Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Fox and the Hound: The Best Christmas Gift of All

Scene: Early morning, Christmas Day. Lake Waban is awash in icy glitter. The path is nearly empty. But I smell something, then I spy it: Around the turn, by the rhododendron grove, a beautiful red fox. She and I stare at each other in mutual wonder, then I point. Rather than launch myself at her, I consider the holiday. And the lion shall lie down with the lamb…

After a few moments, she trots away and my family and I continue on. Then, the peace of the morning is rent by a scream: the rooster, less secure than I and of course interested in self-preservation, has alerted his team. He shrieks and shrieks.

According to the American King James Bible, Isaiah 11:6 actually says: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together; and a little child shall lead them” (italics mine). Nothing about a rooster.

When I get home, I attack my purchased Christmas gift, a stuffed lamb, and after I dismember it, I lie down with it, just like I should.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Jesus of the Broken Arm, or, Merry Christmas!

In my exuberance over the Christmas season, I have been enthusiastically exploring the treasures my folks have collected over the years. In doing so, I have done my part to help pare down the number of holiday-themed decorations that make their way out of boxes for a couple of weeks each year.

So in the thrall of downsizing, I have cleared out quite a few glass ornaments that really needed to go. Then I checked my stocking to see if Santa had come early. Lapped some water from the tree just to see if the pine infusion tasted any different than my usual mud puddle or pond water and cleared out a couple more ornaments for good measure.

Having thoroughly examined the secular side of the holiday in our home, it was time to turn to the religious. Hey, what's an Advent wreath but some twigs tied together in a not-so-Gordian knot, and some candles that seemed to yearn for a chomp or two?

But when I took a swipe at the Virgin Mary, Mom had had enough. So she sat me down and told me the whole story about how the Jesus with the Broken Arm came to be part of our family.

It was first grade, Catholic school. The nuns perhaps had received a new Nativity set as a pre-Christmas gift from some parishioners. When they unboxed their old things in anticipation of decorating their dreary 50's era residence, they must have realized that the Jesus with the Broken Arm had to go.

So they held a raffle. The child who bid the most money would win the four-piece set, which included the Jesus (left arm partially amputated), a real wood manger with real straw, and a Mary and Joseph, all in traditional garb, beautifully painted.

The children were marched, in line, past the set to examine it, then seated at their desks to create secret bids.

It was rare for Mom to have any money at all in those days, so on the tiny piece of paper provided by those frugal nuns, she wrote the amount that nestled in her plaid wool jumper pocket: 5 cents.

Either the other kids rejected the poor Jesus for his disability, or they were more cash-poor than Mom, because hers was the only bid. So Jesus came home with Mom that day, and has been part of her treasures ever since. After Christmas, the nuns retaliated by forcing everyone to eat leftover fruitcake (think of the starving children in Africa!), but that's another story.

I felt a bit embarrassed after this revelation, but my swipe did have the consequence of making Mom realize that in her haste to decorate, she put Mary on the wrong side of the manger: the right side, rather than the left. Any good Catholic child knows that Mary is always on the left side of the altar. That's where the girls had to sit when they went to church in Catholic school; boys on the Joseph side on the right.

Now, with the Holy Family in proper order, I can rejoice in being back on the nice list.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tuckerby the Steadfast

I prefer not to.

Go out in the rain, that is. Or snow. Or hail. If I hear even a molecule of precipitation falling upon the roof or dripping through the downspout, I’m in for the day.

Mom slogged through much of Melville, starting with Bartleby the Scrivener, and was fond of employing that antagonist’s signature line, so it’s fitting that I be influenced by him. However, I am not completely under his thrall.

Bartleby, if you remember, starved to death—his preference. I am stubborn enough to stand stockstill in the street even with Mom throwing pieces of ham in front of me, a la Hansel and Gretel (although the intent was to get me moving forward, not to retrace our steps, and thank goodness she didn’t bring bread crumbs). But I am not so pertinacious that I would refuse a meal on principle. Unless it were served out in the rain.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My new toy

I've had lots of fun playing with my new hedgehog toy. It's some sort of puzzle, right? You attack it, gnaw at it, then bite at it some more until you finally get to that squeaky heart. Now that I've completed the challenge and thoroughly investigated its innards, I'm done with it.