was out. Kevin and Adriene (and Mia) called and sang her happy birthday that morning. I had a couple old family prints made for her and framed them. One of her about 6 years old with her Aunt Vivian at an art museum in Toledo. I never got to meet Aunt Vivian, and I understand I really missed something there. She was obviously a very pretty lady, and her laughter is talked about fondly. She was, apparently, quite a neat person.

The other picture was of Vicki's grandfather (Dad's dad) in front of the old family coal company office in the snow.

We went out to CC Broilers for dinner with the neighbors Friday night for a Vicki Birthday Celebration, and we'll go out with Mom and the boys now that she's here for another celebration tonight. We had Mark and Gretchen over for lunch yesterday. It was cold, and we had a fire going. Had a nice visit.

Kevin and Brian went to the Mizzou/IU basketball game. Astoundingly, Mizzou won on a last second shot. Well, both teams are struggling, so maybe not THAT astounding. I dropped them off and picked them up as the Paige -- ahem "Mizzou" arena is right down the hill -- that way they didn't have to find a parking place.

Brian caught some bug and was over after the game on the couch downstairs. After the guests had left, he called up the stairs "M-o-mmmm. I feel like cr*-*p!". After I laughed out loud, he looked up at me and gave a half smile and said "She usually just takes that and runs with it." Which is true. Moms will always be moms to their kids. Even when the kids are 24. Or 50.

Thursday we're headed to KC for Mark's Play, "XMAS Marks the Spot". And the traditional Bro-Fest will once again be held in Columbia New Years Eve.

All this brings me to a point that has become very clear to me over the past few years and it just keeps getting more and more clear. Christmas, or "The Holidays" (Thanksgiving is much the same way and between it, Christmas, and New Years -- those are "The Holidays") is about celebrating the richness in your life. Yes, Christmas is about the birth of Christ, but I'll get to that in a minute. A lot of the traditions we associate with Christmas and even Thanksgiving to some extent have to do with celebrating being able to survive the winter.

Thanksgiving came from harvest festival traditions, and Christmas -- even before the Birth of Christ was assigned to it (scholars believe he was actually born in June) the people of Europe (especially Northern Europe) picked the coldest, darkest days of the year and made it bright and cheery with their spirit as if to give a big, hearty "HA!" to Winter. Decorating with greens and light and robust colors to celebrate life and light, and having a big feast in a warm house while outside the cold winds blow and the fields lie frozen and barren and the night comes early and the days are cold allows us to measure the extent to which we have conquered Winter.

And, of course, Christmas wouldn't even be called Christmas if not for the traditions surrounding the birth of Christ, which were intricately interwoven with these midwinter traditions -- to which there are some wonderful liturgical tie-ins... Christ, the light of the world, comes when the world has become so bleak, and tells us we can conquer death. He comes in to the world poor, born in a hay feeder in a stable -- and with what? The love of his parents, and some shepherds and these three guys from the East who come and give him gifts to honor him. The gifts were symbolic, and were not what was important.

In my lifetime to this point I have come to understand that the most important things in our lives are the people in our lives. Our family, our friends -- people who care about us, and we care about them. And when I look back on the fond memories of Christmas Past, even my childhood Christmas' (perhaps especially those) -- in the end it wasn't the football or the jersey or the train or the rocket or the camera that made that time of year really special. The gifts our our way of reminding people that we are there, and that we care about them.

It was the extra and often random visits people made to our house, and ours to theirs, and we shared their cookies and nog and conversation; memories -- their lives and ours -- and it was all tied together with this common, festive theme that even the music and decorations echoed --

Yes, I am rich. I have people who care about me. I am warm when it is cold. I have food when it can't be grown. I have heels to kick up and the spirit to do the kicking. I belong here. And it is good.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Deck the Halls

The halls are decked with boughs of holly
Mistletoe hangs at middle hallway
The tree is up - 900 lights!
That make it glow when it is night
A batch of shrub is on the make
Presents bought, but nothing's baked
The lights outside put up with toil
The door's been wrapped with golden foil
Christmas stories read from books
Carols play in all the nooks
Guitars all have a sprig of green
To help them join the Christmas scene
But the crown of all as this verse ends
It's all done for family, and friends!

-- PGL 12/13/2004

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Happy Birthday to Jennifer!

Jennifer's one of my oldest friends (ok, friends I've had the longest). She is the friend I've had the longest, come to think of it.

We go back so long, I could post pictures that would really embarrass her (no, not in THAT way -- geez -- just from back when we were both young geeks. Well, me more than her, but... it's not a competition, is it?) if I wanted to but... I won't do that. We have a long and semi-complicated history but have remained in touch all these years. There's something nice about knowing she's out there and we have a clue about how each others' lives are going and we can trace them back to some common points. Hard to explain, but I imagine most people know what I'm talking about.

Jennifer and Tony just had their second baby a month or so ago, Elena -- a sister to Gabriella.

I'll even be a big gent and not say how old she is except that -- she's younger than I am, but not TOO much younger.

So, here's to you, Jennio! Hope you had a good one, and lots more!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

snow, snoW, snOW, sNOW, SNOW!!!!!!!!!!

Anyone driving to work Columbia, Missouri this morning after sunrise who was not dumbstruck and giddy from the sheer beauty of what they saw must have something wrong with them.

The light snow that fell last night clung to the longer blades of grass, the trunks of trees, even down to the twigs. They accented everything with a supernaturally white sparkle. It really made me want to turn the car around and go walk in the woods. Wow!

A Christmas Postcard. Too bad I couldn't stop and take pictures.