I found Christmas over in Port Perry last Sunday afternoon. I wasn’t alone. And, no, there wasn’t a sudden conversion in my life. But I was in a church. A few minutes after 3 p.m., last Sunday, I was invited to a lectern to initiate a fundraiser with these words:
“Marley was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt whatever about that. … Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.”
It was a time before cell-phone selfies and video. Heck, it was even before video. Each Dec. 15 morning, our parents wouldn’t allow us into the living room where the tree sat until the time was right. My sister and I had to wait until Dad wound up his Bell & Howell movie camera, and turned on the powerful electrical lights so that the camera would register an image on his 8-millimetre motion picture film.
“OK, I’m rolling,” he would say finally. “You can come in now!”
Whereupon, my sister Kate and I, blinded by the movie lights and unable to see a thing until our eyes adjusted to the bright lights, would stumble into the living room.
A number of Christmases ago, my father Alex called me. He was worried about something. I asked him what was wrong. He said he was facing a dilemma. He had just written a Christmas song and wanted one of our two daughters to record it. Since both were good singers, he didn’t know which to choose.
“Dad, I don’t see a problem,” I said. “They both sing. Why not ask them to record it together? They can sing it in harmony.”
Well, it was one of those times in my life when instinct proved to be bang on. My father approached both our daughters – Quenby, the teacher, and Whitney, the actor/singer – and they agreed to work on it together.
The great English poet and satirist John Donne called it a treasure. French impressionist painter Claude Monet considered it torture. American author Helen Keller said it was an inspiration. Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner claimed humankind could endure vast quantities of it, but that it resulted in greatness. Then there was philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s view of suffering.
“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger,” he said.
It’s been hard this year. Teaching and marking at the college – with a particularly challenging crop of journalism and broadcasting students – have nearly swamped me. Close friends have battled health problems, so I’ve spent what little time I had left trying to help. On top of that, I’ve found myself shouting at the radio in anger because the “the holiday season is here” advertisements began right after Halloween – they didn’t even wait for Remembrance Day to pass. Finding the Christmas spirit, this year, has proved tougher than usual.
I expect all that to change this Sunday, however, when I go to church.