Put Another Log on the Fire

My newspaper column for this week:

Ten days before Christmas. By the time you read this, the timeline will have shifted. Sounds ominous doesn’t it? Remember when we were kids and ten days was a lifetime, and Christmas seemed to take its jolly time to get here? I read an explanation the other day about why as we get older things seem to move faster—something about events no longer being new to us so we experience them at a faster pace. I am sure that explanation makes sense to someone somewhere, but it did not really resonate with me.

I do find that different things have become more important to me over the years. Things I would have glossed over or not paid any particular attention to when I was younger. As I get older, I may not get wiser, but I do find myself being more reflective and more thankful for the present. Sound like I have taken one too many bites from Oprah’s gingerbread, or delved too deeply into Deepak Chopra’s philosophy, or heaven forbid, taken a page out of Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now? (I find all of his books to be dense, or maybe I am the one who is dense.)

Over the weekend I was lucky enough to attend two small parties—one with my Writers’ Group, and another with some friends whom I have known since high school. The warmth of being surrounded by good friends (with good food in our bellies topped up with a little wine) was wonderful, but the loveliness of the moments spent with friends was brought to the fore even more vividly by a suggestion I read this morning in my search for a topic for this column. I turned to a book that my husband gave me over a decade ago called “The Little Book of Christmas Joys” and recognized in number 303 a truth that had been borne out by my experience over the weekend.

My little book of joys suggested in number 303 that “When you have friends over and there’s Christmas magic in the air, don’t let the evening end early. Throw another log on the fire.” In both instances, the hosts of the evening “threw another log on the fire”, if not literally, then figuratively. I stayed up long past my bedtime listening to shared stories and taking part in something that needed no screen, either computer or television or phone, to keep me entertained. The art of conversation and conviviality is not lost—and the closeness of friendship shared is one of the most potent elements in the magic of Christmas.

On Saturday I was fortunate to share some tea with a couple of friends at Tim Horton’s. The coffee shop was filled to the brim as it so often is. Our peals of laughter brought us to the attention of other patrons, who I am sure wondered if we had brought a flask to spice up our hot drinks. We had not—we were just enjoying being in each other’s presence. We joked, occasionally elbow jostled, and left on a higher note than the one we had come in on.

Life is full of these moments. My dream for Christmas Day is that I be surrounded by family and friends and that the warmth of the day envelope us all. But I have learned to appreciate the random moments when my family is just sitting around watching a movie, or sharing a meal and laughing together. Or those moments when you realize that the friends that surround you are the most important thing—and that sharing our lives together is what life is all about.

I have used the word “share” many times throughout this column—and though I could have called on my thesaurus to find a few derivatives of the word I did not—as there is no greater word than share. We share our lives and we are richer; we share our food and drink and we are sustained; we share our laughter and we reach that ultimate goal: happiness.

This Christmas season I am counting my blessings. And the blessing that wins out over everything else is the people in my life. They help me keep what little is left of my sanity; they bring joy to my life; they are the magic of Christmas.

Am I getting sloppily sentimental? Perhaps. But is there a better time of year to realize that sloppy sentimentality? I think not. So put another log on the fire, even if you do not have a fireplace.

What is one of your Christmas blessings?

Published in: on December 16, 2014 at 12:47 am  Comments (23)  
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W ~ or What Makes People Laugh?

“…what on earth makes people laugh?” ~  Maeve Binchy

I took this image myself at a book signing in ...

Maeve Binchy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The question of “….what on earth makes people laugh” is a good one, posed by a famously adept and prolific author, Maeve Binchy. We lost her this summer but her words live on in about a thousand books (only a slight exaggeration).  Her question is one that does not have a single answer.

Binchy said in her book, “The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club”,  that “All writing takes courage. Maybe comic writing just takes more courage than the other sort.” In trying to come up with an answer to her own question, she came to three conclusions, which I have nut-shelled here for you:

1. Sometimes, she thinks, people will laugh when writers make themselves look foolish, vulnerable, or silly. If that is the case, then I have this whole comedy thing wrapped up. I am sure that sometimes I come across as both foolish and silly (without really putting a lot of effort forth – one could say it comes naturally).

2. Binchy believes that “people laugh if you can create a truly funny character, like a clown figure, somebody that you are meant to laugh at.” I don’t know about you, but I do not find clowns all that funny. There are a few, like Milky the Clown, Le Clown and Bozo, who do not fit into this category, but I find clowns on the whole, sad, which proves that laughter and comedy are highly subjective.

3. When she worked as a journalist, Binchy interviewed the guy who wrote the Marx Brothers scripts, as well as George Burns, and Bob Hope. “Every single one of them” she said, “had no idea whether something was funny until they tried it out.” I do not find the Marx Brothers all that funny except for Harpo who did not talk and used a horn to squeak out his answers (and even he became annoying after a while).

I think both George Burns and Bob Hope are funny. Burns because he was an advocate of observational humour and Bob Hope because he knew some of his stuff was old and hackneyed but delivered it with such self-deprecation that it was funny.

Comedy is very individual. What makes you fall off your chair, or lol does not necessarily strike my funny bone. What I find funny you might question. Binchy wrote an article that she said made her both popular and “thought to be humorous”. What she did was take an everyday situation and make herself vulnerable to it. She said that she had not stayed in a hotel until she was twenty-two and did not know the protocol “about whether you make the bed” or not when you stayed in a hotel. She opted for a compromise and “sort of straightened the bed and folded back the covers” which she felt would not destroy her as a “hotel visitor.”  After writing the article she was amazed that “half the country seemed to have the same dilemma” and was delighted with her wonderful sense of humour.

I understand why this garnered her the accolades she received, as it is something most of us have had to contend with. We don’t want to be thought of as slobs, but we also don’t want to make the bed up so perfectly that it looks not slept in, hence the staff would not change the sheets. Although I am not sure why we expect the sheets to be changed every day at a hotel when we certainly (or I certainly) don’t do it at home.

On a similar note, I have always wondered what it would be like to have someone clean my house. I am not a self-professed domestic goddess, but I am also not so sure I want my chaos to come to light (as if this is not confession enough; sure write about it and try to keep it secret: smart move).

Humour really is in the funny bone of the beholder. Or as Peter Ustinov said, “Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.”

Cropped screenshot of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby...