December 25, 2019

The Alabama Theater – Downtown Birmigham

And so another Christmas draws to a close. Sometimes I think the Medieval period had it right with the twelve days of Christmas. A good two week holiday in the depths of winter full of fun, feasting, lights, and the promise of new hope and new year through the eternal story of childbirth could do all of us good, but modern post-industrial society won’t stand for such lack of productivity so we have to get it all over at once and then pretend that the other eleven days of Christmas are just verses in a song featuring a rather disturbing amount of avian life.

How was my Christmas? Fairly low key. I never did drag out any decorations. Maybe next year… I did do a few holiday related things. I went to Birmingham Festival Theater to see my friend Michael Wilson as Crumpet the Elf in David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries. I made an appearance at Judy Jones‘ justifiably famous Solstice Party, now in its sixty something year and one of the highlights of Bohemian Birmingham’s social calendar. The actors, the musicians, the artists, the activists, the aging hippies: All there in abundance. Judy keeps threatening that every year will be the last year but it’s such a fixture that it’s a party that’s likely to outlive us all in some form or fashion.

Christmas Eve, our church, like many others, has a family oriented candlelight carol service. As I sing in the choir, I turn up for that as long as I am in town. James Sullivan would be extremely upset with me if I played hooky from that one. Tommy and I used to sing for that, then race out the door quickly in order to get back home and put the finishing touches on dinner for his family. This year, not having that obligation, I could linger a bit afterwards. The church I grew up in, University Congregational in Seattle, had a very similar service late afternoon on Christmas eve. My favorite part of these services has always been the lighting of the candles as the congregation sings Silent Night. Starting with one little flame, the faces are slowly illuminated as more and more candles are lit and each individual point of light joins the general glow and warmth. It’s one of those symbolic moments that makes you understand the immense need we all have for hope and community and warmth and light. Fortunately, there’s never been a repeat of the service from the early 70s when my little brother, age four or five, got his candle too close to the elaborate hair do of the woman sitting in the pew in front of him. There was a rapid conflagration as her Aqua Net burned off. My diminutive Scottish grandmother, sitting next to him, had the presence of mind to beat the flames out and the woman was unhurt, although her hair do was a little the worse for wear. The following year, children under 10 were not allowed open flames…

After church, it was off to a late supper at Ellise Pruitt Mayor‘s house. Ellise is my theatrical partner in crime and probably more responsible than anyone else for getting me up on stage again after all those fallow years. We’ve been friends for pushing 20 years now, get each other whole heartedly and have seen each other through all sorts of traumas. All three of her children returned to the roost for the holiday and it was nice to catch up with them all as adults and meet their spouses whom I had, of course, heard of but not actually seen before. Dinner was raclette cheese melted and eaten with bread and salami. I can see raclette being a possible addition to holiday traditions in the future.

Star Wars… nothing but Star Wars…

Christmas morning, I slept in and did very little for several hours. I don’t get a lot of those mornings so I took advantage of sloth with a side of gluttony and indulged. Then, off to keep the one Christmas tradition started thirty years ago with Steve and continued with Tommy – a matinee of whatever the big film of the season is. This year, of course, it was the concluding film in the Star Wars saga. Star Wars, as I wrote earlier this week, has been part of my life since my teens and it’s nice to have seen the whole cycle through and this film is full of nods to the original movie as a number of things come full circle. I have made it to one other holiday film, the new movie adaptation of Cats. It’s nowhere near as bad as some reviewers would have you believe. It’s just really, really weird. MNM will weigh in on both films as soon as I can get myself writing. Probably Thursday evening or Friday sometime.

I ended things up with Christmas dinner with Angela Forbus Pruitt and her sister and her partner. Intimate gathering with good food, good wine, good conversation and a feeling that its nice to have friends of several decades duration. Even though I still feel very out of place in Birmingham from time to time, I only have to have something like that to give me a slap up the side of the head and remind me of how enmeshed I am in the fabric of community of this little corner of the world. If you’d told me that I’d be living in Birmingham, Alabama and rather enjoying it as recently as 22 years ago, I would have laughed in your face and asked you what pharmaceuticals you had been ingesting. Funny how life turns out sometimes.

One last Christmas thing to do, the phone call to Seattle where the clan is assembled at Christmas dinner for good wishes to all and, in that spirit, God bless us, everyone.

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