Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Thoughts

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six…”

So begins Dylan Thomas’ beautiful short story, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” What I love about that story is that the reader doesn’t need to have experienced the exact details to remember their own perception of Christmas. I still have a cassette tape of Thomas reading this story aloud and it always transports me to the dreamy world of childhood memory…
All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen…”
I know that for some people, recalling Christmas past is a painful experience. I guess I am lucky that when I plunge into the metaphor, I bypass the harsher memories of Christmas and rummage through the snowflakes until I find the wonderful things: Christmas at Nana Betty’s with all the children, chaos and wonder wrapped up in the small package of her home, there is my father who played with us and helped us with our Christmas putz (and the magical train that blew real smoke from its stack!), On Christmas day, he always had special toys hidden from my mother for himself and the boys. They would whoop through the house with shields and swords, my father as bad as the youngest boy. Years later when I became a parent, he told me that one of the most important things a parent does is “make good memories.” It was a quality he had mastered.
Dylan also seems to capture the merriment of Christmas and the odd characters that made the day even more memorable. There are always funny characters when you get a big family together and ours was no different than any other (especially the Irish-Scotch families like ours).
Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang "Cherry Ripe," and another uncle sang "Drake's Drum." It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird's Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed….”
Merry Christmas to all my dear friends! May your holiday be filled with joy, love and making good memories. May our next year be filled with peace and hope and may children everywhere go to bed Christmas night with the kind of calm and security that Thomas felt…”
“Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.”

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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