The big Christian consumerist holiday is nearly upon us. Other factions make their meager attempts at winter celebrations such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but in America Christmas rules. By Christmas I mean Santa Claus, flammable trees strung with electrical lights, the annual tradition of at least one horrendous Christmas movie, and the high tension stress brought about by forced familial interaction. Oh, and it’s the day that Christians celebrate the virgin birth. Mary, an unwed teenage mother, couldn’t possibly have been having pre marital relations with Joseph. That burgeoning belly bump must have been brought about by miraculous means. And all of this excessive consumerism that surrounds me must have originated with those “wise men” bearing gifts for the babe in the manger. Frankincense and Myrrh has become the Nintendo Wii and an assortment of plastic gift cards. My own little Christmas in damp North Seattle will be brightened by the joy on our son Justin’s face when he gets to tear open his assortment of colorfully wrapped gifts. Last year he wasn’t quite one-year-old at Christmastime, so he couldn’t really appreciate the event. This year he’s a walking, talking marvel and he’s not quite two. We used restraint buying gifts for him, but of course surprises arrive from across the continent, so Justin will be overwhelmed. Luckily, we’ll soon be moving him downstairs into a bigger bedroom with his own toddler bed. He’ll have more room for his toys and art supplies, but it also means that he’ll . . . er, I mean we will have to readjust to him being in a “big boy” bed. He’ll no longer be contained by the wooden bars of rickety crib. Soon he’ll be driving!!
We found out a couple of days ago that Jen’s parents will be joining us for Christmas. They are actually flying out on Christmas day and will be staying for three nights. We’ll put off opening the majority of our gifts until they arrive in the late afternoon and Justin has awoken from his nap. We can empty our stockings and Justin will probably get to open the blocks he received from Jessie, Bob and Victoria. Those will keep him busy until lunch and the nap, which usually comes right after. Justin’s not quite old enough to realize that we’ll be withholding the pleasure of his opening the entirety of his gifts until much later than is agreeable with most children. I’m feeling a little bit of stress accompanying the visit by my in-laws, but that’s natural. I actually get along with them quite well. It’s more the finding out a mere week before Christmas that you’ll have visitors and knowing the cleaning that should get done, but probably won’t get done before their arrival. I’m am glad that Justin will get to reacquaint himself with this set of grandparents and maybe Jen and I will actually get a little free babysitting out of the deal for one evening . . . maybe.
I finished reading Atonement a couple of days ago and it was quite enjoyable. It’s the second novel by Ian McEwan that I’ve read, the first being Enduring Love, and he’s quite the master of dark psychological drama. I look forward to seeing the film adaptation of Atonement, but I think I can wait for the DVD rental. I’ve been struggling with what to read next — Not an uncommon problem for me — and I think I’ve settled on The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond. It’s just a bit of nonfiction about man’s origin and his effect on the planet. I had been tempted to read some more fiction, preferably under two-hundred pages, but my mind has been drawn to a lot of weighty subjects in this past year and I think I’ll gain more satisfaction from reading the anthropological work by Diamond. It’s more work reading nonfiction. There’s no plot to keep me turning the pages. In fact, I find myself rereading entire sections to try and ensure that I’m getting it. The end result is worth it though. I look back on my reading this past year and I feel like I’ve big step forward in my thinking, at least in certain areas.
I found out today that the lecture series that I enjoyed attending so much this past fall will be extended for five monthly lectures through the spring. With the presidential election heating up the religious rhetoric has also been ratcheted up. We now have Mike Huckabee, the ordained Baptist minister from Arkansas, leading the pack of Republican yahoos; and Barack Obama participating in a "40 days of Faith and Family" tour. Now more than ever we need to shore up that faltering wall between church and state. This government was founded to be for All the people and not just the Christians. Look it up.