A visitor came Christmas morning, and he is staying. He’s nearly six feet tall, wooden, purchased from an antique shop. No, not alive, but he is definitely a presence. He provides accommodation upon his shelves for those of lesser stature. Pretty nifty, huh?
It isn’t large enough to hold my entire collection of nutcrackers, but it shows off a few to the best advantage. He makes me smile.
We had other visitors on Christmas Eve: Three of them. No, they weren’t The Three Kings, but they were three trekkers. They were traveling on a mercy mission, and we were glad to invite them to our table. For a brief time, we could offer them shelter, food, and fellowship. We couldn’t share their entire burden, but they left with a lighter load. They went on their journey with a smile.
The Lord says whatsoever you do for the least of your brothers and sisters, you do it unto me. Even the least you can do for those you come in contact with may be exactly right.
Our eyes grow bleary viewing the same-old, same-old TV Christmas offerings, starting in July. The scripts are mostly boiler plate with new hometowns, characters with differing careers, each seeking fulfillment through the holiday festivals, new-found romance, and iced with a touch of nostalgia. You may yearn to discover such a place. But at the end, the film’s denouement may be unsatisfying, leaving unanswered questions.
I find myself looking for the children’s cartoon favorites: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Santa Clause Is Coming to Town–you know the genre. These stories seem to be saved for the Christmas Season, not appearing in July.
To me, Christmas actually comes when I’m privileged to see the children’s Christmas presentation at church. I’ve witnessed the chaos at the practices when the spirit of Christmas anticipation enlivens the kids to the point of mob mania. But put on the costumes, and a miracle happens. Mary and Joseph eye the doll in the manger differently. The little girls clothed in white dresses and fluffy wings almost become angelic. The Magi stand tall and stately, proudly holding their shiny gifts.
It wasn’t perfect. One shepherd strayed away with his sheep. One shepherd opted to stay off-stage. One wiseman didn’t want to give up his present to the baby Jesus. But these minor flaws simply added the spice of childhood.
Words are fun for me: scrabble; crossword puzzles; Readers’ Digest word definition section. I love attending parties where we’re challenged to find as many words as possible out of a larger word. I do hate the puzzles where you’re asked to ‘find’ a word in a mishmash of letters strung up and down within a grid. By the time I’ve encircled a couple of words, these lines block out the other words that I’m supposed to find.
Two new terms came to my attention lately: alpha privative; peripety. (Each of the authors who introduced these to me had written stacks of books, probably as tall as they are.)
Alpha privative is a prefix attached to the front of a positive word that deprives the value of the stem word. Examples: a, un, dis. Moral to amoral; happy to unhappy; satisfied to dissatisfied. You know lots of them!
Since I deduced that since alpha in Greek meant beginning that there should be an omega that we could put on the end of a sentence that also could negate the meaning of the stem word. I couldn’t find any. But we English-speaking people are inventive, and we found a way around that. We say, for example, “I will give you a hundred dollars” then pause a few seconds and add ‘not’. That’s our omega addition. It works.
Peripety means a sudden or unexpected reversal. I don’t think we can tie in alpha privative to a positive expectation which, that when withheld, would cause peripety. I suppose some authors might even be able to do this by creating a situation that goes from good to bad. To me, the word peripety is just fun to say. I’ll not be using it.
We opened the gates on a barely-traveled road to take the lane up the hill to visit our family recluses. The brother and sister still lived in the small, rustic log cabin in which they were born. They felt little need of the outside world, except for his weekly Saturday trips to town in his Model T. Uncle Roy had purchased it new way-back-when, and it sat safely in the barn during the week. Unlike the used car that the little old lady drove only to church on Sundays in the Andy Griffith’s show, this car was in pristine condition.
They lived alone now that my great-grandmother had passed away, but I only remember her as a bed-fast figure on a single bed in the living area next to a window. My great-uncle Roy did leave the farm to serve in World War I, but I’m unsure if my Aunt Liza (Eliza Jane) ever traveled outside the county. They lived as their parents had: Uncle Roy hunted their woods for food, and planted a garden, and chopped firewood for cooking and heating; Aunt Liza cooked, dried, and canned their harvest for winter. Blankets and clothes had to be winter-worthy since the cabin was not. Chinks did fill the cracks, but that couldn’t take the place of good insulation. Aunt Liza still used great-grandmother’s pie safe for food. The pies and cookies were kept on the top shelf. A common question after supper was, “Ma, what’s on the high shelf?”
Conversations during these visits were lively. I was too young to offer anything, but I learned of colorful characters that had peopled our past. Even though their nearest neighbor was at least five miles away, and they had no phone, gossip made its way up their hill regularly. The radio played a central part in their lives, and so did the books and magazines beside their chairs.
One particular conversation that I recall was of Aunt Liza explaining the benefits she’d read about calcium. She pronounced the word ‘kal-kee-uhm’. Years later I heard that when a person uses a word correctly, but mispronounces it, you know that they had read it, not heard it. I remember my Aunt Liza as always upbeat and jolly. Since then, I have concluded that she did travel. Books carried her away from her tiny log cabin in the Southern Indiana Hills to the far-flung corners of the planet. But after her adventures, she could come back to the serenity and safety of her small home. Rather than make her restless, it had brought her contentment. Her clothes might still be homemade and her hands rough but for a little while, she could be a fashionable lady with soft, smooth hands. And that was enough.