Here's the unretouched version of the photo of Madeline:
The Official Holiday Card will be coming soon and demands top billing. I need space in case I have other things to write in the next couple of weeks.
December 24th - Strange Convergences
It's odd how things sometimes converge. This morning I finished The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, a memoir by Bill Bryson. I think it would be a great read for anyone, but particularly for me. For Bill Bryson grew up in Des Moines, Iowa at the same time that I was growing up in Newton, Iowa. So much of his childhood and much of mine took place in the same places. Bishop's Cafeteria. The big theaters of Des Moines. The kiddie corral at Dahl's. He lived in the big city of Des Moines - my family went there often. His reflections on those times really resonated with me and took me vividly back to my childhood. He ends the book talking about how great it would be if we had somehow kept the the things that were great about those times (but added Dolby sound). He finishes the book with these sentences, "What a wonderful world that would be. What a wonderful world it was. We won't see its like again, I'm afraid."
And of course Christmas in many ways does the same thing. As a person in middle age with grown children, Christmas is both a time when I reflect on blessings and remember holidays past. Our holiday celebrations are great. Wonderful quiet times with family and friends. Still, they lack the wonder of racing down the stairs to see what Santa has brought and running right by the slot car set onto the porch. The sinking feeling of being somewhat stiffed by Santa was short-lived, followed soon by the joys of hot slot car racing.
Or the joys of watching your own children have similar experiences.
Then, as I was walking Greta on this pretty, sunny day and listening to a shuffle of songs on my iPod, I heard a James Taylor song ("Letter in the Mail") that I swear I have never listened to before, about the passing of things. About change. About good things lost that aren't coming back (at least that was what it was about for me today).
Part of me laments the loss of those times. Part of me feels that my generation hasn't made this a better world - that life was somehow better in those simpler times. I'll bet at times my dad felt the same way. And his dad.
While I am sure life was different in many ways, maybe it's just an idle use of time to worry about the "better/worse" aspect of it. Christmas in 1956 was pretty cool. So is Christmas in 2006.