And the next day . . .

’Twas the day after Christmas, the toys were all broken,
There were no Merry Christmases still to be spoken;
The great drifts of snow that had once looked so nifty
Were melting away as the temperature neared fifty,
And all through the house there were family and friends
Who were feeling much more than before at loose ends;
Here and there through the house there were various scenes,
Some playing at cards, some looking at screens
Of computers and TVs, some throwing things out
As we still will be doing for days, I don’t doubt.
Then off to Virginia, Long Island, New Jersey,
New York, California – that’s all, it’s a mercy –
But at least for a few days the family was here;
Now we spread out again to confront the New Year.

Christmas Day and the day after do, indeed, provide quite a contrast. The immediate family numbers thirteen human beings and two dogs and they come from different time zones and climates and work habits. Even Christmas morning began slowly. The youngest, ages 3 and 7, and still on Pacific Time, did not rush down to attack the tree but stumbled down sleepily at a surprisingly late hour and checked out the items in their stockings long after grandparents and some parents had had breakfast. Finally everyone was assembled and the time honored gift-giving cycle could begin. The youngest one selects a package and presents it to someone else who opens it while others look on, then the next youngest chooses for someone else, and so on through all thirteen – and then again. We got through two rounds before time to leave for the 11 am service at church 12 miles away and by the time we got back it was lunch time. The rest of the afternoon saw round after round until nothing remained under the tree and it was dinner time and we gathered around the extended and groaning board. For one whole day we were all on the same agenda.

Now it’s the next day and agendas have diverged. Three or four are exchanging information with their computer screens, one or two are watching television, others are eating breakfast or lunch, reading, loading or unloading the dishwasher (a constant activity in a gathering this size), getting ready for a shopping trip, playing cards. A card game engaged three in the same activity for a while, but togetherness is a sometime thing once the intensity of Christmas Day is behind us. We may be one family, but we are also individuals, and unity doesn’t come naturally to human beings. We, at least, do have a common heritage and do, on the whole, like each other, and yet, even so, to come together for a barge trip through France or a Christmas celebration requires considerable planning and expense and sacrificing of one’s own agenda.

I ponder all this – and wish Barack Obama good luck as he tries to get enough people on the same agenda nationally and internationally to make a difference. He will have my prayers.

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