Hi, all, Daniel-of-2015 here--for the last time. Next time I write to you I'll be Daniel-of-2016. Still the same person, of course. I'm posting this today rather than Monday more or less because I feel like it. I was going to write this up early and just sit on it until Monday, but it's my Christmas post, so I might as well post it on Christmas.
Anyway, as some of you may have noticed, I'm changing things up a little. Rather than putting the interlude before the sabbat, I've put it after--and the following section, all my posts until just before Brigid, will be non-narrative, essentially an extended interlude, just like I did for January last year. I was not on campus for these weeks, and so rather than writing about what it was like to live with my parents, I'm going to write a series of posts about the school to fill in details you might have wondered about but didn't fit into any story so far.
This has become an odd time of year for my family. Religiously, we're pretty fluid these days, and usually no one really cares--the people we actually share our religious lives with are people we can sit down and have a real conversation with, so we don't really need a one-word definition of who we are and what we're about. But at Christmastime we both have relatives who assume we celebrate it...and we both kind of want to, but more and more, it's Yule that feels like a holiday to us and Christmas doesn't. So sorting through all of that--and figuring out how to explain it to Carly--is difficult.
Yule is easier, unambiguous. Part of it, I'm sure, is the school community. Yule is still ours. Our ceremony has changed with changing circumstance, but we still gather.
At the Yule party this year, which was a little before the solstice for various reasons, Kit asked me if I was ready. I think I must have given her a rather desperate look, because she laughed and said "welcome to Pagan Standard Time!" That's a common phrase--it means that pagans generally are late and disorganized a lot.
"I'm all ready," I explained, "if you count decorations that droop and look funny, presents wrapped in newspaper and addressed with a Sharpie, and a tree decorated by a two-year-old. And I think we're having Chinese take-out for Yule dinner. Oh, Kit, how did you do it at school? Everything always came off so perfectly!"
"No, it didn't. We had all these grandiose plans that never worked out."
"Oh? Like what?"
"We were supposed to have a dedicated ritual space for students--a temple--but we never did. We never could decide where to put it or what design to use. So that's why my covens always circled in the Martial Arts studio. I wanted to choreograph all these sacred dances--the others agreed, but I never got around to it. We always talked about serving Boar's Head for Yule dinner, but that hardly ever happened. I wanted a mummer's troop, but couldn't get anyone interested...."
"I don't think that's on the same level as gifts addressed with a Sharpie."
"We had those kinds of problems, too, in the beginning. The last few years we did pretty well--but even then we made mistakes."
Allen's smile faded for a moment. It was a mistake of his that triggered--not caused--the chain of events that forced the closing of the school. That didn't have anything to do with a holiday, though. I squeezed his shoulder and he smiled again.
"You have to remember," he added, "that we were at work. Making the
holidays happen was part of our job, not something we had to take time
out to do."
All the holiday stories I tell seem to involve these two, Kit and Allen. There is a reason for that. Charlie became my teacher, my Yoda, if you will (my Dumbledore?), but those two become my friends. In fact, that year, the year it is in my narrative, 2002, was the first time I shared part of a holiday with either of them off campus in a non-incidental way.
Or, a semi-non-incidental way. I planned to go home, but I couldn't get a ride and my parents couldn't come get me. I couldn't borrow a car because I'd be staying off campus for weeks.It was Christmas Eve, and I was getting desperate, when Allen stepped out of the office right in front of me and solved my problem. I hadn't even known he was still on campus. He said he'd heard about my problem, and that Lo and the kids were picking him up in a few hours and that if I cared to go with them to the midnight service, they could drop me off at home on the way back.
So, it's not like it was a purely social invitation, but it was helpful and kind, and they did include me in part of their family holiday.
We went to the same UU church that I went to the one time I stayed on campus for Christmas--where I bumped into Allen and his family, but back then he was friendly only in the way that teachers are when they see students in public--with a distance. This time, they were all really glad to have me with them and we laughed and joked and had a good time. After all, I'd camped with them that spring and was friends with David. Lo had largely adopted me.
I grew up Methodist and the UU service was always this interesting mix between the familiar and the different. One of the familiar elements was the scattering of Christmas carols throughout the service. One of them was Joy to the World. When the pastor announced that one, Alexis whispered "Jeremiah was a bull-frog," and giggled. She's still too young to whisper quietly, so we all heard her and laughed, even Lo, who gave her a disapproving glance first and shushed the rest of us.
Later, on our way out, Allen suddenly started singing that other "Joy to the World" in the middle of the parking lot--loudly and, as normal for him, slightly out of tune. Lo busted up laughing, obviously startled and delighted, and we all joined in, singing. And all the way to my parents' house we sang, first Three Dog Night, then other songs, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Run, Run Rudolph," and "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."
And we had a fantastic time.