In her December 26 column, Maureen Dowd finished with a quote from Henry van Dyke:
“Are you willing ... to own, that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness ... to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings ...? Then you can keep Christmas.”
Oh how easy it is to agree with this, and how very hard to live it. But this Christmas, I think our family lived it, lightly, and well. One of the weird things about writing this blog is how devoid of detail about people it is: I cannot write intimate stuff about people I know because to do so on a blog would be a betrayal, an invasion of privacy. But it is really the people who give our lives its substance. And it was family who did this Christmas. So a bit about our family Christmas with, I hope, nothing personal enough to give offense.
I look forward to Christmas, generally, with more trepidation than pleasure, our families' Christmases, for me, having often been
intensely mixed with our families' struggles. And with the children grown, we have been so scattered not just across the country, but across several countries. Bringing at least some of us together is a mighty effort, sometimes more exhausting than it has been worth, the departures at the end reminding me of the long days of absence to come.
But this year, as if by some unspoken, barely conscious if at all agreement, as if by some magical alignment of our souls, Christmas worked. Ex-spouses and second spouses, a long-lost relative, stressed parents, active kids, frayed in-laws, and calm practically-family friend gathered with affection and great good humor and cooked and drank and opened presents and played.
One of the matriarchs present is an excellent cook. Christmas Eve she and her long-lost relative and helpmate presented us with roast leg of lamb and potatoes and veggies. She happens also to be Ethiopian, so for Christmas Day, she prepared an Ethiopian feast. Below is a picture of that.