December 25, 2008
I went to Midnight Mass with Ron last night. He belongs to the Cathedral parish and sings with the choir, so I had to be there at 10:00 with the musicians. This repeated a pattern from my childhood, when my sister and I would arrive at symphony concerts an hour early because our parents were members of the orchestra. The singing began at 11:00, the Mass at just after midnight. It was very solemn, very ritualized, very calming. We arrived home well after 1:00, and it was nearly 2:00 before I was in bed. Our Christmas dinner will be celebrated tomorrow, when Lynn and her boyfriend and Ron’s son and his family come. I slept late and rattled around some, off my usual schedule of tasks and activities.
When I prepared the template for this piece yesterday and looked up the links, I was reminded of having visited Saint Joseph’s Church in Mechanicsburg last year on this day after I learned their outdoor crèche had lost its statue of the Child Jesus. A return visit seemed just the thing to bring some focus to an otherwise off kilter day when I seemed to be unable to bring order to my hours.
At left you see the crèche at it appears today. That is very clearly a Replacement Jesus. It matches the other two figures neither in scale (it’s too small) nor in style. Its colors are garish and the expression on the face of the baby is a little scary because the eyes are so badly rendered. I’m assuming that the statue that was taken last year was never recovered. But the act of visiting the spot again this year gave rise to many thoughts about change, and acceptance, and moving on, and I was glad that I had been motivated to come.
I took the title of this piece, “Today Will Be a Quiet Day,” from a story by Amy Hempel. I read it again recently when I was studying some other Hempel selections recommended by my 2006 Bread Loaf workshop leader. I used the words a few days ago to outline my activities for a friend I will probably be unable to visit with until well into the new year. “I have dinner plans for the 23rd, and Midnight Mass Christmas Eve, seven people at the table on the Feast of Stephen, and the weekend is already scheduled too. But Christmas will be a quiet day.”
The Hempel story is about a man who cancels the usual Saturday schedule of music lessons for his children and takes them to lunch in a nearby beach town as a way of spending some special time with them. He’s concerned about their emotional health following some troubling events which are alluded to but not specified. It is itself a quiet story, the kind usually referred to in workshops as “a gem.”
When I started this piece I looked at the story again for some passage that might serve as an epigraph, but I couldn’t settle on anything. In fact, reading it yet one more time, I began to see things in it that called into question for me its status as a widely studied and imitated piece. There seem to be several shifts in point of view, and a lack of clarity about whether the creature referred to as Rocky is the cat or the dog.
I’m thinking like a fiction writer again, I thought. Today will be a quiet day, tomorrow and the weekend will be spent with people I love, and then I’m moving back into my old endeavors with new eyes and new joy.
A year ago, I wrote about the theft of a statue of the Child Jesus from a local church.
Two years ago, I did not post on Christmas Day.
Three years ago, I quoted a source I can’t verify and wrote about everything I have ever loved.
Four years ago I wrote about It’s a Wonderful Life.
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