St Egwin 2020
From my office window I have an excellent view of the chicken pen, in which, in my mind’s eye, I can visualize “six geese a-laying”, this being the day on which “my true love” is wont to send them to me. In point of fact, and descending from the poesy of fancy to the strictly prosaic, there aren’t even any chickens in the pen or ducks on the pond, their having a tendency to spend their time at this time of year on the other side of the house, which faces south and is therefore warmer. Tomorrow I will survey the pond for “seven swans a-swimming”, as fancifully and no doubt as vainly.
As for the Twelve Days of Christmas, it irks me that those who should know better have decided that the Epiphany is to be celebrated on December 3rd, thereby truncating the Christmas season to only nine days, the mere length of a novena. Needless to say, the Pearce household will be celebrating all twelve days. One of the more trivial and fun ways that we do this is by singing each day “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, but only up to that particular day. Thus, for instance, we will sing as far as the aforementioned “six geese a-laying” today. This ritual is usually performed at the conclusion of the family dinner with contrived actions for each of the days, which Leo especially enjoys.
Returning to the first day of Christmas, or actually, to be precise, to Christmas Eve, we went to the early vigil Mass because taking Leo to midnight Mass is simply impractical. This year, however, for the first time in many years, Susannah went by herself to midnight Mass, which was in the Extraordinary Form. She enthused on Christmas morning of its beauty. Prior to Mass on Christmas Eve, Susannah and Evangeline decorated the tree while I looked on appreciatively, sensing that the extra pair of hands were surplus to requirements.
On Christmas morning, I rose earliest, as is traditional, to ensure that the tree was lit in the darkness before dawn, no other lights in the house being lit. And then, the rest of the family showing no sign of life, I began to allow the sound of Christmas carols to waft its way round the house, a less than subtle hint that the festivities should begin.
Since we celebrate Christmas much like most other people (stockings, gifts under the tree, food and beverages), it is hardly necessary to itemize this aspect of the day’s festivities. I would say, however, that Susannah receives this year’s prize for the most imaginatively humorous gift. After the last of the presents under the tree was opened, she asked me whether I’d received everything for which I was hoping. I replied in the affirmative, which prompted her to ask “what’s that over by the desk”, the line that Ralphie’s dad says to Ralphie after all the gifts have been opened in The Christmas Story. I looked and, sure enough, there was one more unopened present, secreted away from the rest. I opened it, though not quite as excitedly as Ralphie, and there it was: “the official Red Ryder carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time” (to quote Ralphie verbatim).
I thought my wonderful wife had bought me this gift for the sheer fun of the moment, knowing that we all sit down to watch The Christmas Story each year, but, to my surprise, she also had a utilitarian motive. She reminded me of the time fairly recently when I had used Evangeline’s toy bow to shoot toy arrows at a racoon, which was eating baby squirrels in a dray on a tree near our deck. (I recounted this episode in a recent Diary entry.) Next time, if the raccoon returns, he’ll be “pushing up daisies”, just like Black Bart!
In all honesty, this might be the most amusing Christmas gift Susannah has ever given me. The most amusing I’ve given her was a gift that she was convinced was a box of See’s candies as she unwrapped it, judging by the shape and weight, only to discover that the box actually contained a 9mm Ruger handgun. Her surprise on that occasion matched my own upon finding myself cast in the unexpected role of Ralphie.
As for the Red Ryder air rifle itself, it has yet to be removed from its box. The official reason is that we haven’t had the time but, to be honest, I’m worried that I might shoot my eye out!
In the unsettling knowledge that anyone reading this week’s Diary entry who has never seen The Christmas Story will have little idea of what I’ve been talking about, I’ll take my festive leave, wishing all my friends in the Inner Sanctum a happy and holy Christmas in the expectation of milking maids, drumming drummers, piping pipers, dancing ladies and leaping lords, all of which are still to come.
And, most important of all, may God bless us, every one.