Wednesday, December 28, 2011


My camera refused to focus in the darkness.
Well, in the Christmas story told over the last few entries, we have arrived at Christmas Eve. I spent some time in the early evening wrapping the presents I had bought for Susanne. It is a job I do not care for, so I put it off until the last minute. Thank you, thank you, to the person who invented the gift bag. Tissue paper I can handle! There was one box that required wrapping, and it was messy, I assure you.

As you know, I sing in the choir at Market Square Church, and our contribution to the late service was a couple of anthems and two parts of a newly-written mass based on European Christmas carols. A highlight of the service is the candlelighting at the end where the congregation sings "Silent Night" as individual candles are lighted, followed by "Joy to the World," when the candles are held high up to illumine the church. I attempted to capture this moment on video, and here is the result.

Newman records on Christmas Eve.
The service was recorded for broadcast on the radio the following morning. The morning service is broadcast each week, but because a smaller attendance was expected the following morning, Sunday, Christmas Day, the service was to be held in Geneva Hall, a large and beautiful space on the church's fourth level. (Geneva Hall dates from 1882, I believe.) There is no broadcasting equipment there, so the Christmas Eve service was broadcast as the Geneva Hall service took place. There is a wonderful volunteer named Newman S., who faithfully records and broadcasts all of the Sunday services and is the resident sound technician. We are incredibly lucky to have him.

Following the service, I stopped for gas, then drove home to find a darkened house, as the Mrs. had retired for the night. I checked on the milk and cookies for Santa, and put a cup of decaf coffee I had brought for Susanne in the fridge.

In Geneva Hall we used a wonderful little pipe organ, and, accompanied by an oboe and violin, sang the entire mass from the evening before. It's called Mass of the Nativity by Richard Shephard and was performed on Christmas Morning at St. Thomas Church in New York in 2009 and 2010. Holy Communion was celebrated, and lots of carols were sung. The room was filled, and it was nice to be together in this smaller space.

After the service, I headed home for Christmas brunch and gift exchange. When I got there, the table was set beautifully with the old-fashioned turkey-patterned china Susanne had bought at Replacements last year, new placemats to match, antique pink glassware given to us by our late Aunt Dot, and silverware her sister Robin had recently given to Susanne. A very pretty sight.

Susanne was busy in the kitchen fixing ham and eggs, toast, and sweet potato pancakes. Peaches were served as an appetizer. Soon it appeared on the table and was mightily enjoyed. The volcano cheese bread was great with the "dippy eggs."

Even with sugar-free Mrs. Butterworth's syrup, the pancakes were delicious.


After clearing the table, we went into the living room and got comfortable for the fantastic gift-giving orgy that was to follow. We sat by the fire and listened to it crackling as the embers glowed. See the fabulous array of gifts surrounding the poinsettia in its Turkish olive bucket?

As we settled in, I surveyed the decorations that Susanne devised single-handedly this year. This little tree has lights and little strings of stars and mirrored circles sold at fair trade prices by their makers in third world countries.

These old mixing bowls become special with greens and sparkling lights.

We enjoyed the glow of a star-shaped candle floating with cranberries in a mixing bowl of water.

Okay, enough of this sentimental balderdash...on to the paper-ripping exchange of goodies! John got a wooden birdhouse, styled as a church, for the back porch or in the newly-planted garden.

Susanne got some Hershey's dark chocolate.

So I would be more surprised, I agreed to keep my eyes shut until this gift was totally unwrapped. It turns out to have been a "SodaStream" gizmo that turns ordinary water into carbonated water to which you can add various flavors to make your own soda pop! Susanne knows how much I like sparkling water. CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

Susanne got a new wireless mouse for her laptop. They are so cheap now, there is no sense in fooling around with the old one, which just gave up the ghost.

Now it was Susanne's turn to close her eyes as she unwrapped my gift. I asked her if she had any idea what it was (a hand-held blender), and she said no, but she knew what she hoped it wasn't -- a hand-held blender! CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

I also gave Susanne Chris Matthews' new book on John F. Kennedy, which she has been wanting to read. It's garnered very good reviews.

Susanne also bought me a whoopie pie "kit," and so did my sister, Rachel! You're all invited to the viewing after I have consumed them all.

In our next installment, we'll let you know what happened after the gift exchange! Yes, there is food. It was Christmas, after all.

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