What a strange season this is — overpowering and unavoidable, with summoned-up good cheer and way too much Muzak. But then, sometimes and out of nowhere, it seems to be real.
I took my sister Ellen, who’s visiting from Poland over the holidays, to see our father for the first time in more than two years. We drove to the little East Austin facility where he’s being cared for. A singer with a guitar was there to perform Christmas carols. Ellen and I sat on either side of Daddy, holding his hands and thumping them to the music.
We sang along — Deck the Halls, The First Noel, Feliz Navidad, Silent Night — and I didn’t even care that I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket or a barrel. I just belted it out and hoped nobody was listening. There’s something so moving about those carols from my childhood, reminiscent of the small Methodist church we went to. All those memories combined with the present, as a few elderly people tried to sing along and clap their hands and a crew of young children whose permanent front teeth were growing in bounced up and down and grinned. Some spoke English, some spoke Spanish and others, like our father, barely speak anything any longer.
But it was this moment of warmth and community, a time when you begin to think that anything is possible, life is good and the world is welcoming. Merry Christmas.
P.S. A recent essay on marriage: http://www.statesman.com/search/content/editorial/stories/12/21/1221pennebaker_edit.html