Thursday, December 23, 2010

Surfing and Christmas, a Civic Soapbox essay by Martha Woodroof

Even though I was raised a heathen, I was raised with holiday traditions. 

My family went into a kind of rigid, 24-hour dance on Christmas Eve that went something like this: Oyster Stew at 5 pm, caroling at 7, home to listen to a scratchy recording of Dylan Thomas reading “A Child’s Christmas in Wales;” everyone to their previously staked-out corners of the house for final present preparation; the burning of the note to Santa Claus in the fireplace (this, even after my sister and I were both at schools a thousand miles from home), the hanging of the stockings (my sister’s had more jingle bells because she was older, and I’m still mad about it): and then, to bed. Christmas morning: the emptying of the stockings; breakfast of stollen and bacon; parade to the tree (I got to go first because was the younger); the opening of presents, and then, the walk.

Christmas Day in North Carolina was almost always grey. My sister and I would step out briskly into the neighborhood. There would be an occasional child about. wobbling along on a new bicycle or pulling a sled around a snowless front lawn, but mainly, it would just be quiet. Two cars in every driveway; smoke rising from every chimney.

From the time I was old enough to consider such things, I realized that this day was as close as my world was probably going to come to feeling secure. And that I was not the only person experiencing this, because for 24-hours, huge chunks of civilization worked hard at keeping bad behavior to a minimum.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to believe more and more in the devil, a slathering creature that yaps at my heels and tempts me to indulge in fear – the great limiting, dark side of experience. The feelings associated with December 25th remain the best defense I have against that Dark Beast of Fear, for Christmas day still bids me to find the Light in this world and walk toward it.

There’s a line in “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” which claims  that the “the holy tide of Christmas doth bring redeeming grace.” Growing up, I stacked my Beach Boy records right alongside old Dylan Thomas, and perhaps this slight physical association of Christmas with surfing is why, when I sing about the Holy Tide of Christmas, I have this  vision:
We are all out there together, on the vast Ocean of Life, sitting on our surfboards, most likely worried out of our minds about something – which is, I do think, the general human condition. Then, someone yells, “Surf’s up!” We turn toward the horizon and there it is: the holy tide of Christmas. 
Suddenly, we’re scrambling into position on our boards; and, full of joy, thinking of nothing but catching that giant wave.
Martha note: Wishing you the merry-ist of winter holidays from all of us who have the good fortune to work at WMRA.

1 comment:

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