I have missed the last several days, wearing sackcloth and ashes for my dear, departed Dell, so I now find myself on December 23 not having posted much of what I had planned to write.
With Christmas beginning tomorrow (and with the conspicuous lack of time-sucking technology) I have been visited many times by the Ghost of Christmas Past. Fortunately for me, my sister's posts have said much of what was on my mind, so anything I put up might have been redundant.
I don't know where I first heard the......legend? superstition?..... of the animals in every stable bowing as the Eve turns to the Day. I must have been quite young - under ten - because I can remember lying in my attic bedroom in the dead of night, staring up at the sloping ceiling and trying to think if there were any neighbourhood livestock I could sneak up on, to see them kneel to Baby Jesus.
It doesn't seem to be a commonly-known story: I'm not sure I've ever met anyone else who had heard of it. Every Christmas Eve, though, I think of it without fail. It's a fond memory, for me, with the persistent magic of childish uncertainty.
Then, this past fall, I bought a book of Christmas poems for my daughter. It was an emotional read anyway, between the stocking-in-the-dark poem and the one with the line reading "and children pace the crumping snow, to taste their granny's cake again", and the e.e. cummings one that ends with
"and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
Then I idly turned a page, saw the next poem, and suddenly..... I was ten again, lying in the dark of a steadily falling night, wishing there was a barn handy so I could check and see. I couldn't stop the tears. I felt a rushing flood of wonder and longing just like the one I had felt as a child, and a faith restored, fiercely, in unseen power.
So I leave you with this poem, for me the most moving of all, written, amazingly, by my favourite author.
A Happy Christmas to you, my dear friends.
Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.
So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
"Come; see the oxen kneel
"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.