Monday night I saw Santa. Yeah, the old guy was walking better too, now that he’s got the the new hip. He dropped in on the Boston Christmas Pops show at Symphony Hall. I sat there among the privledged as a guest of a firm that provides outplacement services to corporations for their ex-employees who have been placed… out. They are very nice people, and I’ve had a wonderful time the past two years as Joyce’s +1. During a break, I chatted with fellow invitee Herb, about the endurance of the instruments being played so wonderfully before us. The timeless tools played by today’s elite violinists, for example, are essentially the same design as those produced in the mid 1600’s to mid 1700’s. For the very few fortunate that play a Stradivarius, they are exactly the same. Priceless for their quality and uniqueness, they cannot be improved. The orchestra creating such beautiful noise was making it with tools of wood and horsehair created hundreds of years ago. I wondered if much of our modern stuff would endure like that.
It was not lost on me that we sat very near neighborhoods of people who lived in the shadow of Symphony Hall, but would never enter it. It reminded me of a recent NPR story about mall Santa’s being coached this year to temper the expectations of children sitting on their knee, based on visual cues from parents unable to meet them. That’s got to be a very difficult moment for parents, but the Santa’s in the story ease the moment with empathy. Among those children, many of them won’t be disappointed if there’s not particular “stuff” under the tree as long as they have mom or dad or both or any loving “family” to share the feeling of Christmas with. Christmas really is a feeling we all long for, but often find elusive. To some, it’s a feeling of faith, a belief that something glorious and good happened on that day. To others, it’s a feeling born of family, traditions and togetherness like you might see in a Norman Rockwell painting. To many it’s both.
Christmastime can also haul out a big red sack of emotions we dig through trying to find sense in the darkness among the skeletons, fears and unfulfilled wishes. One morning this week Megan said, “I wish our family could be normal and just have a normal Christmas.” My response threw doubt on the term “normal family” and I suggested most families have their share of ex-spouses, egg nog abusers, social misfits and fugitives from justice. Megan laughed and quickly turned to the kids… Maddy, her brother, her niece and nephew(s). “I want them to have experiences, and I want them to have a good Christmas.” My daughter “walks the talk” that many others only talk, and talk, and talk. She’ll have all the little ones this weekend.
As the string section played an other worldly “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” Joyce leaned over and whispered in my ear so sweet, “You know, Kyle would love this.” She said the same thing last year and I didn’t act on it. Not this time. This Sunday’s “Boys Day” in Boston will feature lunch, a little shopping and the 3:00 performance of the Christmas Pops.
Whatever Christmas is to you, I hope what you choose to make of it endures.