Anne Notations

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry, happy, love, moon

The full moon and (upper right) Mars in conjunction.

Technically it is now Christmas Day, but emotionally I am still savoring perhaps my best Christmas Eve ever. Earlier, our three children sat around the dinner table with us, eating the vermicelli with homemade meat sauce, salad, and Christmas cookies that I'd prepared. Balsam and spice candles flickered throughout the house.

The tree and its tiny white lights glowed by the staircase, and carols played softly on the stereo. We talked. We laughed. We ate. We did the Advent wreath ceremonies for both Fourth Sunday and Christmas Eve, reading our parts after lighting the purple and pink candles anchored on the flat wreath my mother made decades ago.

We opened Christmas stockings and guffawed about the little things we'd bought for one another: A lump of chocolate "coal". A box of Claritin-D tablets. A lint roller for the fastidious daughter.

Michael had stuffed the stockings with scratch lottery tickets, and we all sat at the kitchen butcher-block island, rubbing quarters over the numbers, exclaiming when we won a dollar or two. "Gambling on Christmas Eve," we joked in mock horror.

Midnight Mass at St. Sebastian's, a misnomer since it began at 10:30 pm with a choir recital and carol sing-along. Greg and I were the lectors, and both priests officiated. From my seat to one side of the altar I could see my family in the front row. I beamed when they rose to bring the gifts to the altar before communion. How did we raise these great young people? Each one is so beautiful. I honestly mean it when I say I am the luckiest woman in the world.

The choir and organist ended tonight's services with a joyous Hallelujah Chorus, for which we all stood, spellbound and singing along. Afterward: talking warmly among the pews with so many friends, their grown children home from college, Father Hayman dimming the lights (hint, hint! – go home, people, I have a 9:00 Mass to do in the morning!).

On the church steps, we hugged and said Merry Christmas under a midnight sky flooded with the full moon's cold light, Mars close by, glowing faintly red in this close pass to Earth's orbit.

I couldn't get enough of the night sky as we drove home. After the kids stumbled upstairs to bed, I put on boots and parka and took Daisy for a moonlit walk on the beach. It's cold tonight but not frigid, with only a breath of breeze. On the beach I gazed from the white lights outlining the Newport Bridge to the white stars of Orion striding across the southwest sky. The only sounds in the world were the faint jingling of Daisy's tags and the hooting and honking of the geese in Brushneck Cove, punctuated by a mallard's urgent "quack."

Home again, I put Daisy inside and sat on the porch steps, studying the sky. My two favorite stray cats – a big black tuxedo guy with a white "milk" mustache and his sidekick, a small gray and white tuxedo – joined me, swishing sinuously around my arms and back, bumping up against the palm of my hand, purring with pleasure at the unexpected presence of a friendly, ear-scratching human so late at night.

Now I must get to bed, but I feel almost too bewitched and happy to sleep. Did God pierce the barrier of time and join us as a baby on a night much like this one? Did the Star look like some of the sparklers I saw on high tonight, beckoning my imagination far beyond the ken of we who see as through a glass, darkly? I don't know, and I don't mind that I can't know – not now, maybe not ever. It is enough to inhabit this Christmas Eve in the cold reflection of celestial lights, warmed by new memories our family made together.

Merry Christmas to all. And – good night!


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