January 1, 2008
We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.
— Ellen Goodman, b. 1941
This is the last Holidailies post for the 2007 season. I’ve walked through the rooms of my life several times these past weeks. I have always been able to see both flaws and potential. My problem is turning that potential into progress. I don’t want to dwell in Emily Dickinson’s possibility anymore. I want to dwell in accomplishment.
Although today’s observation and report from a day in the life has a Christmas flavor, it’s not a Christmas piece. It’s a back to work piece. I went back to work today. I started with the prompt for January 31 in Judy Reeves’s A Writer’s Book of Days. I’ve used this resource repeatedly, always responding to the first couple of prompts in each month but then losing focus. I decided to take January but work it backwards, from the end of the month to the beginning.
The first time I wore . . . I began, and then I was writing about nylons and being forced to wear them for my Confirmation, alien items held up with garters that pinched my thighs or a garter belt that was anything but a fashionable item from the turn-him-on collection at Victoria’s Secret (why do men think these contraptions are exciting?) but a torture device full of hooks and lumpy slides that left marks on my skin, because they weren’t pantyhose but two separate stockings that my clumsy hands snagged and ruined before I’d worn them very much. I gave the whole episode to my character who sees her neighbor’s secret boyfriend cause a cat’s death, and there I was, back in fiction again.
And I really don’t know how I progressed from my character who doesn’t want to wear nylons and doesn’t really want to grow up just yet to thinking about the church of my early childhood, Saint Margaret Mary’s, named after me, my father convinced me, because he was the choir director. The facility my parents helped build will be abandoned soon when the congregation moves into a new structure. I started thinking about the crèche they use, an elaborate tableau seen at left that calls to mind the one in the Dragnet Christmas episode. The figures are out of proportion (the infant’s head is twice the size of Mary’s clasped hands and the donkey has about the same stature as a cocker spaniel) and a little shabby, having been in use for nearly sixty years. And I thought, what if, when the congregation moves into a new sanctuary, they think that it would be a good thing to get a new crèche to go with all the other new furnishings? Maybe this is the last year I can see it.
It’s the camel that draws me. When I was a little girl, I thought the beast was “life size,” and I delighted in the way my father would lift me up and let me ride on it. I looked up from my reverie and my writing and saw that it was 9:15. I knew that a Mass would be in progress or about to begin at St. Margaret Mary’s. It didn’t take me long to throw my notebook and my camera into my bag and get going, because I am all about action now.
The 9:00 Mass for the holy day (the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God — the new name for what I knew as the Feast of the Circumcision) was moving toward completion when I arrived. I sat quietly in the back, near the plaque that honors those memorialized when the remodeling and redecoration of the sanctuary was done about thirty years ago. My maternal grandparents and my maternal uncle are named there, funds for a floor vase having been given in their memory by my parents. When everyone had gone I approached the crèche.
It seems a lot of people have a devotion to visiting the scene. The figure of the infant was surrounded by folded currency, and while I was there a number of worshippers stopped to reflect for a moment and to add to the stash. A young couple were introducing their fourteen-month-old to the scene at Bethlehem, taking pictures. They did me the great favor of placing little Stephanie on the camel, and I was greatly amused to see how small the camel was in proportion to this child who is far younger than I was when I thought it was just right for me to ride across the desert with the Kings of Orient in search of adventure.
Visiting a crèche and paying my respects to a painted plaster camel should be the way every holiday season ends for me. The Magi came to pay homage to the child whose birth had been foretold, but they did not linger. They went home by another road.
And so do I head out on a new road. Happy 2008. Thank you once again for reading, so much, so often.
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