December 16, 2012
Ihr Kinderlein Kommet - An Xmas Story
So anyway, Winter has come to NorCal in the manner it has chosen for quite some time. Old Gaia with the white hair, snoozing on her wood-frame porch in a rocking chair, a coverlet quilt across her knees depicting forests, mountains, rivers and plains, inclines her head away from the loving gaze of her brother Phoebus Appollo as he canters in space with his gleaming chariot. As she turns her face away into shadow, tears trane down to swell the rivers and lakes below, give life to those forests and plains.
Gaia's tears are the sorrow of the world. She weeps for all those who still do not understand that when all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been killed, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.
So as Gaia's face turns from the sun, the world becomes colder and darker and nights become longer until that Solstice night when the turn away stops and everything starts to move again towards the light.
On the Island, more people are hanging lights than in the most recent years, albeit with more decorum than in times before the Bushie Administration. There is, however, some kind of resurgance of hope recently.
Over at Marlene and Andre's household attitudes regarding the Xmas spirit had always been dire. This was largely because everyone there was poor as dirt and living under dire circumstances to begin with. Nevertheless each year there were always a few people who tried to salvage the season. It came into Tipitina's head to hold a caroling expedition and there arose a general abnegation of desire around this sort of project.
Tipitina had enlisted Marsha and the two women bonded over their common story of household abuse. They soon collected a solid backbone of support from a few others but hit an obstacle in the figure of Rolf, the boy who had escaped old Europa by dint of force and wits and guile.
It wasn't so much his German-ness that caused the fellow to be so stoor about the holidays so much as his personal history, which had started punching the boy pretty hard right from the beginning. Growing up in the Eastern Zone ruled by Mother Russia, he had watched as his school chum got himself shot by the Vopos during his family's escape over the wire to the West. His father died and then one day while taking a walk near the Spee River, his increasingly erratic mother had simply left him there on the bridge by leaping over the side.
Then there was the matter of survival in the heart of one of the biggest cities in Europe. This he accomplished by lifting wallets, handbags, just about any old shiny thing that was not nailed down. Somewhere along the way his emotional life took a long vacation to some other, better place. He was not a Scrooge or a heartless man, however. Quite the contrary. It is true he had saved Suan's life in San Francisco when he very capably beat up three hoodlums trying to rob the girl -- and perhaps do worse in addition. Yes, stealing -- which he no longer practiced -- and fighting were two things about which Rolf knew a great deal. He also had developed an attachment to little Adam, whose own life bore a great resemblence to his own childhood.
He found Adam sitting on the vacant couch as household members gathered on the porch with their crudely fashioned songbooks, running over the itinerary.
"Hello Adam. Wussup happening? You have your i-tablet thing."
"I be checking out the news on Internet. Managed to hack into the service next door."
"You are smart kid for free internet. What is famous today on the news? You not going with others to make singing Christmas?"
"That dumbass WAP security is so easy. I don't feel like getting out there in the rain for just a few quarters. Tipitina things she gonna get people to give money."
"That is hardly possible I think. What is this about police all over?"
"O man you aint heard the news. Some effed-up kid cut loose in an elementary school with his mac-10. Killed about 20 kids and the principal and some teachers."
"That is sad, Adam. Right before the Christmas time. Look, there is woman weeping. So sad!"
"Yeah talk about it. Aint gonna be no Xmas for a whole lotta folks now."
"You should not look at this, Adam. Those poor kids and their parents. Life is already hard enough. Is there nothing better for you on Internet?"
"Heck I am a kid too. Could happen to me. Could happen anywhere anytime."
"I think you right my friend. But I hope nothing happens to you. I would be very sad."
"Why zat? Tipitina says you don't care about nobody. She says all Germans are cold bastards. Maybe its the weather."
"Perhaps so sometimes a lot. Especially Germans. But about weather I don't think so much the case. Still I hope nothing happens to you all same. I will fight anybody who tries to hurt you. I don't want so much to be cold."
"Yeah well how come you aint out there with the others?"
"I think my English speaking not best for singing. I ruin all song for everybody. They will just laugh. Tipitina is nice girl -- I not want to mess up her story."
"Now you say you like Tipitina? Gimmee a break!"
"Ja sure. She has good heart. She tell truth all time. Most people here in house are good people."
"Man if she talk to me the way I hear her talk to you, I'd smack dat bee...".
"Adam, don't talk so. She is person, not a dog. And sometimes hitting and fighting not best way."
"I suppose you like that Suan, too. She be a fox!"
"Ja sure, I like Suan. She is so innocent. And beautiful."
Adam snorted. "Innocent?! Dude let me clue you in about that Black whore. She works as a stripper at the Crazy Horse. She's about as innocent as Jesse James."
"All same, you look in her eyes you see she is innocent. That is why she is beautiful."
"You just wanna get in the sack with her, that's what you want."
"Maybe so, but still. And you are Black and you are innocent and beautiful also. I not want to sack you. That would be silly, my friend!"
"Man you is something else. I guess I hafta like you cause you are wierd. I sure wish my daddy had been like you."
"Uh, thank you. I guess you don't like your father."
"Heck I never even knew the effer! That was my step-dad what threw me from the car that time. They didn't want me around. So out I went. He is prolly dead from doing the crack all the time."
"Adam, you know the Ram Dass?"
"Just someone who helped me. He say there is no going back, only living with now and going forward. And there is only one correct path forward and that is to Herr Gott, my friend."
"Never heard you talk like that Rolf. Where does this come from?"
"One time in Berlin, when I was very small like you, the Sisters took me in for a while. They taught me some school. Even music and how to sing -- just not in English."
"Ja. Nuns. And ze Benedictines. Mönchen."
"You lived with Munchkins."
"Not quite. Or maybe so. Then I ran away -- too many rules for little me!"
The front door popped open and Suan stuck her head inside. "Anybody else coming?"
"Ja, we both coming. Me and my Kumpel, my pardner. Adam, close up I-tablet now."
"Well that is a change. What happened?
"We go sing for all zeh children, Engelein."
"Long as I know you I will never figure you out, Rolf."
"Psst! Rolf!" Adam said. "What about your English?"
"You zing for me. I just move my lips. It will work."
And so the German refugee went out with Adam to join the little group of souls, among them the women who did not know Rolf called them "little angels" in his own language. And they went from door to door singing old songs, mostly in English, but Rolf sang this song in his own native language. Although he said he sang for all the children in the world, he knew from experience there was little or nothing he could do to take away any of the trauma suffered by even just one, not by just wishing it away. Perhaps he sang for the dead child inside himself. If so, it would have to suffice.
Ihr Kinderlein, kommet,
O kommet doch all!
Zur Krippe her kommet
In Bethlehems Stall.
Und seht was in dieser
Der Vater im Himmel
Für Freude uns macht.
So nimm unsre Herzen
Zum Opfer denn hin;
Wir geben sie gerne
Mit fröhlichem Sinn;
Und mache sie heilig
Und selig wie deins,
Und mach sie auf ewig
Mit deinem in eins
"That's cool," said Adam. "Can we do Have Nagila next?"
"I think you mean the one about the Dreidels," Rolf said. "I know that one too."
"Funny, you don't look Jewish," Marsha said.
"You voot be surprised," answered Rolf.
The hours passed, the final night of Hannukah ticked over to the next day, and the company finally made its way back to the house where 15 souls who had once been lost had managed to find each other and in finding each other had found such small salvation that is possible in a world that often can be very harsh and packed with too much tragedy. Marlene turned off the electric Menorah with a silent prayer, for the menorah is a reminder that despite everything, minor miracles are still possible.
The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, over the star-lit waves of the estuary laving against the riprap shore before wavering over the merciful grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive glided from the gantries of the Port, each one glowing like the flame of a candelabra, past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey beneath the mountains to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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