Sunday, December 20, 2009

'Twas the weekend before Christmas

If you haven't seen the BBC's Merlin yet, you should. The show was a little silly and played around with the mythology of Merlin, Arthur and Camelot at the beginning, but it has definitely grown. It is no longer what one of my F-list friends called "The Once and Future Prat." Oh, Arthur is still a bit of a prat, but the show has depth and heart and Arthur is growing out of the prat stage. Consider watching it. Start at the beginning, but stay the course all the way through the second season; the finale is moving. I can hardly wait for the third season.

Yesterday wasn't a great day in many respects, but it did bring some surprises. The grocery delivery didn't happen and I wasn't happy, but I got dressed and went out to buy my own groceries and found a great tree that didn't cost a bundle. Putting it up has turned out to be a bit challenging since tree lots no longer nail bases to the trees, but I found an ingenious way to stand it up without a tree stand. Then on to the decorating while my computer burned DVDs. A package arrived, the result of a gift card spending spree and I dove into Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith only to be hauled up short by responsibility. I finally got the box of review books sent two weeks ago and put away Wintersmith in favor of Flesh and Fire, magic in wine. Once I got through the mythology part of the book (a huge takeoff on power, wine, sacrifice and blood), I had little hopes for the book getting any better, but I was wrong. I'm halfway through already and Gilman has put together a fascinating mythos and world with just enough mystery to fuel plot and imbue characters with interest. If nothing goes wrong and the writing doesn't go downhill, this has the makings of a really good trilogy.

The rest of the evening was punctuated with chores, reading, changing disks to be burned, labeling and putting burned disks into cases and watching the movies waiting to be watched . . . and, oh, avoiding temptation. That was the other good surprise yesterday -- a drive-by gifting. Someone I've not seen in ten months drove by to drop off a gift bag full of holiday joy: books. More Terry Pratchett books to be exact. Three of them. If I wasn't so interested in Flesh and Fire, I doubt I would have been able to put the books away after reading the first few pages.

Hint to drive-by gifter: some kind of camouflage is essential to keep the gifted from looking in the bag and being so excited they couldn't wait for the big day. Good thing my big day is tomorrow at the solstice or I'd be in agonies of guilt (not).

Tomorrow is also my nephew Cody's 19th birthday and I can hardly wait to call and wish him a good one right before I chide him for not getting busy and getting his driver's license.

On the solstice, the longest night and shortest day of the year, at dusk, I will finish opening the rest of my gifts while the rest of you wait for the jolly white-bearded man in the red and white suit Friday (or Thursday night if you're the anxious type). On that occasion, I shall listen to carols and follow Dickens' Scrooge (Alistair Sim) through his annual peregrination to discover the meaning of Xmas while drinking a cup of egg nog, nibbling gingerbread and cookies and listen for sleigh bells in the snow. Nearly fifty years ago, I stood on a stage in a borrowed, pinned together navy skirt and a brand new white blouse reciting A visit from St. Nicholas with several other children in the first and second grades, a poem that is forever engraved in the folds and whorls of my brain, not only because it was one of my first memories, but because my mother had me recite it every time we visited family, no matter what I wore. It didn't seem so surprising to me that I could remember the entire poem by heart because I worked to memorize it for the first Xmas play I was in. She didn't have me sing the Hallelujah Chorus or recite the words from all the plays I have been in, which is a mercy because that's a lot of plays and concerts. I remember bits of dialogue and it doesn't take long for me to get up to speed on the words in all those plays, as long as you don't expect me to remember all the articles, stories, books and poems I've written as well. And I didn't have to perform all the dances I learned either, another blessing.

At any rate, I still remember the poem and I still feel the excitement I felt as a child on Christmas Eve when I couldn't sleep and the night stretched to an infinite distance when the sun would never rise, hence forcing me and my sisters and brother to wake my parents long before dawn. We didn't understand the sun wasn't going to be up until eight. We only understood that we couldn't wait any longer sitting at the top landing peering through the banister rails in the shadowed darkness trying to figure out if Santa had visited and left the space under the tree full of presents or if our bulging stockings, which we couldn't see, were full of sticks and lumps of coal as our parents had cautioned. I was always the instigator on these forays, although I didn't have to work hard to wake my siblings, not even Jimmy who slept like a hibernating bear full of Valium and vodka, and I led them to the stairs, keeping them as quiet as possible while I with my sharp eyes inured to the darkness counted shadowy lumps bulging from beneath the tree and holding them back as long as possible before going down to wake our parents and ask if it was Xmas yet. Aah, the memories that populate the silent nights as the big day draws near. How clear they are.

May all your days be bright and all your Christmases be white. Happy Holidays and season's greetings.

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