My new book “Midlife Solo” will be published by Mosaic Press later this year. Stay tuned!

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It’s a Wonderful Christmas Pageant

Merry Christmas! It’s 9.20 a.m. There was a time when we’d be knee-deep in wrapping and ribbons by now, excited children dancing around with empty stockings and new toys, me trying vainly to calm them down and keep the house in order, to get ready for the big meal to come. In our Christmas box are little notes I wrote after each Xmas in those early days: “Greetings from Xmas 1986!,” one says, describing who was there and what was happening. I wrote that my uncle Edgar, who’d flown in from New York, scolded me for being so tense. “Stand outside yourself,” he said, “and ask, ‘Who’s that silly woman getting so distraught?'”

A silly woman with a difficult family, two small children, a house full of leaks and very little self-confidence, that’s who she was. She was 36 that year and had noticed a few grey hairs. Yesterday, I needed some things at Shopper’s Drugmart, and the woman at the cosmetics counter advised me to wait till next Thursday. “It’s Senior’s Day,” she said. “You’ll get 20% off.”
“I’m only 59!” I wanted to shout, but didn’t. I’ll gladly take the 20%. Not “that silly woman” any more, not distraught, but considerably older.
Last night, the oddest thing happened – I had my own George Bailey, It’s a Wonderful Life moment. As I’ve mentioned here repeatedly, for nine years friends and I ran the Christmas pageant at Riverdale Farm on Xmas Eve, an exhausting but very rewarding endeavour. Last year, the first year we handed it over to another group, I was sick, so yesterday was my first time going as an audience member to an event that matters deeply. It’s not the birth of Jesus that’s important for me, it’s the community gathering, the singing of beloved hymns, and especially the moment when the barn doors open. We enter that pungent, hayseed room filled with animals, to find a family with a baby sitting in the straw, behind them angels, shepherds, wise men, the star. Last night, I was going to see another team pull it off.
Suddenly by my watch it was 6.40; the pageant starts at 7, so I pulled on many layers and rushed off. Nearing the farm, I couldn’t understand where everyone was – usually, the audience is streaming in. The main farm gate, open during the pageant, was locked, so I went around to the other one. No one in the courtyard; the drive-shed, where the event begins, was also locked. Everything silent, dark and empty. My watch said 7 p.m. What had happened? Had they cancelled, for some reason? This is what the Farm looked like on Xmas Eve, I realised, before our community pageant filled it with song and neighbourhood.
Stephen appeared. No, everything was on track; I was an hour early. It was 6 p.m. I looked again at my watch, which now said 7.05. It was running perfectly, just an hour fast. How can a watch suddenly be fast? I set it back, went home, and came back an hour later to be part of the huge crowd – perhaps 500 people or more this year, from babies to the very elderly, from people in fur coats to our neighbours from Regent’s Park, there to sing and celebrate together.
All kinds of things went wrong, as usual, but it didn’t matter. It was a perfect night, calm and bright, everything shining with a dusting of new snow. The baby in the barn was particularly beautiful and serene. When I left, I watched two grandsons with their arms around their frail, very old grandmother, helping her up the snowy path.
My watch is working perfectly. 10 a.m., it says now. Sam is asleep upstairs; Anna landed safely and will come over before noon. The presents are waiting. Time for another cup of coffee, and then I’ll stuff the bird.
Joy to the world.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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A new book by Beth Kaplan, published by Mosaic Press – “Midlife Solo”

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