Week before Christmas
It is the week before Christmas Week - a fact I know I have
not quite assimilated and I am not sure that any one else
has either. As I write this, I am on an Amtrak train, on my
way back to New York from a meeting with Discovery. The train
coming down was very quiet and carried very few people. Coming
back, it is crammed with fresh faced undergraduates fresh
from finals on their way home for the Holidays. The line waiting
to board the train was filled with youthful voices discussing
the varying perceptions of the difficulty of their finals.
As I watch them, I realize, yes, Christmas is coming!
This is generally one of my favorite times of the year and
I would like to relax into the season. On Saturday Tripp and
I will load up a car, brim it with Christmas presents to each
other and to upstate friends, we'll pack the cat into his
travel bag and we'll sail up the Taconic to begin our Christmas
season. We'll buy and trim our tree, placing it in its pre-selected
spot. We will organize the house and drape it with other decorations
and fill the candlesticks with fresh candles to be burned
through the Holiday Season and we'll pile in the wood for
the Vermont Stove as a deep chill has spread across the Northeast.
However, despite the fact I am virtually finished with my
shopping, having done virtually all my Christmas shopping
virtually, being one of those responsible for significantly
increasing web and catalog sales this year, despite the unbelievable
fact I will actually get out some Christmas cards this year,
despite all my preparations and desire to anticipate, I am
feeling detached from the experience, almost a little afraid.
I don't think my hesitancy is singular. Others seem to be
sharing my hesitancy. It is a difficult time, for many. I
dropped off a present at a friend's last night while he and
his wife packed for their annual expedition to Whistler to
ski over Christmas and he confessed he's not sure that his
high tech company will survive into the New Year. Others of
my friends are feeling their work insecurities.
And reading the papers and listening to the news does not
great joy provide. I have looked at several newspapers today
as watching television news is difficult on the train. All
the papers have been filled with coverage of our government's
assessment that Saddam will ravage Iraq as he goes down and
give us the blame.
Happy New Year, Baghdad!
And speaking of the New Year, it looks as if Bush has decided
that the last week of January is the time frame for war decisions,
according the Washington Post. All of this adds to a mood
surrounding this particular Christmas that I am still attempting
to articulate. My godmother wrote poignantly in her annual
Christmas letter about her concerns for her grandson, Joe,
who is now with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and who will
be asked to clear landmines if conflict comes. Joe is also
my friend and I worry for him
We are afraid of war, we are afraid for the economy, we are
afraid for our political processes and Christmas party chatter,
as I have remarked before, drifts to individual contingency
plans in a time of terror.
Yet, despite this gloom surrounding what is a festive time
of year, we get together with each other and hug and kiss
and tell our stories. In New York yesterday a whole new set
of plans for lower Manhattan was unveiled, bolder, brighter,
more daring than any that were seen before, all of them attempting
to bring vibrancy to the life of lower Manhattan.
But we cannot escape the reason that we need new buildings
and a new plan. The pain scratches at us as we move into our
second year of mourning. Last year we wanted to nurse our
wounds and every contact was touched with a special significance,
a realization of mortality that made last Christmas more special
than many Americans had ever known.
So I think the question now is how do we celebrate this year?
How should we react? What are the feelings in our hearts as
we move into a second year of mourning, a year that promises
war and more terror? What is it that we should be doing?
In the end, we will do as we have always done. We will celebrate.
We will do our best to make this season special, no matter
what race, religion, creed one does or does not ascribe to
or claim. We will toast New Year's with champagne and, probably,
prayers, knowing that in the New Year the deadlines governments
have discussed will become lines in the sand that will be
Our fears and hopes will meet some kind of reality with the
New Year and that reality may well be written with the suffering
of Americans and Iraqis and anyone else who gets swept up
into this fight.
But it is Christmas, now. The New Year will come and we will
celebrate. We are human beings and we live, for the most part,
in hope and hope will drive this season as it has driven every
Christmas since the star rose above the manger. New Year's
will be a time of celebration and hope, too, as it has been
every year since we decided that the night of December 31st
ended one year and began another. We will eat our food and
drink our wine and we will hope that all the great clouds
that are over our world will disperse before lives are lost
and we will lose anyone from the bright young generation surrounding
me on this train, going home for the holidays, reminding me
that I must Christmastize my own spirit.
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy Whatever Your Holidays!
Whatever your personal belief system, whatever your race or
ethnic background, whatever birthplace you call "home"
I wish you all the very best. I wish you days of hopes fulfilled.
I wish you days without clouds, economic or political.
Treasure the moment