Sunday, January 29, 2006

Well, today is the official end of the holiday season. So soon? JBelle? you ask. Gee whiz, Valentine's isn't for another two weeks--your tree will hold over, won't it? Very funny. Today the tree and the bannister bows and the stockings and all the nativities will go back in their box for the eleven months. I'm sad, but I'm ready. And that's ideal.

My darling friend Jeanine has an exquisitely decorated tree that goes up the day after Thanksgiving. Next come the garlands and lights and Santas oh my. Being at Jeanine's house on December 5 is an exercise in humility and a marvel at industry. I don't need to play Tchaikowsky or watch 'Love Actually' to get in the Christmas spirit. Jeanine's for one cup of tea and I am good to go. Martha Stewart is an uninspired slacker next to Jeanine. So I go to Jeanine's and then I'm ready to get ready.

I am grateful for my life these days--I get to take the season at my will as I am not tied to the calendar they are working off of at school or any of the mandates that formally dictated when and how Christmas went up at Bellemaison. Instead, I am able to move with the spirit which has mounted a full scale rebellion inside me against the American retail calendar of Christmas. Around here, we do not start on Labor Day and we are not finished on December 26. Instead, we start after a good whiff of Jeanine's somewhere the first of December. We then shop a little bit, we decorate the outside of our house, we see our friends and we think about the main event. We conspire heartily with each other, against each other, on each other's behalf. We anticipate, we contemplate, we hope. We observe and celebrate advent around here. And on December 20, we then prepare to put up our tree, pick the nativities, and make that last shopping list, this time for Christmas dinner. Then when we all come together, we begin to celebrate Christmas.

Over the years, we have amassed a certain nativity scene collection. Okay, we have about 150-175 of them. The Chows and I really don't really know for sure as we haven't taken the time to count. This year we went with the Hopi Indian creche--stunning. Wonderful to sit and think with. In memory of the victims of Katrina, we went with the Cajun nativity this year, purchased at an art gallery in the French Quarter of New Orleans about ten years ago.

Mary is Evangeline, the hero of Longfellow's epic poem 'Evangeline', the saga of the Arcadians' expulsion from Nova Scotia and their emigration to the Louisiana bayou. Joseph is a Louisiana hunter, with shotgun and bluetick hound. The Christ Child rests in a pirogue, the flat bottomed boat used on the bayou. The three wise men are Paul Prudhomme, a crayfisherman, and an American Indian, whom we would call a Native American here in The 'Kan. The shepherd is a French Quarter jazzman with clarinet and the animals are racoon, alligator and armadillo. The angel is eating a huge piece of watermelon, in deference to Twain's observation that watermelon is food of the angels. This piece gave us all much to think about this year and much to hope for in 2006. God, how can we be so stubborn and strong-willed to think that we got it allll under control?

So Christmas doesn't even begin to get going around Bellemaison until December 23 or so. And we like that. Next: the afterglow.

The 'Kan EWA

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