Home > Trip > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2013 > Daily Dispatch #284

December 25, 2013: The Way it is

Christmas is always there, impending, like a freight train—consider it the Polar Express. It rushes by, fades into the distance, leaves those not on the train standing on the platform, wondering, what in hell was that all about?

So no avoiding it. For example, yesterday I had to go to town to get my hairs cut. Then after, I had to go to the bookstore and get Pete his present. Then after, I had to go to the food store and do our regular grocery shopping. Not everyone was getting their hairs cut or book shopping. Rather, the others – that is those who live in the Mat-Su Valley and the outlying areas – and as well all their friends—had decided to descend on the grocery store.

It was a mob scene reminiscent of some of the early rock and roll concerts I attended, which are the ones held in football stadiums. However, those people were stoned, while the shoppers were

A Christmas card we received from Katey

frenzied. In other words, it was a mob scene. The entire time I was in the store, I was incredibly anxious. This happens to me when I’m surrounded by hoards of people, all like me, who are filling shopping carts and then funneling out through the checkout line.

It helped that the clerk (who had been asked to temporarily abandon his job in electronics and work the checkout line) was upbeat and chipper. And in fact, his musings about the large number of customers and the large customers brought a smile to my otherwise tight lips.

Shopping cart full, I pushed my cart (which had a wobbly wheel) out across the icy parking lot, in the direction of Sputnik, our truck. By now the windows were frosted over. So I scraped the windows off with my credit card.

Now you may be reading this thinking that at some point I had an epiphanies moment, that is one which I embraced humanity and all of humanity’s friends, and in this way discovered the true meaning of Christmas. I hate to disappoint, but this didn’t happen. Rather, the very important realizations came in a slow, near predictable fashion. And they weren’t the sorts that were in any way surprising or revelatory.

I drove home, admiring the white swirls on the black road. Every so often I looked up at the sky, which behind the mountains was blue-pink in color. And the closer to home I got, the happier I became.

Today the freight train raced by so fast that I couldn’t see the faces in the windows. This racing past made the day seem more holiday-like than usual, perhaps because we’ve dispensed with the holiday ho ha. This wasn’t intentional; it has been sort of a pick and choose kind of deal. In the absence of a tree, tons of presents, travel, radio and TV ads, and the like, we’ve instead opted for carols on the radio, a small gift exchange, and pumpkin pie with dinner. This gave the day a special feel, one in which I thanked my lucky stars that family members and friends are currently in good health. And I thanked my lucky stars that our animals are also healthy and happy. And I thanked my lucky stars that we have a place of our own and that most days it’s warm and cozy. And I thanked my lucky stars. . . .

By midnight, the train had drawn out of sight. Around the world it will go. Next year, it will reappear at the same time, in the same place, for what comes round, goes around.

Next: 285: 12/26/13: Routine Maintenance