As we begin to embrace both the sorrow of the Newtown massacre and the joy of Christmas, it is good to return to the classic holiday stories. My class of five and I sat around our fireplace yesterday morning, rain falling outside, our meeting room festooned with a tree, two mangers and several bright red Santa Clauses carved out of walnut. The wind bustled, slap dashing against the windows as we read Nabokov, Dickens, Truman Capote, and Russell Banks. And listened to Dylan Thomas reading A Child’s Christmas in Wales.
Our spirits came together as we heard Truman Capote in A Christmas Memory tell the story of his Christmas as a young boy in Monroeville Alabama, living with relatives in a big house. His close friend and constant companion, a sixty-year-old female relative, looked like “a bantam rooster.” At Christmas, they gathered their pennies (they are quite poor) and made thirty fruit cakes, distributing them to “people who have struck their fantasy” like President Roosevelt, the local bus driver and Haha Jones who supplied them with whiskey for the cakes. Buddy’s companion is full of wisdom. She reflects, “there’s never two of anything.” And, toward the end of the story, she says, “I’ve always thought that a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord….But I’ll wager that at the very end a body realizes that the Lord has already shown himself. That things as they are – her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass and Queenie pawing earth over her bone—just what they’ve always seen, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes.” Words like this calm our spirit and heal us. Read Capote’s story aloud to your family and friends, and smile.
And then, revisit A Christmas Carol and remember the transformation of Scrooge once he was visited by the spirits. After his encounters with the ghosts,
“He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!”
If you have another moment, listen to A Child’s Christmas in Wales, read by Dylan Thomas. This tale will make you laugh and you will marvel at the music of the language. Listening together with friends and family will bring you close.
Happy Holidays and let’s keep the radiance of today in our eyes and rejoice in our loved ones.