Tuesday, December 1, 2015


It’s the first day of the last month of the year. Objectively, it’s just like any other day—the sun rises, we go to work, we eat, the sun sets. But some ancient part of us is still tied to the seasons and we feel the descent of the light as a tangible presence. We feel the last cycle of the moon before the renewal of the new year. Never mind that January 1st is an arbitrary date or if we’re Jewish or Chinese or Persian or school teachers, we have other New Year cycles in our psyche. We— and by we I mean some of us northern hemisphere residents—feel the chill in the air, the allure of the fire, the hunkering down inward and the weight of the down comforter in bed. We start making hearty soups for dinner, sipping hot toddies, stop fussing with salads and lean toward carbohydrates. Never mind those diet resolutions from last January, the body wants what the body wants and it feels right.
December. 10th month. (Did you do your homework from last month’s “November” entry to find out why?) Housed in its calendar dates is Buddha’s Enlightenment Day (December 8th), Rumi’s Wedding Night (i.e., the day he died—December 17th), Hannukah, the Winter Solstice and…hmmm… I think one more. What can it be? Oh yeah, Christmas! And maybe Kwaanza, if that artificially created (but well-meaning) holiday is still taken seriously.
For this music teacher, it means the annual utter and most joyful insanity of mounting the Elementary Holiday Plays, the St. George and the Dragon play, the beauty of the Holiday Songbook, the height-of-my-genius-ritual of Wrong Words Day. It means taking out the 40 year old twelve cardboard cards showing each of the 12 Days of Christmas, each year yet more ragged and Velveteen-Rabbitish decaying, ice skating the day after the shows, staff White Elephant sale and the corny farewell to the kids after the final Holiday Sing—“See you next year!”
On the home front, it’s getting the tree, pulling out 60-year-old decorations from my childhood, writing the annual Family Newsletter with humor and/or poetry (which also involves trying to remember what the heck happened this year), a little bit of shopping. It’s the annual Revels show and perhaps one more, our annual caroling party where we flashmob ourselves onto the N Judah, our annual five-day trip to the snow reduced to two days at West Point Inn with three other families, and the month finishing with the clanging of Tibetan bells, hoots and hollers and the bellowing of a French horn to bid farewell to 2015.
Easy to be cynical and dismiss the naïve benevolence of the red-suited jolly fellow, the promise of peace and beauty that an innocent baby in a manger promises, nature’s reminder that the light does indeed return, the days grow warm and trees will sprout leaves again.” Bah Humbug to it all!” may be realistic and justified, but what’s to be gained from that? Might as well re-light our annual candle of hope, settle in with Jimmy Stewart and feel, even for a moment, that yes, it’s a wonderful life.
December, considering what November brought, I can’t casually assume you will bring glad tidings, but I’m ready to troll the ancient Yuletide carol and sing of light and love and miracle births, which means each and every one. And you, please send California some rain.

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