Later, because it was Christmas, Ives had somehow felt compelled to leave the nice watch he'd bought his son in the room, instead of returning it to the store. He put it in his top drawer, as if his boy would come in anytime now to claim it. That drawer was stuffed with school paraphernalia, prayer cards, baseball cards, playing cards, a Felix the Cat comic that Ives had illustrated himself, years before...
Since Ives' son is killed a few days before Christmas, Ives has already purchased presents for his Robert. In particular, Ives bought a beautiful wristwatch for him, something suitable for a young man about to enter the seminary. In addition, at the scene of Robert's murder, a police officer hands Ives a Sam Goody's bag, filled with the gifts Robert had purchased for his father, mother, and sister. Record albums by the Beatles, Thelonius Monk, and Rosemary Clooney.
Presents are not the reason for Christmas. Not even close. We all know that. I love getting gifts as much as anybody else, but the moment I love the most during the holidays occurs on Christmas Eve, around 11 p.m., at my wife's church. It's a candlelight communion service, full of quiet music and contemplation. All the crazy holiday preparation is done, for better or worse. Christmas has arrived.
My sister, Sally, loved Christmas. She loved buying presents, seeing the joy on people's faces when they opened them. She especially loved spoiling her nieces and nephews. In the weeks leading up to December 25th, she would spend hours baking cookies, wrapping gifts, addressing cards. Sure, she got overwhelmed sometimes, but she never, ever wanted her family to feel unloved or forgotten at Christmas.
It's going to be a very difficult Christmas this year. There's going to be emptiness, maybe tears. It's unavoidable. This morning, my daughter was so upset about last night's commitment service at the cemetery that she couldn't stop crying. She stayed home from school today. There is little I can do to assuage her pain. Only time will do that.
Christmas is a season of light and giving. I have to keep reminding myself of that these days. As I drive home every night, I see trees glowing and blinking in living rooms. A few nights ago, I watched Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in White Christmas. After I'm done typing this post, I will write my annual Christmas letter. Tonight or tomorrow, I will shop for a few things online.
Christmas is going to come next week, whether I'm ready for it or not. I know what my sister, Sally, would want me to do, though. She would want me to make this coming yuletide as holly and jolly as I can. And that's what I plan to do. There will be eggnog. There will be baked ham and pecan pie. There will be Jimmy Stewart running through the streets of Bedford Falls. There will be presents. And there will be Santa Claus.
Saint Marty would never stand in the way of Santa.
from Teaching a Stone to Talk
by: Annie Dillard
Like everyone in his right mind, I feared Santa Claus, thinking he was God. I was still thoughtless and brute, reactive. I knew right from wrong, but had barely tested the possibility of shaping my own behavior, and then only from fear, and not yet from love. Santa Claus was an old man whom you never saw, but who nevertheless saw you; he knew when you'd been bad or good. He knew when you'd been bad or good! And I had been bad...
A Martha Christmas...