Holiday Pleasantries

I got up and looked for snow, like I have on all Christmas mornings in Colorado.  But it was warm and there was just my Nebraskan neighbor getting dragged by his 100-pound Weimeraner across the sunny sidewalk.  The presents had to wait for people still sleeping, so I read a thin little book called Pleasure which is written in spurts of prose about birds, death, cooking fish, and having kids. The author, Gary Young, writes: “Who would volunteer to live any moment more than once?”

I would.  Here are mine: running to the Jack and Jill for waterballoons in rural Illinois with my brothers, eating skinny frozen hamburgers for breakfast in my Grandma's bed, late nights in Rome when my roommates and I requested just-sauced pizza rossa from the bakers downstairs, flying in a plane before there was worry, making buttered fettucine with my mom after kindergarten and calling Patrick Smith to come over the fence to swing, running around the hallways of Mullen and popping up in classroom windows behind a huge grinning African mask we made from butcher paper during yearbook, hiking a humid trail in Kentucky up to a mirrored lake with a statue in the middle, tossing tied flies into the Williams Fork on a freezing day, driving between Savannah and Charleston in the middle of the night with all the windows down and all the sounds and small bugs of the south coming through the sunroof, sprinkling a fresh-caught king salmon with pepper and salt and strawberry jelly and putting the whole cutting board into the fire so we could watch the wood turn to an ashy curve.

Other Christmas moments: David read a passage about how we have to be incompetent like little children to feel God's largeness, and Garrison Keillor's Christmas column on “dumb wonder” said pretty much the same thing–how he liked Greek mass better before he learned the language.  I guess some things are best appreciated when they just happen, before they have evolved.  Mom called the gravy catty-whompus and Uncle Jody (flanneled) explained to scowling Aunt Ria (more light-hearted this year than last) that giving the dogs booze is better than drinking alone.  Dad proudly sliced the prime rib and I gave too much of it to the dogs who could barely walk the next morning.  Then David tried to climb up over Michael at the dinner table and ended up doing a handstand on the armrests with his 30-year-old legs swaying over the Christmas smorgasbord before crashing hard into the wall.

Scottie, our friend's little boy, came inside, looked at Luke's dog Soldier, and announced, “Hey! He looks like my dog that's dead.”  My cousin is second in nursing school after hating the classroom his whole life, the water pressure in my parents' shower is perfect, and my quirky friend from Alaska sends me a short story he has written (on the side of doing janitorial work in Antarctica) about deformed friends who perform together in a carnival, and in which the happy man with clawed hands says:

Good company is the most important thing in life. Remember that.