The earth has made another trip around the sun. What a trip! The holiday season – Christmas, Hannukah, New Year’s Eve – is a touchstone. In former times a black siliceous stone (silicon dioxide) was used to test the purity of gold and silver by the color of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either gold or silver. No frankincense. No myrrh. Just precious memories rubbed against the season.
All of us who were here last year are now a year older, and maybe somewhat wiser. We touch the stone– the holidays – and remember how we celebrated years ago, when the kids were little, or when we ourselves were kids.
I have powerful memories of Christmas time in my early childhood. When I was five years old I had two older brothers and two younger brothers, and another brother came when I was eight, then two sisters a few years later – a big family, especially by today’s standards.
We put up a tree a week or so before Christmas, and left it up until the needles dried and began to fall. On Christmas morning we had to wait until the crack of dawn and we got the word that it was okay to come down to open presents. It was quite a scene – the tearing away of wrappings, the sounds of surprise and delight as my mother handed out gifts, reading the names on those little tags.
Some things were too big to wrap – a brown Mountain Boy toboggan, a Flexible Flyer sled, a tricycle, a red Radio Flyer wagon…and one time there was a Doodlebug on which you sat and instead of peddling with your feet you pushed back and forth on the handlebar to move it forward. That Doodlebug got a lot of use over the years!
Then there was the Christmas stocking – and we used an actual sock – in which food items were stuffed: candy bars and the small penny candy fillers. Mine always had a can of tuna fish because my mother knew it was a favorite of mine.
The wrapped gifts were often clothes – stocking hats, mittens, scarves – what Dylan Thomas called ‘the useful presents’ in his wonderful A Child’s Christmas in Wales.
“Let’s get on to the useless presents,” he says: a cowboy cap gun with holsters, and a Dick Tracy secret message bracelet, a sparkler you pressed to make the wheel spin and throw sparks, and a top you pressed on the floor to make it spin and hear it hum, and a Duncan yo-yo.
Yes, the earth has made another trip around the sun, so we celebrate by looking back at the collection of precious memories, and do our best to stay attentive to the present without worrying too much about the future.
I hope you add some memories to those you’ve accumulated so far.
I’m pleased with the progress we’re making in our transitioning time here at the church. We have more work to do, of course, but we’re headed in the right direction.
Have a happy!