A Dickens of a story

Church of the Ascension, immediately after our reading of A Christmas Carol, Dec. 3, 2017.

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.”

Call of spring

It’s been a while since we stopped to smell the roses, as it were. But a few weeks ago, just relaxing on our back porch, my wife and I sighed simultaneously. Aloud we recognized, despite the abundance of rain and the not-so-warm temperatures, and its rather clumsy entrance, that spring had finally, thankfully and delightfully arrived. But Jayne noted something I hadn’t noticed.

“It’s awfully quiet this year,” she said. “The sounds of birds aren’t there like usual.”

Food for thought and comfort

"Spanikopalooza"
“Spanikopalooza”

Last Friday, when the tributes, reminiscences and spiritual acknowledgements at our neighbour Ronnie Egan’s funeral came to an end, many of us retired to the basement hall of the church for conversation and, well, refreshments. There was lots of coffee and tea and something to tide everybody over. The banquet tables were laid out with veggies and dip, cheese and crackers, fruits and sweets and, of course, sandwiches.

“What else?” I heard someone say. “Ronnie wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, but to have egg-salad sandwiches.”

The Christmas shepherds

The Shepherd, painting by Lauren Grace O'Malley, courtesy Vintage Wings of Canada
The Shepherd, painting by Lauren Grace O’Malley, courtesy Vintage Wings of Canada

They are the most soothing and at the same time perhaps the most mysterious symbols of Christmas. They appear in carols, in the Bible, in Christmas cards and just about every nativity scene one could imagine. They are seldom quoted, but always acknowledged as trusted and worthy guides to a safe and protected place.

“And there were in the same country,” it says in the Book of Luke, “shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night…”

Home for Christmas

78 RPM Decca V-Disc of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" recorded in 1943 by Bing Crosby and re-released by the U.S. War Department the following year.
78 RPM V-Disc of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” recorded in 1943 by Bing Crosby and re-released by the U.S. War Department the following year.

I walked up the front walk in the darkness of the early evening. I quietly put my luggage down on the front step of my parents’ Los Angeles home and knocked on the door. This was a plan my dad and I had hatched weeks before. It was finally coming to pass. He knew I had flown in from Toronto. My mother didn’t know. And this night – just before Dec. 25 – my mom opened the front door. I was the last person she expected.

“What are you doing here?” she shrieked.

“It’s a surprise Dad and I’ve been working on for weeks,” I said, as I hugged her for the first time since the summer. “I just wanted to be home for Christmas.”

A New York state of mind

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade lasted three hours and featured all manner of superhero, including Spiderman.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade lasted three hours and featured all manner of superhero, including Spiderman.

The turkey was done. Done like dinner, because it was American Thanksgiving dinner. The pies and other glorious pastries had come out for dessert. And the relatives I was visiting on Long Island, New York, were well into their annual ritual – eating, drinking, joking and generally over-indulging – during their Nov. 27-to-30 holiday. Except, for them, after the turkey, the dressing and the dessert, there was one other indulgence required.

“OK. Where are the flyers?” my cousin asked. “Gotta check the sales.”

Getting involved

Columbine High School shooting survivor, Craig Scott, talks about the cultural issue facing his generation of 20-somethngs. Photo Reading Eagle.

The other night after my teammates and I finished our hockey game up at the arena, several of us changed and gathered at the bar for a Christmas drink. It’s that once-a-year moment when most of us, who have little to do with each other except share Sunday night adult recreational hockey, sit down in the lead up to Dec. 25. We hadn’t been sitting more than a few minutes when the talk shifted to the topic that’s been on everybody’s mind all week.

“Unbelievable, eh, that shooting in Connecticut,” one of the guys said.