We’re back in New York City for the holidays. Because most of our family here has vanished (either deceased or otherwise departed), ours will be a quiet Christmas in a noisy city.
I discover that my new glasses, which looked so dorky in Dubois that I never wore them, are un-remarkably trendy here. I take a selfie on the street one evening, and surprise myself by what I see.
With a change of glasses, coat, and scarf (and facial expression) have I become someone else? Hardly.
Amid the clamor and the energy, I miss being in Dubois–even more so when friends let me know how much there is to miss. My friend and neighbor Karen McCullough sent these pictures, which make the loss all the more obvious.
She included the picture at left below, and I sent back the one at right. To be fair, she took hers first thing in the morning and I took mine at noon. I know that the temperature in Dubois often also gets near 50 at midday in the winter. It can be darn cold here too, especially around the holidays.
Back in Dubois, Karen told me, nearly all of the Christmoose cards are already gone from the little trees in Dubois’ two coffeehouses (the Perch and Kathy’s). For more than a decade, this has been the town’s version of “secret Santa.”
Each card contains a wish list for an anonymous needy child, identified only by age and gender. Forms to create a wish list are available at the food bank and the Opportunity Shop.
Donors take away a card, buy the gifts on the list, and return with the gifts to be distributed (also anonymously) on December 19.
Mary Ellen, who runs the program, told me today that 30 cards have been taken away. Can people guess the identities of the children from the lists? I wonder, but it doesn’t really matter. In a town as small as Dubois, it seems to me, even a secret Santa may feel quite personal.
She also reports that donations to the Salvation Army, which she and Mayor Twila Blakeman collect at the supermarket, are running particularly strong this year.
Speaking of Christmas spirit, here’s the scene at the Spirit of Christmas concert on Saturday evening at the Headwaters, sponsored by the Museum, the Library, and the Friends of the Library.
It shows one of the great facts about town: Given the opportunity, people actually dance together. And they donate tempting baked goods. Look at the spread they laid out for this event. I gain weight just thinking about it.
Imagine the bustle that must have preceded this scene, as Tammy worked with volunteers to set up the stage and reposition the furniture after the High Country Christmas Extravaganza on Friday.
There, I could have bought a Christmas tree already decorated by friends at the Kiwanis Club (at left, below), or one from the Chamber of Commerce with handmade ornaments showing some of the many ways you can amuse yourself in Dubois.
I would also have been tempted by the handmade toys, wreaths, and gingerbread houses. Of course there are craft fairs like this at many churches in the city, but not knowing the vendors or anyone else in the crowd, I’m rarely moved to stop by. Back in Dubois, I am always curious to see who’s been busy making what.
Naturally, I also have good friends in New York City, and it’s lovely to see them. But here the season brings traffic, bustle, incessant impersonal holiday music in the shops, noisy bars, over-hyped squalling children on the crowded sidewalks. The spirit? Entertain, or be lonely. Buy lots of stuff, or be square. Get down deep at the Christmas Eve service, but never set foot there the rest of the year.
This season is hardly a community event here. Seems in some ways it draws us apart rather than together. In my experience, the significant community events in the city are the disasters, like blackouts, big storms, or terrorist acts. Christmas is just yet another thing that turns up predictably every year, something else to amuse the children.
Tp be fair, you can’t blame the city for being a city. But at my stage in life, Christmas in Dubois seems to be much warmer, whatever the thermometer says.
© Lois Wingerson, 2015
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