Friday, December 25, 2009

new look, new leaf?

Christmas Day, supposing it signals new beginnings and rebirth, seems to have born with it a foot or more of tundra slop that has to be shoveled. Shovel, shovel, toil and trouble. The adults of the household are feeling somewhat broke down after hoisting hundreds of pounds of icewater and snow. The smaller snow-blowers just sit n spin in this stuff -- you have to muck it out by hand. Thank God and baby Jesus that the snow tapered off earlier than expected. And yet it was, is, beautiful - while I was shoveling out the neighbor's car, the snow came down in thick, fat wet flakes, obscuring the distance. The breeze was fresh and surprisingly warm, more like the air after a rain shower. Later, when H and I built the snowman, a colder wind from the north picked up and bit our fingers as we patted and pounded the snowman into shape. We gave him two stick hands thrust into the air in mock disgust -- "Can you believe this weather?!" A straight mouth of chagrin, and a large cold carrot nose. But he has a scarf too, poor thing. It was dangerous to stand under the pines near the front door -- large, heavy clumps of icy-wet snow slid from the boughs unexpectedly, clobbering the hapless shoveler.Freezing, but fun.

I have to remind myself occasionally that narratively speaking, the Christ child's problem would have been desert nights, not blizzards out of the northwest. Another missing picture might be Mary breastfeeding, as she would most surely have done (though a certain Reverend friend of mine disputes the virgin in most of her particulars.) Here we see infant Jesus, wrapped "burrito style" as they say in prenatal classes (no evidence of that anywhere but contemporary illustrations, though scholarly works most likely prove something similar), suckling away at his mother's teat while the animals chew and moo and poop nearby in the stable -- hay when fresh is clean and warm, not necessarily comfy unless you're truly exhausted, easy to muck out after the moist mess of childbirth. Who attended the birth? Did Jesus just slip into the world after a few delicate virginal pushes? I doubt it -- God's work seems to me to be difficult and painful in the best of circumstances. Joseph probably had to help some, though with such a crowd in Bethlehem a midwife wouldn't have been too tough to find (assuming a lot of things that I don't know for fact.) At any rate, no chipped ice or numbing drugs for little Mary. And here's the baby, still rather sticky and smelly, probably some social proscription against touching him or his mother in their contaminated state (think mikvahs). Except for the glaring issue of a certain star, unrecorded and utterly out of place, blazing forth above the stable like one of those giant stadium lamps over a night game of baseball. Look out! Something definitely going on here. It can't be this poor couple with the new baby though, because who cares about babies in this day and age? Unwanted infants were routinely thrown into the streets to perish unremarked. It's not the animals, not the goats or the camels; certainly not the rough structure sheltering them. Where is the mystery and wonder this new star portends? Did Jesus glow? Did his mother retell the words of the angel to anyone who would listen? Or did the narrative require three kings "of Orient are" to kick the plot along?

I remember when they brought my son to me all clean and neatly wrapped, after the C-section. He cried until he heard my voice, then calmly curled against my shoulder, his eyes nearsightedly resting on my chin. There were others in the room, though I barely remember who they were and couldn't have cared -- my husband in his surgical shower cap, perhaps my parents, a couple of friends including the woman who took the first picture of H and I together. If there had been hay, and cattle lowing, I wouldn't have noticed. A few hours later, they moved his crib into my room in the hospital despite the fact that it meant little rest for me, simply because he couldn't stand to be parted from me -- he cried and cried, until I held him. So be it, I thought. Better learn how to wrap the little bundle properly.

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