CHRISTMAS—–AGAIN!

Christmas Nativity

Elizabeth Willis Barrett…………December 9, 2014

Well, it happened again. Christmas arrived before I did with it’s carols and lights and trees and store hype while I am still back in flags and fireworks and patriotism.  Christmas just seems to be on a faster track than I am.  I need time to allow the great Spirit of Christmas to seep in slowly so I can adjust and clear my head of incidentals like bill paying and house dejunking and family crises and Church callings.  But Christmas doesn’t tip toe in quietly and slowly raise the blinds until you can get used to the light.  No, it jerks you awake with a thunderbolt of hoopla which I never seem to be prepared for.

Part of the problem, perhaps the biggest part, is that Thanksgiving came a week late this year.  A whole week!  There should be a law against that.  Why can’t Thanksgiving be on the 3rd Thursday of November, not the fourth?  That would help immensely.  Then as soon as Thanksgiving is over we could be more attuned to Christmas and its incredible hustle and bustle. Actually, I think we’re all trying to do the H & B all year long and just accelerate the moves in December.

Last year I made a great attempt to be ready spiritually and physically for Christmas, trying to do something every day in its honor.  I was inspired by Scrooge’s classic sentence, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”  I sort of petered out by June but I was more ready for the season when it came barreling down the calendar and blasted into December—or rather, October.

But this year I can’t gather the warm blanket of Christmas wishes around me tight enough and I’m rather hanging out of the season’s joy.  Here it is December 9th.  Many of my neighbors’ lights are twinkling like little Christmas giggles and their trees are triumphant in their showcasing windows.  But our house stands in unlit shame and the Christmas tree still needs to be dragged from its year long cardboard entombment across the dry grass of the back yard and into the house that has just been scrubbed clean by the God-sent cleaners.

The many “So, are you all ready for Christmas?” inquiries made by well-meaning OCD individuals, who are just looking for conversation, embellish the problem.  They make you feel that if you are haven’t lit, hung, decorated, bought, wrapped, baked, read, visited, photoed, written and sent by the day after Thanksgiving, you might as well not bother.

This is about when my yearly mantra chimes in, “I will just make it through this year’s celebration and do better next year.”

But wait.  I can change that.  I can fling that sentence out of my head’s storage of useless jabber.  The years are thinning out for me and to miss the full joy of even one irretrievable Christmas would be counter to a life well spent.  So ready or not, it will not be hard to fill my mind and my soul with these sentences instead.  They can bring peace not only to me but to all:

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

What else matters?  Merry Christmas!

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ORCHESTRATING CHRISTMAS

conductor 2

Elizabeth Willis Barrett………January 2014

Enjoying Christmas with twenty-one family members takes a bit of orchestration.  And that means that someone has to be the conductor.  I look around for volunteers but there are none.  So, I stand upon the podium, baton in hand and raise my arms for the down beat.  Ah, I see that not everyone is ready.  I tap the music stand to get their attention.  I tap again.

“Ready?” I ask.  There are no dissenters.  Down come my arms and from the first notes, I realize with dismay that we are not all playing the same song.  Some are attempting a waltz, others a dirge and still others are tooting away at what must be a new Miley Cyrus original.

“Wait, wait, wait.” I whack the baton and take precious time to see that we are all playing the same piece–a happy, march-like tune that if Sousa didn’t write, he should have.

Another down beat and the improvement is palpable.  It helps to be on the same song on the same page.  Hope glimmers.   Several measures have promise.  Then….

“Cellos, [the young fathers of our family who seem to be constantly riveted on football] I think I’m only hearing one note from you.  Could you look a little more closely?  I think you have other notes besides B [which stands for ball, which usually means football] in your score.”

And…

“Flutes, [the little girls] I really appreciate your ability to dance all over the music, but we have to make everything fit together.  Keep with the rhythm, OK?”

And…

“Trombones, [the teenage boys] this is a happy part.”  I whack the baton against the stand a few times until the trombones look at me with a “What?” lurking in their faces.  It’s a good thing I like myself well enough or I just might crumble under one or two of these looks.  “Play it with joy,”  I say.  “Yes.  Yes you can,” I add to their objections.   This job is exhausting.

“Come on, you guys.  Now we have to start all over.  OK, once again.  All eyes on me.  Good.”

I hear a slight improvement.  Things are looking up.

“Oh, oh.  Everyone pause for just a minute.  Piccolo [the baby] is screeching.  Now, now.  It’s going to be all right, little Piccolo.  No one lose your place.  Hang on.  We just need to guide Piccolo over a few rough measures.”

“Violins, [the young moms] I know you have more notes to negotiate than anyone else, but you’re so capable, so dependable, so lovely.”

“Bass, [my other half, the Grandfather] we haven’t heard from you in awhile.  Oh, I see why.  Wake up!  Wake up, Bass!  We need you.  Your deep tones are our foundation.  I heard that, Bass.  Absolutely no grumbling.”

“Ok, once more from the top.  A one, a two a…….”

“No, Snares, not yet.  Bells, hold it.  Cymbal…..The whole percussion section [the little boys] is trying to race us through to the next century.  Patience.  Read your notes.  You don’t come in yet.”

“A little loud there, Trumpets [the middle boys].  I know you have lots to say.  Blend, just blend.  This is not a trumpet solo.  Every part is as important as the next.”

“I think we’re all a little keyed up at the moment.  Let’s just pause,  slow down,  catch our breaths.  Let’s work on this march, but if it ain’t “baroque” we won’t need to fix it.  Ha, Ha.  Just a little humor.  Thought we could use it.  Never mind.  You will all have a chance for solos, but right now we are trying to create a masterpiece together.  A musical harmonious masterpiece.”

We play and we play.  Intermittently the baton comes down–whack, whack, whack.   They’ve heard that sound so often that they don’t pay attention anymore and I let them continue–stray notes intersecting at the corner of Common Time and 3/4, pianissimo always succumbing to forte.  We are into the music.  And though we miss some notes and sour others, there are times, many times, when the music we create is superb.  Soul reaching.  Beautiful.

After we have performed and regrouped and performed again–made mistakes and repented of sorts–we look back on our orchestration of Christmas.  There are no words but “Bravo! Bravo!” and “Encore! Encore!”  With all our imperfections we have outdone ourselves.

I reverently put down the baton, wipe away a joyful tear and vow to make someone else do at least some of the conducting in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleighed

Sleighed 2

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

Yesterday was a wonderful Sunday and Brad and I went to dinner at our son Aaron’s home.  Besides a delicious meal made and served by his wife, Liz, we received some delicious news.  Aaron has written a book!  Written and published!  Aaron has never been vocal about his own accomplishments and we probably wouldn’t have known about this great achievement until the newspapers and TV pundits got hold of it and promoted him to a mingling position with J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer.  I’m glad Liz wasn’t shy in pulling it up on the computer and letting us revel in Aaron’s successful entry into the world of e-publishing.

I was quick to buy my own copy at a paltry fee of $4.95 and download it onto my Ipad.  Since I am quite adamant about listening to books instead of reading them, finding a minute to sit down and read a chapter has been a bit challenging but the read is great.  Aaron is a very good writer!  Brad bought a copy, too, and is well into it and likes it very much.  Since he is as hard to please as I am, that is saying a lot.  I hope you will take a minute and a tiny portion of your credit card’s vast capabilities and purchase and download a copy for yourself.  You will not be sorry.  It will definitely entertain you and you will give a budding new author the impetus to continue his talent.

The irony of Aaron’s venture is that his wife, Liz and I, along with two other friends, have been meeting in a writing group for three years hoping to write something worthy of publication.  None of us has made it so far although our hopes are floating high.  Here Aaron has succeeded without availing himself of our vast knowledge and without ever sitting for even a second in a group such as ours!  He did it totally on his own in precious moments snatched from lunch breaks and his family man role which includes the parenting of three awesome sons.

The title of his book is Sleighed (The North Pole Chronicles) which is a great play on words.  His pen name is James Dragon.  I don’t know why he didn’t want to use his very notable given name of Aaron Nikolai Barrett since I was half of the party who gave it to him, but authors have their own way of doing things.

You can even download a chapter or two of Sleighed for free just to see if you like it.  Go to smashwords.com and search for Sleighed (The North Pole Chronicles). Youcan then read all about it.  It is a fantasy for Christmas written with Young Adults in mind.  And in our minds we are all young adults, right?  You can even go to amazon.com and purchase it there.  Oh, the wonders of the Internet!

Happy reading!

Audio-Sleighed: read by the author