We got to my father's home late in the afternoon, where I took a walk in the chilly stillness of his huge side yard, where each circuit of the corners amounts to a quarter mile, and leafless pecan trees stand as silent sentinals in the cold. My mp3 player played Creative Commons music by Verian Thomas, 4th Alternative and Psonikadia, and I was at peace.
We drove by the homes in the local country which always have the light displays. One of the homes did not have one, while another was scaled back. It's funny how one comes to count on things that pass, and then one misses them, a bit.
We ate a fine dinner of whole wheat spaghetti, and then my father's wife taught my wife and I how to play bridge. I was surprised I remembered most of the rules, from having learned as a teen. I made the usual bidding and playing errors--just like riding a bicycle, you never quite forget, but you might bruise your shins.
We went to a Christmas Eve service at the Methodist church I attended in high school, to which my father belonged. The entire congregation gathered in the fellowship hall, which doubles as a gym, for a Sunday school session. First we sang "Away in a Manger", "Silent Night" and other classics known to all. Then the local federal judge gave a lesson about the kinds of love, and the difficulties of loving, and the importance of love.
The room was suffused with a sense of loss, as one church member yesterday went to one of the locks of our
local Ouachita River and with the use of a firearm departed this life.
The church sanctuary featured a twenty foot Chrismon tree (a Chrismon is a curious kind of plastic-y white ormament, which people create in surprising profusions for such trees). A baby was baptized whose first and middle names were Hunter McKenzi. She had a white silkly dress on with huge flower patterns in the material, and a kind of coy headband which was mildly Edwardian. She was gorgeous. I remember "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus", but I do not remember the sermon, as I was drifting among thoughts of churches throughout my childhood--not the services, so much, as the look and feel of the church.
We dined on vegetable soup, then came to Stephens, population 1152, to visit my sister. We drove by the Stephens library, run by a volunteer librarian, age 98. When a book is checked out, she writes in it "Due: Soon. Overdue: Never". I sit at my sister's computer now.
At our home this year, we put up no tree, and hung no lights. We had no creche, no garland, and no giant inflatable snowglobe. But we are keeping Christmas in the best ways I know how, with family and friends, enjoying quiet talk and long walks in the quiet but warming cold.