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“I have a voice!” shouts the King.

I am a list-maker. There is no situation, I’m sure, that could not be improved with a list or two. How I survived before the invention of stickies is a mystery, but the second I saw one of those little yellow squares clinging to a wall, my list-making assumed a whole new dimension.

But there is nothing like Xmas to provoke the frantic making of endless lists. Who’s coming for dinner, what we need, when we should get it and how (without a car); lists especially, of course, of people who need presents, people who might need presents if they appear on the doorstep with one for me, people who should have a present whether they give me one or not (the women at Doubletake.) People to phone and write to, the Xmas letter to write and email, the house to decorate. Etc. You know all this, because you’re reading this while taking a break from your own lists.
This year, something different – we’re not going to buy a tree from our neighbours the Kims on the corner. Instead, I’m going to move the giant hibiscus that lives inside in winter into the living-room, and hang lights and baubles from its sturdy branches. A hibiscus doesn’t smell piney, no. It doesn’t look remotely piney. But it’s big and green, and that will do.
This Xmas, my daughter is leaving on Dec. 26th to visit her father and his extended family in Florida, and as of Dec. 28th, I have rented my house for a week to a family celebrating a wedding in the neighbourhood, and I’m using the money and the excuse to go to my mother’s condo in Florida, to begin preparations for its sale this coming year. So we’ll be dispersed right after the day. No one needs a tree hanging around, dropping needles and getting in the way. This year, at least.
Since if you follow this blog, you know my second-hand shopping habits, it’ll be no surprise to you that I do Christmas that way too. Usually, if I find something for one of my kids or friends in Goodwill or Doubletake or the Sally Ann, I give it to them right away – but starting in about August, I hang onto it all. There are big brown bags upstairs, labelled with the names of the recipients, filled with the bits and bobs I’ve been procuring for months – sweaters, funny things, stocking stuffers, a treasure or two. I’ll go out to buy new books, and socks for my son, and perhaps a gift certificate to something – movies or the Y or something useful. And I’ll give them some money. I’ll do anything to obviate the need to go into a store at this time of year and shove through the crowds looking for some way to spend money while trying not to hear “The Little Drummer Boy” for the thousandth time. This is the antithesis of Xmas, to be avoided at all costs.
How people do this year after year, I don’t know. Why do we equate the spending of money with caring and love?
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Great joy yesterday – I saw a truly superb film, “The King’s Speech.” It was everything I’d heard it to be and more, a fantastic treat, acting, directing, cinematography, and script. To be savoured. I loved it especially because it’s about my work too. When the King shouts, “I HAVE A VOICE!”, that is what I hope for every one of my students. “Find your voice and trust yourself to use it,” says the Ryerson blurb for my course. The film shows you much about that process. I suggest you see it immediately, if not sooner.
I’m finishing Christopher Hitchens’ memoir today – it’s acerbic and often bitter, a great antidote to Xmas, but I’ve had enough. He’s terribly clever and articulate, but it’s far too long. I greatly enjoy his turns of phrase. He calls televangelists like Falwell and Robertson “tethered gas-balloons of greed and cynicism once written up by Martin Amis as ‘frauds of Chaucerian proportions.'”
Here is what he – delightfully – says about Ronald Reagan:
I did not at all like Ronald Reagan, and nobody then could persuade me that I should … There was, first, his appallingly facile manner as a liar. He could fix the camera with a folksy smirk that I always found annoying but that got him called “the Great Communicator” by a chorus of toadies in the press, and proceed to utter the most resounding untruths…

Up close, at press conferences, the carapace of geniality proved to be flaky: I was once within a few feet of his lizard-like face when he was asked a question he didn’t care for … and found myself quite shaken by the look of senile, shifty malice that came into his eyes … Nobody was less surprised than I when Reagan was later found to be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease: I believe it will one day be admitted that some of his family and one or two of his physicians had begun to suspect this as early as his first term.

If the image of the leader of the free world in power while suffering from Alzheimer’s isn’t an antidote to the glib, saccharine side of this holiday, I don’t know what is.

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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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