Christmas Meditation of the Unexamined Life

When I was in an RB congregation where they were so RP they didn’t observe advent I thought it was a shame Christmas should hardly be mentioned. But now I’m in an OP congregation I think it is a shame they start in with advent, and talk about it, even if the whole thing is desultory. What about the RP?

I should just be glad I’m not in charge.

* * *
Speaking of in charge, now two of the dawgs I went to school with are presidents of institutions I attended. To paraphrase Thorin Oakenshield, it is an odd moment. I think of how young I still am and I wonder, as they’re more or less my age. Does this mean places are running out of more mature choices? Has it always been–I now begin to think–that age that gets recruited for the highest positions? Goodness, have I myself reached the age already when I should be counted on? I think I’m safe, somehow, my age notwithstanding.

Thank God for immaturity and inexperience, otherwise . . . my awesome leadership skills . . .

* * *
Speaking of which, I’m enjoying Latin a whole lot, and I think I can be counted on for that, at least. But if I am prudent, I think I’d have to say part of teaching 7th and 8th graders is that being barely ahead of them and learning hard as I go greatly adds to the challenge. Still, there are other things I like: figuring out how to communicate enjoyment, keeping them interested in Latin itself–not by artificial means like the sociopaths in Sunday schools, juggling the rates at which they progress. The kids are variously encouraged and challenged, and it takes some thinking.

And soon they’ll go happily to their Christmas break.

* * *
And I’ll to mine. I hope to get up a head of steam on my book, which still advances. One learns that imaginative breakthroughs cannot be manufactured, and they come or they don’t come. But there’s still enough for me to push on as much as possible. When you have good material there is a lot more for you to work with, I have found. If the thing is good, it is like a block you can chip away at. But if it isn’t you just stare at it and have no idea what else it could be.

Do you know, it was to the present president of Central Seminary I first divulged my aspiration to be a writer of Science Fiction. He asked me at some graduation ceremony. He was on the board of the seminary by that time–rising meteorically and perhaps noticing I was not even pointed in a promising direction–so I made that up and have stuck by it. And it was with the present president of Northland IU that I first went to see a movie in the theater. LOTR 1, in fact. And now the Hobbit is finishing up.

That has to add up to something, don’t you think? Maybe I can pull strings now, with these powerful, influential acquaintances.

* * *
Speaking of a movie deal for my as of yet unpublished book. . .

The tree we got was already yellowing, as were all the pines on the lot. The firs were fine, but not the pines, and pine it has to be. So now I sit under my fading and mutable tree and think pleasantly melancholy things about how swiftly it all passes, drinking eggnog that I persist in but don’t exactly wholly relish and watching the midnight creep upon me.

I’ll have to remind my wife that it’s Vanilla Eggnog.

* * *
And now, A Holiday Vignette

Because my excellent wife found fraud on our credit card, because we only have one now . . .

Wait, why are we down to one card? Well, we were down to two because who needs more than two? We always pay them off and have no credit card debt. So we had an MC and a Visa, both with chase. But then chase decides the MC should be a Visa. But I didn’t realize that; I thought the new card would be replacing the old visa and destroyed that one, then read carefully, and then decided to call and cancel the old visa and just have one visa because who is going to be able to tell two visas from one bank apart? That’s how that happened.

So, there was fraud, it was caught, the card canceled, and me out of a card. And then I had to get petrol and did not want to use the debit card because you can’t be using it like a credit card. So I got cash and did what I never do, walked into a gas station. Yes! inside the door to where they sell all the stuff and a foreigner takes your payment.

It was not the wider, spacious kind. It’s not like I never go into gas stations, but personally I avoid them. Still I’ve been in them. In Texas, my parents found a gas station where they have really good breakfast burritos and we ate there and it was super. My parents go to gas stations all the time. I reckon my dad would never pay at the pump given the chance to pay to a real live person.

But I don’t. So I go in, and it was a small one with just two short aisles. Of course there’s a line. Two out of three people in the line had hats with ear flaps, big things, like slain beasts worn ritually on the head. The guy at the counter was obviously foreign, of some incalculable origin, and the hipster buying a fancy cigarillo didn’t use the same technical term for the cigarillo he did. They dickered. Another guy with a really bad haircut was mooching around, and I eyed him because he looked like he was going to jump the line and impugn the honor of my right to my place in line. Eventually, however, he picked out a plastic bag full of popcorn, sat down in the employee’s only place where all the tobacco is kept, and ripped the bag open in an insouciant way and began to eat defiantly.

Who eats popcorn out of a plastic bag like potato chips anyway? He also made a comment to nobody in particular about I don’t know what.

Then the second guy and the guy at the counter start dissing the hipster, the hipster having waddled out. Conclusion: hipster only thought he knew the lingo of fancy cigarillos. Second guy asks for copenhagen, gets skoal, says he asked for copenhagen, gets copenhagen, pays and departs on friendly terms. Then there’s only one guy in front of me–old guy, big hat with flaps, still wearing his gloves (how can you do things with your wallet if you’re still wearing your gloves and why are you still wearing your gloves after all this time in line?).

Old guy wants to know, having approached after a pause for a long moment of recollection, after, I suppose, all the bustle of waiting in line, do they have any yogurt.

Do they have any what?!?!

Yogurt, do they have any yogurt. Yogurt.

No, they don’t have yogurt. (I look around and only notice they have bud light and junk food. I note that it seems likely that it is against the principles of traditional gas station proprietors to even consider selling yogurt or anything that at one time, other than tobacco, can have been said to grow.)

Hair-cut is still slamming popcorn. Old guy pays for something, not yogurt, then finally stands aside.

Twenty in pump eight, I say.

Eight what?

Pump eight.

How much? -waving the received twenty.

All of it. All twenty in pump eight. (Isn’t that what you say at a gas station, Twenty in pump eight? Is it supposed to be: Please ring up twenty dollars worth of gas-o-lene to be dispensed out of pump number eight, there in the far distance where my freaking car is parked, please? Or is it that paying inside is unusual unless you’re buying tobacco or yogurt or bagged and sealed pop corn?)

Do I want a receipt?

Yes. (I keep them in case they want to accuse me of not paying some day, at least till the next time I get petrol. Having been back inside of a gas station, I feel vindicated in that practice.)

So I’m set, except that old guy is still standing by the door counting his money.

Here is the point, this is how you can tell I’m not a people person and probably why I’m not the president, today, of any of the schools I attended. I could have turned to the pop corn guy and said: Happy holidays.

I could have said that to the foreign guy, or even to the old guy with the flaps who was still trying to put his money in his wallet and for all I know, still wearing gloves.

I did not think of it. I thought nothing of Christmas. I brushed past old guy and headed out to pump gas and be gone. I may have said thank-you.

So much for the spirit of Christmas. And that, in a nutshell, is the story of my life, I feel. One day I’m going to see it on the news: New president of OSU, Pop Corn Guy.

Oh well.

Happy Holidays!


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