Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Then and Now

Today is my wedding anniversary.  Nita and I have been married for 46 years.  How can I describe those years?  At the beginning—say the first ten years—we felt that we needed to do everything together.  Nita through herself into realms that were foreign to her, just to please me.  She even tried to water ski—one of my passions—despite her fear of the water and her inability to swim more than three strokes.  If one of us needed to pick up something at the grocery store, the other had to tag along.  If one of us wanted to take a nap, it was no good unless the other cuddled in for a siesta as well.

Little by little that changed.  We slowly came to realize that we were two unique individuals.  Nita was not capable of satisfying my passions for music, theatre, and mountain climbing.  I would have to find other friends who would fill that void.  Likewise she was not going to find a great partner in me for her interests in birding, gardening, or hosting.

Some might call that divergence sad.  I don’t see it that way.  I think it was healthy for us to recognize that the other could not satisfy every need.  In fact, I believe that if I had demanded Nita’s participation in all things, our relationship would have been stripped of its longevity and affection.  We both needed our individual interests to flourish on their own.

Today, there are very few passions that Nita and I have in common.  What we do have in common is a level of comfort and a high appreciation for the talents and proclivities of the other.

There is something else that I have noticed in later years.  We rarely argue.  It is as though both of us have recognized that it is not essential to be right—and that our spouse has the absolute right to believe as he or she likes.  For example, a couple of days ago I asked Nita this questions:  “On a scale of 1 to 10, how assured are you of an afterlife?”  She said she was a “10,” that there was no doubt.  I’m a “1” on that question, but it doesn’t seem to matter—not to her and not to me.  The understanding is simply a point of information, not a point of contention. 

I’m a lucky man to have found a woman with so much compassion and understanding.  I selected well.  I’d like to think we both selected well.

A Christmas Concert
A musician friend of mine, Debi Eng, asked me to be the narrator/street musician/comic relief for her middle school and high school Christmas choral concert.  The event was held at the Kennewick Washington High School auditorium.  We had two performances, and they were both enthusiastically received.  The kids performed beautifully.  There were 130 students on stage for the entire two-hour show.  Amazingly, they were quiet and focused throughout (although I did see one girl braid her hair at one point when her choir was not singing—ugh).
At the end of the show, I told the audience that I wanted to share two photos from my family album. 

This is what I said on showing the first image:
“This was me in 1955.  I was nine years old.  For you who are doing the math, I’m now 68.  The location was the North Richland Trailer Court.  Our home was a 24-foot trailer.  The bathroom was across the street in the washroom, which made for frigid dashes in the middle of winter nights.

Look at those knobby knees.  I look like I was sired by storks.”

At that point someone whistled, so I strutted around on stage and said, “Yep, that mighty physique has not changed much over the years.”

The second photo I shared with the audience was taken on Christmas morning.

“This is the inside of our trailer.  What you see was the full width of our home.  I’m not sure, but I think the little Christmas tree on the right was a tumbleweed with tinsel.  The couch behind me opened into a bed, where my brother and I slept.”  I drew an imaginary line.  “You cannot cross this line.  This line is no-man’s land.  You cross this line and I’ll turn you into a grilled ham sandwich.

“I was wearing the full extent of my Christmas—my winter jacket and my blue jeans—which I thought was pretty extravagant.  Note that the jeans were turned up eight inches at the cuffs to account for growth.  I think I probably blew out my knees before I grew out of those jeans.

“Here’s my point:  Look at that smile.  I could not have been happier.  I had love and that was all I needed to sprout into the magnificent specimen you see before you today.”

At the point the 130 choir members erupted into spontaneous applause, hoots, and whistles, which drowned out the already enthusiastic response from the audience.  The kids could not imagine what that expression of affection meant to me—to be recognized, to be loved, to be drawn out of the shadows of invisibility, where old men too often reside.   It was the sweetest sound ever.  “Oh, cut it out,” I quipped to the kids.

I wrapped it up with, “May your Christmas be a joyful celebration of hope, peace, and thanksgiving—but mostly a celebrations of love.”

That was Debi’s cue to launch into a rousing, gospel-like version of the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

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