People often ask me how it feels to celebrate the holidays in a place where the chances of a white Christmas are slim to none and Santa's sleigh might be pulled by camels instead of reindeer.
I sometimes refer the Christians who ask to the moment in A Charlie Brown Christmas, when young Linus explains "... what Christmas is all about," by reciting the following excerpt from the actual Bible:
And there were in the same country Shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the Angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the Angel said unto them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger.' And suddenly, there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.'
No snow there. No decked halls or donning of "fun" apparel either -- remember, it's not "gay" apparel anymore. Didn't you get the memo from Hallmark?
In fact... didn't that whole scene take place is something remarkably like a desert?
This is not to say that the spirit of Christmas in Tucson is any closer to the Biblical basics. Nor is it any less "festive" than the commercialized version Charlie Brown was so upset about. It's just... different.
We can, and do, often go Christmas shopping in tees, shorts and flip flops. And while we do have Christmas trees, you're more likely to see our xeriscape plants and cacti festooned with lights.
It has snowed a few times during the holidays. In fact, it's sometimes possible to go skiing on Mount Lemmon, up on the highest of the mountain ranges surrounding the city, and then come home and swill spiked nog beside the pool.
So it is, to be sure, sometimes difficult to remember those "chilled to the bone" Christmases in Sweet Home Chicago about which I was somehow so excited as a child. Or to remember why I was once so moved by Linus' little recitation.
But last weekend, I spent almost three hours talking long distance with the widow of my Uncle John, a rakish bon vivant sorely missed by all, but more acutely, of course, by his widowed wife.
She's 90 years old and her health is rapidly failing. She has, in fact, had more operations and illnesses in the last three years than she had in all 87 years prior. But her mind is as sharp as her wit and insight.
The long call was prompted by a "kringle" I'd sent her. Kringles are rings of flaky pastry with fruit or pecan fillings and seem to be in all of the foodie gift catalogs this year -- I'm an avid online shopper. No "Black Friday" fist or gunfights for me.
And though I was a bit worried that it would not be exactly what the doctor ordered for her delicate digestive system, I couldn't resist.
I'm glad I threw caution to the wind. First, because she raved about it and told me exactly how she'd carefully cut it up into single serving pieces and put them in the freezer to make it last longer. But more importantly, she told me she'd been feeling very sad and alone until that little ring of gooey goodness arrived.
She's too frail to be comforted by those, "How not to feel lonely during the holidays" lists always offered at this time of year. She can't get to church to help assemble gift boxes for families in need. She can't serve dinner to the homeless on Christmas Day -- she can hardly serve herself. One of her illnesses makes her fingers go numb sometimes, so she can't even grasp a fork or spoon properly. And spine issues have made standing up for any amount of time almost impossible.
So, hearing the lilt in her voice as she described, in detail, the first taste of that kringle was absolutely precious. From there, we talked of Christmases and loved ones past, for hours.
She repeated herself a few times. And spent a great deal of time reliving the ups and downs of her marriage to my uncle, whose love of "the chase" had not ended when he slipped that ring on her finger. He was a hopeless philanderer, but she knew that. Almost enjoyed it.
Now that she's getting so close to what she's sure will be a heavenly reunion with him, it's almost all she thinks about. I didn't begrudge her that. I just listened.
And that is the real reason for this little tome. To remind you to do the same for someone. Yes, please do all those things I mentioned previously -- give generously, this holiday season, of money and time.
But then, please, also stop and think of someone who might be feeling sad and alone. A relation, an old friend, someone on the block who never seems to have any visitors -- it's your call.
But call them. Or call on them in person -- take a minute. Make some room at the inn, so to speak. For Linus. And that other little boy this is all supposed to be about.
Merry every day, all. I wish you that for this New Year.
Image credit: dbvirago / 123RF Stock Photo
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