|Miso, our much-loved lovebird, photographed by Alexander Chow-Stuart.|
...But also the stockings hung by the fire, the sense of magic in the air, the images of snowy rooftops and white-clad gardens, even if the weather hasn't cooperated...the original Charlie Brown Christmas Special playing in the DVD player (with that fabulous Vince Guaraldi score)...and those endless songs on the Christmas channels: White Christmas, Santa Baby, Jingle Bells, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Little Saint Nick...and the true greats: John Lennon and Yoko Ono's So This Is Christmas (War Is Over), Greg Lake's I Believe In Father Christmas, Straight No Chaser's The Carol Of The Bells, the classic traditional Carols themselves...
I know that some people hate Christmas, or distrust it, think it's overcommercialized, a time of phony emotion and excessive eating, spending and consumption - but I still see Christmas as I did when I was five or six years old. It matters to me hugely, even though I'm a Buddhist and the religious aspects have faded from my thinking (the Nativity is still a really charming tale but I think more of the pagan evergreen tree in winter: the symbol of rebirth).
I want our children to enjoy Christmas and we spend the whole of December anticipating it, opening an old wooden Advent Calendar door each day to see what Elgouin and Cargouin, our two little Christmas Elves may have left during the night (usually a chocolate coin each for Hudson and Paradise) and thinking and talking about how Christmas Day might be.
Obviously there's an element for Paradise and Hudson of it being about the gifts, but it's far more about letter-writing, back and forth, to the Elves, to Santa, to various other characters - and the building excitement as December passes (not to mention the single-day month that Hudson created between November and December - Devember - which is the true start of our family's holiday season).
I can't imagine my love of Christmas ever diminishing, and I hope that Hudson and Paradise - and Charong, who didn't really grow up with a Christmas tradition in her childhood Chinese-American household - maintain their enthusiasm, too.
Christmas to me is a little like Groundhog Day is to Bill Murray's character: an event that, in theory, you could grow to hate, and yet one that, through endless repetition and the expunging of any negative possibilities, acquires the authenticity and power of true love.
These are a lot of words - and I'm still a little hazy with the medication for my broken rib - but I think all I really wanted to say is that Christmas *is* love: it's beautiful, it's magical, it's perfect and I hope you all share in that love and joy and perfection.
We have made a lot of new friends this year in Tuolumne County, which has been remarkably welcoming to our whole family - so to our new friends and our old friends alike, here's wishing you a Very Merry Christmas and a truly Wonderful New Year.
Enjoy tonight and tomorrow...and may Santa leave sooty footprints by your sparkling, multi-colored tree. That squawking you hear is Miso complaining that someone knitted him the wrong-colored scarf!