In a world seemingly gone mad with
domestic political strife and partisan bickering and 24/7 talking heads
giving equal airtime both to real news (North Korea, for instance) and to
voyeuristic fluff (runaway brides, as an example) — not to mention ongoing
wars and rumors of wars and the daily threat of terrorism — it’s a
welcome relief to come to this season of holy days and happy gatherings.
The holidays that close out the calendar
year — Thanksgiving, the religious celebrations of our various faith
traditions, and New Year’s Eve and Day — remind us of what’s really
important: our faith, our family, our community, concern for those less
fortunate, and grateful hearts for our many blessings as Americans.
It’s in this spirit of celebrating
home and hearth — and to continue a tradition we’ve followed for many
years now — that we offer in this final issue of 2006 some of our favorite
passages from works written about this most sacred, most special season.
Here’s to a blessed, bountiful, and (most of all) peaceful holiday season
to your family from all of us at Cooperative Living, your electric
cooperative’s member magazine.
Christmas began when pecans started
falling. The early November rains loosened the nuts from their outer shells
and sent them plopping like machine gun bullets on the roof of the veranda.
the night, you’d listen and you’d know IT would soon be here ...
Everybody in town had at least one tree. Some had a dozen. No matter. Pecans
were prestige. They fitted Christmas.
And so you lay there, listening to the
drip drip of rain and plop plop of nuts, feeling something good is going to
happen, something good and it won’t be long now.
— Lillian Smith, “Tree-Shaking
Day,” from Memory of a Large Christmas, 1961-62.
Imagine a morning in late November. A
coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of
a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main
feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two
rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its
A woman with shorn white hair is
standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless
gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a
bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully
hunched. Her face is remarkable — not unlike Lincoln’s, craggy like
that, and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate, too, finely boned, and
her eyes are sherry-colored and timid.
“Oh my,” she exclaims, her breath
smoking the windowpane, “it’s fruitcake weather!”
— Truman Capote, “A Christmas
Memory,” from Selected Writings of Truman Capote, 1956.
“It’s all so beautiful and at the
same time so baffling,” said Mrs. Baxter.
“What is?” asked Mr. Baxter,
“Christmas, of course. Don’t go to
sleep like a lump, darling. I don’t mean just the day. I mean the whole
thing. The whole build-up. Christmas isn’t just another holiday. It’s a
force — a terrific force that we don’t understand. It does things to
people. If you took Christmas out of the world it would be a major calamity.
But try to explain why — try to pin it down — and it’s like trying to
pick up a soap bubble.
“What is Christmas? You can’t tell
me and neither can anyone else. Is it a religious day — or a pagan
festival — or is it just a bit of folklore that won’t die?”
“Or a shot in the arm for the
department stores,” suggested Mr. Baxter.
“All right. A shot in the arm, if you
will. It can be all these things and at the same time it’s none of them.
On the surface it’s dozens of things that are constantly changing. Yet the
heart of it never changes. It just goes right on beating through the
centuries, strong and ageless.”
— Edward Streeter, “Merry Christmas,
Mr. Baxter,” 1956.
So this day and this century proceed
toward the absolutes of convenience, of complexity, and of speed, only
occasionally holding up the little trumpet (as at Christmas time) to be
reminded of the simplicities, and to hear the distant music of the hound.
Man’s inventions, directed always onward and upward, have an odd way of
leading back to man himself, as a rabbit track in snow leads eventually to
It is one of his more endearing
qualities that man should think his tracks lead outward, toward something
else, instead of back around the hill to where he has already been; and it
is one of his persistent ambitions to leave earth entirely and travel by
rocket into space, beyond the pull of gravity, and perhaps try another
planet, as a pleasant change. He knows that the atomic age is capable of
delivering a new package of energy; what he doesn’t know is whether it
will prove to be a blessing.
This week, many will be reminded that no
explosion of atoms generates so hopeful a light as the reflection of a star,
seen appreciatively in a pasture pond. It is there we perceive Christmas —
and the sheep quiet, and the world waiting.
— E.B. White, “The Distant Music of
the Hounds,” from The Second Tree from the Corner, 1949.