Yup, it’s Christmas again. The program at church went well. Some boys in the back row were giggling before the first song, and nudging each other in the ribs. I couldn’t figure out why until they sang the first verse to “Good Christian Friends Rejoice.”
When they came to the line, “Ox and ass before him bow,” they had a big laugh, almost like they were relieved to finally say the A word.
I smiled too. My Sunday School teacher told us not to covet our neighbor’s property or wife or ass. That would get us giggling. Some things never change.
Malika played “Good King Wenceslas” on the piano, and it sounded good. I’ll admit that beautiful music is in the ear of the beholder.
It was fun to hear all the kids play their trumpets and flutes and trombones and clarinets. It takes skill for a kid to play “Away in the Manger,” and know they’re going to hit a sour note, and then HIT the sour note, and smile with the congregation, and keep on playing.
The spirit of Christmas always hits me at Sunday School programs. You can forget about the stress that goes with the holidays for a little while, and watch little kids sing their lungs out on “Silent Night.”
You can smile as Joseph wheels his squeaky donkey down the aisle, and admire the angels with their glittery wings, and remember when you were a shepherd and got to carry a stick like that, with a top that bends over like a big candy cane.
Some friends, Dave and Sue, invited our family to their house after the program, and the Christmas spirit followed us there.
Dave has made a skating rink, and it is close to divine. There’s a little island in the middle, and some rough ice to keep you from going too fast. Mostly it’s smooth as glass.
There’s nothing in the Bible about skating under a bright moon with friends and family, but there should be, along with a bonfire, and a game of Pump Pump Pull-Away, and circling the night with the woman you love.
How many times did we skate as kids on the harbor, on Schnick’s Lake? The best times were at night. Someone would make a fire, maybe bring some hot dogs. Some high schoolers would be holding hands, and we’d make fun of them, until we were old enough to do the same.
Sometimes there would be big cracks in the ice. You had to watch out for them. Danny hit one once and went flying so hard and fast that he chipped his front tooth off. It hurt so bad he cried, one of the few times I ever saw that.
Cindy and I had quarreled going to our friends’ house last Sunday. We were both stubbornly mad at each other. But we put on our skates and circled the rink hand in hand, and our argument soon disappeared into the winter night. Skating rinks can do that. They can patch up arguments, bring friends and lovers together.
We skated and skated last Sunday. After about an hour, Sue said she could do this all night. I think she was right.
Then we went inside and ate chili and bars and toasted the season with a dose of friendship.
Christmas is a time to count our blessings. Vague terms like friendship and family and love come into focus at Christmas programs and skating rinks.
Things you taught me, Grandma. I thank you for that, and I miss you too.