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Time of Year For Reflecting

Friday, December 26th, 2008 · No Comments

This moving piece was written by my late step-grandfather, Alan Pritchard (Nana’s second husband for as long as either of them was in my life), and was originally published 30 years ago today in The Sacramento Bee, the daily for which he was editor and columnist. Merry Christmas, one and all, and enjoy this excellent reflection on the holiday season.

Tuesday, December 26, 1978
p. A2 The Sacramento Bee
by Alan Pritchard

We have reached the betwixt days on this crazy, spinning spaceship. Christmas has gone wherever old Christmases go and the Fatherperson Time of the old year is doddering on his last pedal extremities. The diapered Newperson Year is just a few orbits away.
Even as you read this it is the 360th day. In just five more, New Year will leap upon us and I, for one, am scarcely prepared. I never am. Why don’t things go quietly slow? I don’t want to get off; I just want to coast a bit. It is not to be.

The earth has passed its farthest tilt and now it is swinging us back towards our life support, the warming sun. The days will grow longer, sure, but now the difference is not notable. We are in the grip of cold or clouds or rain, and complain. Not long past we were locked in sun and blowing dust and smoke from burning, wind-dried forests. And crops failed and animals perished of thirst and toilet flushes were rationed, and we complained then, too.

This is the betwixt season a friend calls the Januaries.
“I got the Januaries real bad,” he says this time of year. The days have shorted out so there is more dark than light. He has overdosed on Christmas giving and depression sneaks upon him as he contemplates the coming hangover of bills.  The present-bearing uncles have gone to other rewards. He is now the magus bearing gifts and the cost of frankincense and myrrh, to say nothing of hovering galactic spaceships and electronic playing fields, is scandalously high in these inflated times.
It comes to me that the betwixt time of the Januaries is a spiritual season precisely because that is what we need. In large dosages. By now i have had it to the clavicles with the seemingly senseless tragedies of the year, the suicides at Jonestown, the laden plane at San Diego, the wasted winos in the plaza.

Here we are in our trekless space craft, spinning on its axis, circling the sun, revolving in the galaxy — a wheel in the midst of a wheel almost as Ezekiel saw. And smugly confident that tomorrow will be tomorrow, just as it was yesterday and today. We are space pioneers, all.  Every instant is unexplored territory, every mile is a brand new time. Withdraw our life support — heat, light, and the insulating air — and our ability to be is done.

‘Tis the season such thoughts come upon you as you seek the bottom of the glass of holiday cheer. I do not want to think of them. I pause to write of them and it forces me to think and I would rather not. Even as most of us, I am much more comfortable playing out the myths of the season, being husbandly and fatherly and grandfatherly and avuncular and bearing gifts and carefree year-end greetings.

I am not a philosopher to contemplate my navel in search of solemn truths. I am mere human, with doubts and fears, hopes and wonder. My sphere of influence goes scarcely past my nose.
But I am not a pessimistic passenger on our spinning craft in space. I am eager for the unknowable days ahead. A madman in the jungle or iron rule in Iran are not the most important things. There are human triumphs to be observed and celebrated along with the tragedies to mourn. We will further probe the crackling space and cure old ills and seek out peace and prosperity, and put the bad things in their proper niche.
I will need help along the way, even as you and you. And as I write in these betwixt days I become aware of the greatest help of all — to help some other. It softens the hard places and levels the high places and sweetens the bitter places.

Happy holidays, whatever yours may be.

Tags: anecdotes · sacramento