Christmas began for me aroundÂ 6 am on Dec 25th in 1955, when I was born.
My Mother had been on her way to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in Milwaukee Wisconsin. She had stumbled on the steps leading up to the church and labor began. I like to think it was me who pushed her. That somehow, I knew Christmas and I, we would need to become acquainted.
“Let me out!” I can imagine the look on my Mom’s face as she realized she would not be in church that day, Catholicism being what it was at that time in History.
I was to be the first born of six children. MyÂ Hawaiian Father was attending Marquette University on a GI Bill program, and had met my Yugoslavian Mother. The rest sorta makes me smile. (I know how Hawaiians are about women)
So… A lifetime of Christmas-Birthdays later, and it seriously is my favorite time of year. But not for reasons one might suspect.
My Mother always made a huge to do about Christmas. My parents were generous to a fault. It is all that I remember, the fantasy of it and the generosity.
But what really made Christmas special had nothing to do with gift wrapping, Christmas Trees or Santa, much as I relished it all and loved it. What made the day unique to me, occurred one Fall day, as I was walking to Parochial school. I believe I was in third grade.
I used to make the rather long walk solo, and recall a particular day well. I had made my way from our split level 1950′s house,Â three blocks through the housing tract, then along the railroad tracks which stretched through a mile long vacant field. Beautiful bright blue Fall day.
Toodling along, and somewhat bored by the length of the walk, and really looking forward to my day at school, which would begin with First Friday Mass, I was suddenly conscious of not being alone. It was as if I was looking at the scene before me through a wavy piece of glass, and I then met someone inÂ a way that was unique and new to me. That person was a man who spoke with me and showed me my life ahead.
I can only describe the conversation as exemplifying the tenet described in scripture of knowing as we are known. It was like being wrapped up in the most complete understanding consciousness that ever was. It is difficult to put into words, really. But I knew who this was. He walked with me. It was a comfortable feeling. As a Father now, I know what this was. Paternal Love being bestowed on me.
I never spoke of this to anyone. In fact, this is the first time I have written of it. I have reasons for that.
So many times I have seen people stress about Religion or Godliness, even over Christmas. But that day, Jesus showed me what He meant, and why, as well as how I was to be as a man. I understoodÂ in the moment: that God so loved the world that He sent his only Son, His living Word, to be with us. And my response was simple. I accepted what he had to say, and said thank you. Fifteen minutes later I was standing outside the church.
It was then that I understood what the Church really was. It was me. And you. And Christmas becameÂ special that year in a new way.
A rule developed in my parent’s house regarding Birthdays. With six kids, the best and most affordable gift in a single income household, typical of that era, was to allow each sibling to do whatever they wanted, on their Birthday.
So I recall quite clearly when at the age of eleven, now living in Goleta Ca. my mother asking me what I wanted to do for my Birthday. My answer was short and to the point. “Surf, Mom. I want to be at the beach”
So for every Christmas from that day forward, the Ocean was a gift to me from my parents.
And guess what? That same voice was there always, moving across the waters.
This is what Christmas is to me.Â Time with my Lord, and best friend. I find it wonderful that I get to share his pleasure through my life and work.
Here is a great story about Apollo 8 and Christmas Eve and Photography, sent along by Artist Dan Levin. This was the project my Father had been working on as I was aÂ child.
Here is a beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s piece Hallelujah done by Cloverton.
The images in this blog were shot yesterday, Dec 24th, Christmas eve. If you are reading this Christmas morning, I am off celebrating a birthday in the water somewhere.
Merry Christmas indeed.