Jumat, 12 Desember 2008

Tales of Christmas

I nabbed this image and forgot to get the artist's name, but he/she has my thanks!

Do you have a favorite Christmas tale? Besides the one that started it all, mine is A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES.

But I've never read it. Somehow, somewhere I stumbled across an audio tape of Dylan Thomas reading it and bought it, probably without knowing anything other than I liked Thomas' work. Dumb luck.

Driving from central Illinois to upper Kentucky one cold and wintry evening I listened to him read it and best remember going through Cincinnati and being enthralled but needing to pay attention to the road.

I'd never been thru Ohio before and I was all too aware of my tendency to drive beyond my exit when I got caught up in a story. It was night and I'd been on the road a few hours already. It was snowing and I was driving a sports car. I finally had to rewind a bit of the tape, stop it for awhile and drive on till I was out of range for the city lights.

That was a strange trip: an ordeal with a Schneider transport truck - a big meanie trying to shove off the road. (I don't carry a grudge - not much!); discovering Frankenstein University, seeing Louisville Sluggers HQ across the river, and wandering into a religious college's art guild/store - Berean, I think it was - wood and wool and pottery items. Something like that.

I came back a different route, past Santa Claus, Indiana. I listened to the tape again.

There's something about hearing a book read by the person who wrote it. That enables getting the understanding the author wants the reader to have. The way the words sounded in their heads, when they wrote them, are they way they speak them for us. In this case it was particularly grand and I felt transported.

As a child my favorite story was THE LITTLEST ANGEL. Oh, how I wore that book out! And a few years ago, when on-line shopping became popular, I sought out an old copy of it and found it - just like the one I had. Who knows, it could have been my copy but I had/have a habit of putting my name in books so perhaps not. Anyway, I read it and weep. Simple. Direct. Sentimental. Meaningful. I guess that's why I like THE VELVETEEN RABBIT too. Same basic format. Lesson-filled. Get real, seriously.

I can't help but see some of that in the longer, image-filled A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES. This makes me a creature of habit then, when it comes to reading. I want my heart warmed at some point. If it costs me a few tears, fine. If I throw myself at my pets or my husband, OK. If I jot a note, send an email, make a call, good. The line between fiction and non-fiction becomes blurred when I think about these 3 books.

Gosh, there were much simpler times in this world when people were where they belonged instead of always trying to get where they thought they belonged. We strung popcorn and apple slices, made paper chains and other ornaments for the tree. People used English correctly as well as sparingly, and listened. We saved money in Christmas Clubs at the bank so we could buy gifts, or we used lay-away. There were secret Santas. There were school concerts. We knew and sang 2 or 3 verses of each Christmas carol and gladly went around serenading folks at home and accepting a cookie or hot chocolate. It was called Christmas.

I'm glad I got where I was going that year. Gladder still that I got home safely, wiser for what I'd discovered along the way. I was where I belonged.

We don't need to bring everything from our pasts forward but wouldn't it be nice to re-start just one old habit, one childhood tradition? Now, when everything is tumultuous shouldn't we re-establish our appreciation for what matters?

Start with the Christmas Story itself, and then recall your favorite Christmas tale. Share it and take it from there. You may surprise yourself at how easy it is to enjoy being where you are, where you belong.

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