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Christmas without the trappings leaves a holiday anchored in love

For the second year in a row, it’s going to be a weird Christmas.

Normally by this time, there would be a tree sitting in a corner of the living room near (but not too near) the fireplace, inexpertly and rather randomly strung with lights and festooned with souvenir and memento ornaments collected over the years.

The decorating would have taken place on a Saturday night, accompanied by spiked eggnog and a soundtrack that would, at the least, have included the required “Blue Christmas” by Elvis, “White Christmas” by Bing, and “Happy Christmas” by Lennon.

Beneath the tree would be a fair smattering of presents to and from my wife and me, easily distinguishable by the skill of the wrapping. The shabbier the look, the more likely for it to be for Kayne, from me.

The whole house would have a pleasing evergreen aroma.

None of which is so this year. Nor have Christmas cards gone out, a point I’m usually scrupulous about. Christmas Eve will not include the ritual misty-eyed viewing of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

Christmas Eve won’t even be spent here.

Last year, family duties after Mama’s death kept me more than 1,000 miles away from home from before Thanksgiving to just before New Year’s. Christmas Day found Kayne and me in Nashville with relatives, a not-at-all unpleasant situation, but still, disorienting.

This year, work duty in Hong Kong makes Kayne the absent one. If I survive the 16-hour flight I’ll be there soon, a prospect we’re both looking forward to. But still, a bit weird. We’re even forgoing a gift exchange, since that would just mean hauling stuff halfway around the world, and/or back.

Having said all that, it’s not glum around here.

For one thing, having cats in residence provides certain baseline contentment, even if you wouldn’t exactly describe them as “festive.” Plus, I’ve built up quite a store of Christmas memories to see me through the leaner times.

Also, I have every reason to believe that next year, assuming I’m still drawing breath, will bring some return to normalcy. And at my age, next year comes a lot quicker than it used to.

And then, there’s that famous reason for the season.

For me, Christmas celebrates the birth of the person who taught about and manifested what I believe to be God, which is quite simply this: Love.

We live in God to the extent that we live lives of love.

And we live those lives of love in relationship with others.

I think Theodore Geisel, as Dr. Seuss, captured that pretty well in his Grinch tale, which is one of the things that make it so special. Quoting from the movie coda, memorably delivered by Boris Karloff in his non-Grinch persona:

“Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we.”

To express my situation in Seussian rhyme: Kayne and me, we have we.

Merry Christmas, everybody. I hope you have we, too. I’ll be back in the New Year.

Native Mississippian Joe Rogers worked for The Clarion-Ledger, The Tennessean and The New York Times.
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Joe Rogers
Native Mississippian Joe Rogers worked for The Clarion-Ledger, The Tennessean and The New York Times.

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