Night comes to Highland Lakes quietly as the commercial world's ceaseless stirring finally winds down, the shops in Vernon close, traffic on 94 thins out, and the neighborhood lights come on, trees and candles and figurines. I can see a few tacky inflatable lawn Santas and Snow Globes clear across the lake. Most of my neighbors are at home cooking, wrapping presents, trimming their trees, or napping. They're tired and cold, glad to be on the couch opposite the fire, except for their kids who can't contain themselves. Sweet Lou says, "It's been a long year. I don't know, maybe it's me getting old." I don't think so. Others are away at someone else's home, having traveled across town or across the country. Travel is just as bad as work. Young families with small children are readying themselves for the early mass at St. Mary's where Father Tom will lead them in song and bless the babies. So many expectant people tonight, though most would be hard pressed to say what it is they expect. Something better, something good, something real.
There are no shepherds around here, and even fewer wise men. The light of the eastern star can't be seen through the unearthly glow of New York City. Nowadays Santa Claus carries disinfectant with him and has to have a Homeland Security permit to operate a reindeer sleigh across borders. Cousin Brucie no longer follows the jolly guy's track from the North Pole down to the East Coast the way he used to when I kept a transistor radio under my pillow to listen to his Christmas Eve broadcasts a long time ago. Children will believe anything.
Shh. I love the quiet and the dark. It comes down to the baby and stubborn belief. A way of affirming new life in the deadest part of the year. It's all a big mystery, isn't it, how god came into the world, and still does on occasion, if you're willing to accept him. Chuck the sentiment, I'm talking about the limits of human understanding. Surely, this infant attended by animals is someone's god, his mother's if no one else's. Where would he be without her love, her adoration? Where would we be? Tonight I won't deny my mother's faith, even though I doubt this beautiful myth will hold for long.