Thursday, December 25, 2008

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world ...

... she walks into mine."

I love this movie. Happy Birthday, Bogie, and Merry Christmas to me. Thanks, TCM.

I hope she's happy

I am watching a C-Span rebroadcast of the dedication of the Heinz College (yes, I know it's Christmas Day, but my geekiness knows no season). Teresa Heinz is speaking, honoring her late first husband. She is beautiful and articulate and so wise as she talks about water pollution and the impact on our health, especially the health of our children.

I think she's great, and I'm sorry that she isn't our First Lady today. I know that there are some who blame her for Senator Kerry's loss in 2004, but I'm not one of them. If Americans weren't ready for a foreign-born, independent, feisty First Lady who would represent us elegantly and intelligently abroad, then that was our loss.

But I wonder about her. Is she happier now, as a Democratic Senator's wife and a Republican Senator's widow, able to pick and choose when she uses her celebrity to interact with the public? I hope so. She's had a complicated life and she seems to have kept her head and her integrity. Atta girl, and Merry Christmas.

Christmas 2008

We had a good Christmas (Eve) yesterday.

I love my niece. We were not so close last year. She was growing up and, I felt, away. I realize this is a completely normal part of growing up, but it made me sad. I missed the imaginative little girly-girl who loved Kit and Addie and the whole American Girl gang, and who would only wear pink and purple and cried if her socks didn't match her barrettes. That little girl was replaced by a sarcastic, disaffected teenager who wore black and camouflage all the time. Eventually we began bonding again over politics and current affairs. (Don't let anyone say that no good came out of Bush 43's administration.) Then the most wonderful thing happened -- my niece discovered The Beatles and now loves them with a passion. Like me, she can quote A Hard Day's Night and Help! We can talk about The Lads forever. And so, for Christmas, she made me a pair of CDs that represent the best solo work of her favorite, George. She decorated the discs themselves as well as the jewel case. They represent a lot of work and I'm thrilled we have common ground to enjoy again.

My nephew, on the other hand, was a pain in the ass. But at 9, sleep deprived but filled with adrenaline and sugar, I guess that's to be expected. Even though he was never still, never quiet, and frequently obnoxious, I still tried to cherish each moment with him. Because I am quite sure this is our last Santa Christmas, and I realize that his bouncing off the walls was fueled by anticipation of a visit from The Big Guy. Next year, he may be better behaved but he won't believe in Santa anymore, and a little of the magic will be missing. He was terribly excited about the gifts he got me -- all by himself. First a keychain, decorated with his own artwork of the ocean floor. Then a pen holder he chose for me at Santa's Secret Shop -- the globe actually spins, which he believes is a key part of its beauty, and he's certain it will look terrific on my desk at work. When he's at his best, that boy is too cute.

My sister and brother-in-law are generous. They let me enjoy their two kids virtually whenever I wish. They don't have to, I know. I am grateful, because my niece and nephew make my Christmas feel complete.

My mom loves her Christmas tree. It's a lovingly assembled, incongruous mess, a collection of ornaments across the decades and throughout our lives. She loves walking around the tree and remembering how a specific ornament came to her tree. That's why I'm glad I got her three more (mismatched) ornaments -- a tree house to signify how she loves the birds in her backyard, a sassy and saucy flamingo in furry pink boots from Key West, and a Grandma's Angel ornament, personalized with the names of her four grandchildren.

Do dads realize how heartbreakingly attractive they are? Last night at church, seated in the first pew, was a father/daughter duo. She was 11 or 12, very nervous, and dressed like a pint-sized business woman in gray blazer, white shirt and black slacks. She kept referring back to the folder on her lap. Dad was far more casual in both dress and demeanor. Turns out the little girl -- Julia -- was a soloist, and the only child who sang with the choir. Dad was so proud of her, his phone open so someone on the other end (Mom?) could hear Julia's solo. After her performance, Julia was able to relax and upon returning to the pew, was relieved to slip her arm through his and rest her head on his shoulder. Between his fetchingly scruffy, unshaven face and the comfortable affection and support he gave his little girl, by the end of the service I was half in love with him. (Whoever he is.)

I hope everyone out there is having a Merry Christmas, too!

Love's Pure Light

So goes the last hymn of the candlelight service: "Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love's pure light." After completing the hymn, I extinguished my candle and went out into the clear, cold night, walking just a couple blocks before I found myself back here at home, surrounded by my fur-bearing roommates. It washed over me that I am so blessed. In no small part because I believe that I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me, but also because He has given me so much love in my life. These cats love me, yes, in a pure, trusting, nonjudgmental way reminiscent of "Silent Night." But even better He has given me the capacity to love them. It's a dependable source of joy, wonder and pride for me that I was able to save these three little furry lives (they were all shelter cats) and give them a good, healthy, safe home.

I have a lot of faults. Just scroll through this blog and you can find them. Yet with critters I am at my endlessly patient, empathic best.

"Love's pure light." As Christmas 2008 dawns, that's the gift I'm very grateful for.

I will post about Christmas Eve with my family tomorrow. It wasn't perfect, but it was fun. For now, though, I am going to sleep in Heavenly peace, undoubtedly with a cat at the foot of the bed.