The kids and I weren’t aware we started a ritual last week, but it was the beginnings of something worthwhile.
Basically all you do is come home from school and work and go to the freezer and take out the Slow-Churned Edy’s Chocolate ice cream and eat as much as you can stand while talking about your day at the kitchen table. You do this every day, at first because it’s cold outside and oddly the most comforting thing is a bowl full of chocolate ice cream, with requisite chocolatey mustaches to boot.
In order to continue the ritual, you have to buy more of the freezer food of the gods. No other flavor or variety will do. You can still sit and talk about big ideas and bellyache about petty people, but something will be missing. Graham crackers and milk do not cut it.
My friend Lisa picked me up from the airport today. I knew we didn’t have any ice cream at home so I made asked her to take me to Frogurtland so we could dish, literally and figuratively. It was like I was homesick for chocolate ice cream.
My uncle Bob died last week and it was the kind of awful terrible unfathomably unfair thing, in spite of having lived a very full and happy life. Just the way he went. Parkinson’s Disease is a total crap way to go, the slow lumbering suffering and total awareness of the dismantling of everything over which you once had control.
I’m not into the theology of our loved ones smiling down on us. Not yet. I’m into the theology that we weren’t made for any of this. We were made for a better world. Every ache and acute feeling of separation in this world is a reminder that we were made for wholeness and unity.
The best scene in all of Mad Men is the last episode of Season I (“The Wheel”) when Don Draper is selling the “carousel” marketing pitch to Kodak. He defines nostalgia in such a perfect way that it reaches across every culture, generation, sex, race, state. Nostalgia, “delicate but potent,” that which causes us to ache in our hearts to return to a place we have once been, to have what we once had.
The irony of the song “Silent Night” is that the entire point of Christ’s entrance into this world was to expose the violence, the jealousy, the greed–the total lack of heavenly peace on earth. There could have been little solace there in the manger or beyond, given Herod’s orders. According to Ortberg’s “Who is this Man?,” Herod, upon hearing the news of the birth a King of the Jews, ordered soldiers to plunge their swords into every baby boy in Bethlehem. How still we see thee lie.
Christmas is nostalgic. Christmas is the reminder of three-speed bikes once-longed-for. Christmas is finally getting to go to midnight mass. Christmas is observing new chocolate ice cream traditions at 3 o’clock in the cold winter afternoon.
But Christmas is also inherently nostalgic. Christ’s birth is nostalgic, pointing us to a condition we once had and can once again attain, but only through Him. He was born, vulnerable to a broken world. The earth ached to return to what it once was. Christ, the one who would redeem us all, longs to restore our factory settings so that our hearts may no longer know the pain of separation.