So much has happened in the last few days, that I’ve found it difficult to process. My mother and friend arrived Sunday night, and since then, it seems as I’ve been caught up in whirlwind of events, activities, and the kind of moments that make for great memories. As with finishing a great novel, it’s difficult to process all that’s occurred, and summarize its meaning for my life. So rather than attempt to do that, I’ll share with you a few aspects of what’s occurred in the last few days, and hope that reading them adds a little enjoyment to your holiday season.
While perusing a used bookstore in Florida, I stumbled upon a find that was beyond compare: a hardcover novel from Roger Zelazny called To Die in Italbar. I started reading it on the plane ride home, had to set it aside for a while, and finally finished it last night. There was a time in my life that I searched the library, the grocery and department store spinner racks, and the bookstores for any Zelazny title I could find. While I’ve not read everything he wrote, I usually recognize titles from his early-to-middle years. This one was new to me. As I held the faded, time-worn hardcover in my hands, I couldn’t help but feel like an archeologist who has just unearthed artifacts from a previously undiscovered race or culture. According to the Wikipedia entry on the novel, Roger Zelazny hastily wrote the novel to fulfill a publishing contract, and forever lamented it as his worst novel. I’ll agree that it’s not perfect, that the narrative could have flowed better, that he could have developed some of his characters and ideas a little more, but still, this is early Zelazny fueled by passion and optimism, transforming a central fantasy element into a rousing Science Fiction adventure novel. Despite its brevity, the story holds a potency that many novels lack. Even a day later, I can’t help feeling a little like Moses, after his audience with God. Can others see the light radiating from my features, after my proximity to the great man through this early novel? I certainly feel like I’m glowing.
In my family, when it comes to gift giving, our tradition is to overdo it at Christmas. Sure, this means that we spend more money and time shopping than others do, at least on a per family member basis. Perhaps it’s silly; I’m willing to admit it’s extreme. But a part of me is glad that we haven’t succumbed to the mentality of “We’re mature now, we only need to give each other one or two gifts.” Maybe I’m the only one in my family who loves this tradition: perhaps if I grew up in this manner, everyone else would too. But there’s a part of me that couldn’t bear to do so, that would die if Christmas only became another day on the calendar in which we gave each person a token present, and then spent the rest of the day eating, partying, or reflecting on the origins and religious significance of the holiday. Christmas is a link to my past, when life was carefree, when each day seemed magical and full of possibilities. I’m already way too adult. I already view things way too seriously. Allow me one day each year to be a child, please!
Despite all the great times, the days were not all ice cream and Brownie Cherry cobbler, as illness celebrated the holidays with us. It pressed into my chest, making it difficult to breathe, and sapped my concentration. Due to the burning in her chest and throat, my wife found it difficult to talk, and her coughing kept her awake at night. So after my mother and friend left, I took her to Dr. Gross, a physician we had never visited before, who turned out to be nice, despite his unfortunate name. While we waited for our prescriptions, we enjoyed Vanilla Rooibos Tea Lattes at Starbucks. As we don’t drink coffee, we tend to visit such places once or twice a year. A kind barista (who confided that she also doesn’t like coffee) gave me the taste I was looking for with a few extra pumps of Vanilla syrup. I know it’s more calories, and I’m not burning them off right now as I’m mainly eating, reading, and sleeping, but then, the doctor didn’t give me a prescription. We’ll call it medicinal Vanilla, shall we?
Roger Zelazny, opening presents, and Vanilla Rooibos Tea Latte (with extra Vanilla syrup). Those are just the tip of the iceberg, the most memorable and visible from a host of holiday events. Supporting them were wonderful meals, great times filled with love and laughter, and quiet moments to savor. The Christmas season may not be over, but for now, I’m content that the whirlwind seems to have died down. I hope that your Christmas was rich in family, friends, and fun times, and filled with those special moments that you will savor in the years to come.