Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Present

Well, Santa came to Greenwich this year, just in case y’all were wondering. And for once he didn’t leave your scribe the usual lump of coal. Perhaps he felt that after the Date From Hell my past naughtiness (if any) had been fully expiated, and so moved me back over to the nice side of the ledger.

Here’s a brief recap of the Yuletide events, as witnessed by yours truly. Greenwich Avenue was a zoo on Sunday, as all the procrastinators came out in force, credit cards at the ready. The vast majority of them were from out of town, eager to pay for the cachet (as they see it) of an item purchased from a chain store in Greenwich. Why they didn’t just go to their local mall is beyond me; maybe they wanted to tell their friends of their frantic search for a parking place, and of the long lines at the cash registers. More than once I saw someone poke a head into a store and then report back to his or her companions, “There’s only a short line in here,” or, “The line’s too long—let’s go somewhere else.” Line-length, rather than the type of merchandise on offer, seemed to be the determining factor as to what Uncle Harry would be getting for Christmas. As long as it comes in a box that says “Greenwich”, who the hell cares what it is, right? I’m sure, dear reader, that Uncle Harry will look very nice in that teddie from Victoria’s Secret—it came from Greenwich, you know.

The only sensible store amidst this madness was Hoagland’s, which closed their doors in the early afternoon. I think Kathy O’Malley was probably appalled by the tidal wave of manic out-of-towners, and gave her staff the rest of the day off. Ownership hath its privileges.

Then it was off to Christ Church for the second of their three Christmas Eve services. Geoffrey Silver and James Kennerley did a magnificent job on the music, which has gone from strength to strength during the enforced absence of Bob Tate; Bob was remembered in the prayers, and I doubt there was a single chorister there who did not recall last Christmas Eve without a twinge of melancholy because of Bob’s inability to be with us. I sat near Geoffrey’s fiancee, Elizabeth Robinson, whose Sekolo Projects (Sekolo Projects : Fighting HIV from the Classroom) raises money to combat AIDS in Africa through education; without Bob and the fabulous music program he has built at Christ Church over the decades, the two of them would never have met. He has made such an incredible difference for good in so many hundreds of lives. That he should be restrained in durance vile while so many real malefactors and lawbreakers walk the streets of this town every day is past ironic: it is moronic. They don’t call it the “criminal justice” system for nothing.

As if to underscore all that Bob has done, Neil Bouknight presented me with a CD of the recent concert performed at Christ Church by the Academy of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, conducted by the legendary Sir Neville Marriner. Can you say “world-class”, people? That’s the calibre of the music program Bob Tate has gifted us with here in Greenwich. Neil and his wife Joanne (Joanne is a faithful reader of this blog, BTW—hi, Joanne!) will be visiting Bob next week, but when I asked if I could send along a gift for him, they told me no gifts are allowed. Well, as it happens, Bob has a lot of gifts, and he has shared them freely and liberally with us over the years—and that, thank the Lord, is something that the feds can’t take away.

Then it was on to First Presbyterian, where once again the music was glorious in our newly-reopened sanctuary. Kevin Estes has brought the music program along so far in the few short months he and Jenny have been here that it boggles the mind, while rejoicing the ears and the heart. Bill Evertsberg gave a short meditation on the Gospel of John—you know, the bit about “in the beginning was the Word,” and how the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. “Words bring to life what has not yet existed,” said Bill, and whether that was his line or someone else’s (the text versions of his sermons are often replete with footnotes), I thought it was a pretty good one, especially for those of us in the writing business. I’m sure J. K. Rowling, who I believe is now richer than the Queen, would agree. (And, BTW, isn’t it nice that they celebrate Christmas at Hogwarts?)

The golden families of our parish, the McWhorters and the Waters, were there in force. Megan sang in the choir, with a brief detour to light the Advent and Christ candles, and Jeremy and Peter were back from their respective hinterlands. Jamey Waters, who starts his Navy SEAL training in February, was there, as was medical student John, our erstwhile Christian Ed stand-in (and a brilliant one he was), and “little sister” Anne the Harvard senior (where *does* the time go?!). We all lit candles at the end and sang “Silent Night” by their glow, just as happened in Austria all those years ago in 1818 when Josef Mohr and Franz Gruber had to improvise after the organ finked out. Can you imagine, dear reader, what Christmastide would be like if it hadn’t? What’s that line about words bringing to life things that did not previously exist? You can almost hear the creative thought process: no organ noise = “Stille Nacht”; but it’s nonetheless Christmas Eve = “heilige Nacht”; and pretty soon you have a full-fledged immortal Christmas carol on your hands. Add a few simple guitar chords, and bingo! a new creation exists where there was only a void before. Ex nihilo, and all that. “In the beginning was the Word....”

On Christmas Day your scribe enjoyed the warm hospitality of the local Knights of Columbus, who generously put on a turkey dinner every year for those in town whose families are far away. One never knows what size or shape Christmas presents may take; mine took the comely form of the multi-talented Laura, who flew in from the West Coast to spend a few days with her parents. Laura makes a very comfortable living with an idea so simple that I don’t dare tell you about it lest those of you who could might rush out and copy her; but I will say that words are involved. BTW, the idea itself is simple, but the process involved is not; it so happens that she has a good deal of specialized education, not to mention some hilarious (though perhaps not for her at the time) life experience. Suffice it to say that things clicked nicely between us, sealed by a kiss and a bear hug at the end. She’ll be back East in a few months (or earlier, I hope!), and maybe sooner or later (how does sooner sound, Laura?) she’ll migrate back to the town where she grew up to keep a closer eye on her parents, not to mention your humble scribe.

And so, gentle reader, you now have the broad-brush version of Christmas in Greenwich. God bless us all, every one!


Blogger saraclaradara said...

Oooh! Do I detect the whiff of Romance in the air?

Looking forward to hearing more details :>)

December 31, 2006 12:58 PM  

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