Christmas Eve With Monte

Toyon It’s a bright and beautiful Christmas Eve and I have nothing at all to complain about, but I’ve been feeling sorry for myself. Missing my daughter, that’s the main problem. We just saw her a couple of weeks ago in New York, but now she is back in England, and it is our second Christmas without her, and it just doesn’t feel right. We talked on the telephone, me standing in a sunlit room looking out onto green hills, she in a white winter faraway, and I whined a bit
and told her it didn’t feel like Christmas without her. I’ve been resenting all this distance lately, and not keeping that resentment to myself. I guess my
sense of having been abandoned is exacerbated by the season, but I have to
admit I am the sort of person who pretty much says out loud whatever I am feeling. Finally Monte pointed out that I was beginning to sound like a bitter old woman. Ouch.

But he was right, as usual. I need to consider the possibility that telling someone how sad you are without them may actually dampen their spirits a bit, and does not necessarily inspire them to return to you any sooner. Despite its being an age-old technique in my own family, guilt is not an effective motivator in the long run. I need, in short, to bite my tongue, be grateful for all I have, and enjoy our quiet little version of Christmas.

As I type this, I can see Monte outside on the deck repairing the window screens. This is his idea of relaxing. He takes on a project, some sort of puttering or fixing that has needed doing, and it is often something that’s been in the back of his mind for awhile, and now he has the time for it, and he’s happy. He has also set me up with a brand new laptop, put air in my bike tires, and been my constant and indulgent companion, but when I’m whining about our daughter-less house, it sounds like I don’t appreciate him. That’s another thing he pointed out to me today. But oh, I do appreciate him, and maybe I need to say that
out loud, since I leave so little else unspoken. This post, in fact, is dedicated to Monte, without whom I really would be a bitter old woman.

Monte, you see, is not just my husband; he’s like my life coach. He’s probably got a thousand IQ points on me and a sort of grounding in reality that I have always lacked, and he helps keep me centered and functional. Let’s just consider the last couple of hours – shall we? Here are a few Christmas Eve sound bites from Monte:

“Stop complaining. Look at everything that is good in your life, and be grateful.” We already discussed these.

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Related to the above.

“Try a light touch, not a tap.” This has to do with the touch pad on my new computer, but it somehow seems applicable to other situations.

“Don’t be braking all the time. Go with it. Let it run.” This is something he shouted out to me as we descended a hill on our bicycles this morning. He has been telling me this for years, which gives you some idea of the kind of cyclist I am. Again, it seems applicable to a lot of situations. File with “Don’t fight forces; use them,” which is another suggestion he frequently offers.

“It’s nice to be nostalgic, but it’s far more interesting to pay attention to what young people are doing now. Take the music, for example. A lot of it is better than what we were listening to.” This gives you some idea how Monte avoids becoming an obsolete old fart. At the same time, he is very big on mentoring, and passing the torch, and gracefully getting out of the way for the new to have their turn.

“There are only two means of achieving change: one is violent revolution and the other is tedious, painful compromise. That’s what’s happening now with health care reform; you’re watching the sausage being made.” Now we’re getting into politics, policy, and democratic governance, which is Monte’s bread and butter.

“Some good is better than no good. Politics is the art of the possible.” Related to the above, but speaking of other issues.

“Idealism without leverage is meaningless.” We were talking about how quickly even the Left has turned on President Obama because of his pragmatism. Monte respects the fact that Obama sees complexity and seeks compromise, that his idealism is tempered by real world facts.

“The two great enemies of democracy are extremism and apathy.” Related to the above.

“People need to learn their own lessons in their own way. Including our daughter.” But it’s nice to have someone smart around to help.

We can just stay home and listen to Handel’s Messiah. You know that always works.” He said this because I was longing for the real spirit of Christmas and thinking about driving into the Valley to go to church with my friend later tonight.

Now the sky is glowing as dusk draws near, and Monte just went to get our mail, and
the house is suddenly so quiet it is ringing. I’m listening to it now: It’s a thin ringing, a glassy sound, the electronic hum of a light fixture perhaps, and barely discernible, but to me it is the sparkling tintinnabulation of tiny bells beneath the everyday. There is another layer to the world. And it’s Christmas Eve. I am nothing but blessed. And I’m alone only briefly.

Now…I’m making pizza and listening to Handel’s Messiah.

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