Friday, December 25, 2009

Of Zuzu's Petals and Buffalo Gals

It is early yet here 'NTSG so the house - for present purposes anyway - belongs to Rosalita and me. That will change shortly I know. Soon everyone will kick off the cobwebs from last night's extended Christmas Eve festivities at Grandpa Joe's and will resume the pursuit of Christmas cheer. While I look forward to that eagerly, I am also enjoying the respite here in the interval.

Nona wore an ear-to-ear grin last night looking down upon an evening that she had presided over for the entirety of her adult life. Margaret and Joe had spent the better part of this week preparing stuffed escarole, vinegar peppers, stuffed peppers and too many other treats to count and last night Frank added to the mix delights ranging from stuffed mushrooms to eggplant Parmesan to shrimp scampi. And in a kitchen where it would not have been unexpected to hear a sad story or two - an expression of regret or sorrow perhaps - and to hear the sound of a sob, neither was audible. Instead, there was much laughter and much singing. There was much love.

It occurred to me, seated as I was at one observation post at the far end of our extended table, just how well Suzy B. had prepared all of us for this event. How well the lessons of life she and Joe taught to Frank and to Margaret were learned by their children. And how well those learned lessons were taught by Frank and by Margaret (in Frank's case in tandem with his lovely wife Chrissy and in Margaret's case in spite of the impediment of yours truly) to the eight grandchildren with whom Joe and Sue have been blessed. And while my bias is inherent and one for which I shall not apologize, I challenge anyone to find a bad one in the bunch of eight. It simply is not going to happen - on that you may take my word.

Tragedy befalls all of us. Sadness, while seemingly always lurking in the shadows, more often than not shows up not only uninvited but unexpectedly as well. Happiness on the other hand takes a bit of work. It is something that we can always plan for and prepare for so that when it arrives we shall be ready. And when we are well-prepared for it, its arrival is seamless and smooth. Last night we gathered as an exceptionally well-prepared family - whose level of preparedness likely surprised more than a few among our number - and enjoyed one another's happiness. A lot of things beget more of that very same thing and quite a lot of those things are not good (such as violence begetting violence, war begetting war, etc). Last night we were reminded that joy begets joy. And it was quite a wonderful sight to behold. And it was quite a beautiful evening.

Arrived home last night from Joe's in time to catch the final forty-five minutes of "It's A Wonderful Life", which is the point in the story where George finds himself lost in despair at Martini's, gets punched in the mouth and minutes later finds himself on the bridge in the driving snow preparing to take his own life. Unless you are among the seven people in the world who has not seen this film, you know that from that it is at that point that George meets Clarence Oddbody (AS2), who shortly thereafter grants George's life-changing wish: he allows George to see the world he knows and does not realize he loves as if he had never been born, which allows George to realize just what a wonderful life he has lived. At the movie's end, hope has been rescued from the jaws of despair and the Bailey family has realized a happy ending.

Among the piles of dollars and stacks of coins that are poured out onto the Baileys' table by George and Mary's family and friends who rally to his aid in his time of crisis is Clarence's copy of Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", in which Clarence inscribed, "Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends." A sentiment worth remembering every day, not only on Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas.


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