Christmas morning dawns windy down here on the southernmost peninsula of the U.S. For some reason, I wake with this line in my head: "We have kept our Christmas faithfully." Is it Tennyson? "In Memoriam"? I've done some Googling, but no success.
But before we get away from Christmas Eve, let me record some observations from yesterday.
--My mom and I began the day by walking at the Hollywood Broadwalk by the beach. An older man on a bicycle rode by. I realized that he was whistling "Silent Night."
--At the restaurant where we ate breakfast, we saw a man who looked eerily like Santa: white hair and beard, white handlebar mustache, jolly eyes. Many adults wanted to have their picture made with him, and he obliged. They acted like he was a famous rock star. The children in the restaurant were doubtful or disinterested.
--It was HOT down here yesterday. But everyone seemed festive--even at the grocery store.
--Of course, we were at The Fresh Market (a bit like Whole Foods, but not as expensive, a bit like Trader Joe's, but more upscale with fewer deals). Maybe that's why we were festive.
--We went to the earliest Christmas Eve service, at 5 p.m. In some ways, it's not as magical as a midnight mass. In some ways it's better. I'm not fighting my urge to sleep. We finish by gathering in the butterfly garden where we sing "Silent Night." There's something profound about singing that song while the late afternoon traffic rushes by us (my church is on a very busy corner).
--Bits of candle wax on a tablecloth can look like bits of cheese. But they don't taste as good. Don't ask me how I know.
--Last night I wrote the following as a Facebook post: I went to church early and now I'm watching It's a Wonderful Life. In the words of my little nephew, who was talking about a different movie, "This movie makes me feel anxious, Papa!" The money is missing, the daddy is yelling at the children, this will end in tears . . . and then it will end in redemption and forgiveness--my kind of story! and yet "Is Daddy in trouble? . . . Yes, dear, pray very hard . . . " I know how it ends, and my heart is still in my throat!
--I heard from other friends similarly involved in watching Christmas movies. There was something wonderfully participatory and less lonely about writing Facebook posts while waiting for my spouse to come home from the later service where he sang.
--I know lots of people who scoff at Facebook. If they could have the kind of experience that I had last night, would they still scoff?
--"Dontcha know me? Dontcha know me?" Different parts of It's a Wonderful Life speak to me each time I watch it. This year, I'm struck by the need to be known, the loneliness of the characters.
--Does Facebook help us feel known, really and truly? Or do we feel more alone and isolated? After all, we're composing our lives for human consumption. Most of my friends and relatives are posting the cheerier aspects of life, as am I. We're careful about the darker stuff because we know it could come back to haunt us. Can we really know each other via Facebook?
--I know that different friends stayed up watching Christmas movies at the same time as I did. There was a coziness to that knowledge, even though we were watching different movies and not in the same room. Or should I see it as a metaphor about the modern condition of isolation?
--Sometimes, a night watching movies doesn't have any deeper symbolism. Some times, it's good just to feel that coziness, even if it's tinged by sadness that we can't be watching together, drinking Christmas tea and eating the last of the Christmas cookies.
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