It's 10pm on Christmas day. As you can imagine, this Christmas has been like none of the 28 Christmases that came before it. Before I expand on that thought, let me first explain that I have quite enjoyed myself. Sure, it has been different and devoid of most Christmas traditions; but it has come with a sense of peace and joy that I haven't experienced at this time of year for a long time now.
Yesterday was Christmas Eve (Happy Birthday Joshua and Grace). Bethany and I had a nice quiet day around the house, but it wasn't without adventure. By adventure, I of course mean a cockroach invasion. Pardon the hyperbole, but the nasty creatures from the place of eternal punishment did appear in numbers. They suddenly appeared out on the porch, from where we could not determine. After a great deal of stomping and spraying of toxic death we were victorious. In the end, I believe we swept up seven of the evil creatures.
Later, we were dismayed to discover that our mongo beans were infested with baby cockroaches. Admittedly we had become so excited about our first victory over these awful creatures from the place of eternal punishment that it didn't occur to us that they would mount a second attack. After a few brief moments of despondence, we rallied the troops and dealt with our enemy for a second and final time, though the mongo beans were a casualty of war. There are rumors of the roaches gathering in the bunny food, but for now they do not pose an immediate threat.
Other than the cockroach incident, nothing much happened yesterday. It was wonderful. Bethany and I slept in and then spent much of the day sitting around and enjoying one another's company. We found a Christmas radio station from London and laughed and danced to classic carols and silly British Christmas rock songs. I downloaded Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol and A Charlie Brown Christmas for us to watch. In the evening we visited our frequent haunt, Jenn and Joe's house. After the children went to bed, Bethany and Jenn stuffed the kid's stockings. Then we played cards and laughed together until much too late.
This morning I awoke to Bethany jumping on the bed shouting "Merry Christmas!!!" and announcing that it was time to open presents (some things never change). I told her that there would be no presents until I had my coffee. She obliged with coffee and french toast in bed. I love my wife. For obvious reasons, we decided to keep the gift purchases to a minimum this year. We bought a few small things for one another, mostly fun food items that don't usually find their way into our monthly grocery budget.
We spent the rest of the day with Jenn and Joe and the kids. We made a trip to the mall and put together some small gift packages for the hobble-hobble (motorbike) drivers that work on the corner. I had a wonderfully simple day. I felt like I was ten years old again. I read a Hardy Boys book (one of my Christmas gifts), and played a silly computer game with the kids. After a dinner of delicious hamburgers (turkey is hard to come by here), we put on a movie for the kids. I had downloaded A Christmas Story for us to watch, but all of us adults had forgotten how much foul language is woven like a tapestry throughout that otherwise delightful film so we turned it off and watched the rest after the children had gone to bed.
And then the Dylan Thomas? And then the Dylan Thomas. After our card game had concluded, we retired to Jenn and Joe's living room and turned out the lights. Many of you know this, but I will inform those who are unaware. Stewart family tradition dictates that each Christmas conclude with a recital of A Child's Christmas In Wales, by none other than Dylan Thomas himself. Mr. Thomas is alas no long whinnying with us, but a recording of his narration is easy enough to come by.
This may have been a rather unorthodox Christmas, but capping it off with Dylan Thomas still seemed fitting. As Bethany and I walked home and I reflected on my feelings while trying to ignore the pervasive smell of raw sewage, I realized that this was the most peaceful Christmas I've had in a while. I know why too. Christmas usually stresses me out. All the rushing around to find Christmas presents is stressful. As a worship leader, there are usually extra church services to be worried about, and carols are either too difficult to play, with a different chord for each syllable, or too simple to play, leaving me bored and frustrated. This year, we didn't do any Christmas shopping, and I wasn't responsible to lead a single carol.
I miss my family though. I miss sitting with my brothers and my Dad, playing games and discussing hockey and Canadian politics. I miss my Mom and her wonderful Christmas dinners. I miss being scolded for eating too many appetizers. I miss my sisters in law and their beautiful children. I miss my McClellan family too. I miss watching old Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel and playing games around the dining room table. I miss teasing people for their strange "day after Christmas" shopping habits.
I don't feel alone though. Bethany is my best friend and Jenn and Joe have become very dear to us. It helped to get a phone call from my family too. Today was different than it ever has been, and certainly different than what I'd always thought it should be. But it was peaceful, and maybe that's all that matters.
It's 1:30am and I'm sitting in the close and holy darkness, enjoying a special Christmas beverage, because it's only once a year. I just finished watching It's a Wonderful Life. It made me cry, which felt nice. It also left me wanting to make a bigger impact in my universe, like George Bailey. In a few days I will be delivering a water filter to a young man who hopes to start a small business providing filters to the families in his community. Each family in his area spends approximately 1200 pesos each month on clean water. If we could get them a filter, we would save them that expense, essentially providing them with an additional 1200 pesos a month. Maybe that's George Bailey like. I don't know.
I'm going to sleep. It's Bethany's birthday tomorrow but she's working, so I'll be getting up early. Then it's off to Joe's backyard to get back to work on water filters.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.