HEAVENLY VS. EARTHLY DELIGHTS!
A few days after Christmas a neighbor slipped a holiday greeting card under my door containing a long letter describing the beautiful religious experience she had recently attending the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. (Google: the story of the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah and the birth of Jesus in nine lessons interspersed with the singing of carols). She wrote eloquently about being transported to another plane hearing the heavenly voices of the young men’s choir. She felt as if she were in Paradise! She thanked her mother, long deceased, for introducing her to this service years ago when they attended it together. She hadn’t gone since, only listening to a broadcast from England each year, until now.
And so how did you celebrate Christmas? Well, I had Christmas Dinner at the Harvard Club. Originally we were going for Thanksgiving Dinner but two days before I learned that the plans had been changed. I confronted my grandson-in-law Chris. “But I told all my friends I’m going to the Harvard Club. Now what am I going to tell them?” Chris responded; ”We’ll go for Christmas. We have to see that you keep up appearances!”
So that’s where I was on Christmas Day, which was sunny and not that cold. With me were my daughter Ingrid, her husband Peter, and their daughter, my granddaughter, Helen and my granddaughter Sarah, and her husband Chris, and his mother Pam: all people I love being with.
The Harvard Club is a stately old building on 44th Street, off 5th Avenue, with a grand and opulent interior with very high ceilings; a friend said she peeked in the window once and thought the inside looked like that of an English castle. The dining room is cavernous with multiple tables and chairs, but not too close together so the guests can hear each other talk, unlike most of the restaurants Sarah and Chris have taken me to where I have to shout in order to be heard! There were sounds of celebration, but no raucous voices here. The walls are decorated with huge portraits of “exemplary graduates, dignitaries and club Presidents.” Somewhere there must have been one of a woman, but I didn’t see any. Above our table hung the head, ivory tusks and all, of an elephant killed by President Teddy Roosevelt on one of his African safaris. (Google: he and his son shot 521 wild animals in Africa). A gigantic sized Christmas tree, amply decorated, stood at the other end of the room, impressive until I learned it was artificial. Surely, the Harvard Club ought to have the genuine thing! Still, it was all quite atmospheric.
There were choices on the menu; I ordered a pear salad and lamb chops with ratatouille. Both were divine, as was the wine! I almost regretted talking because I wanted to concentrate on enjoying the food; one of my great loves in my elderly years. Every night I thank God for my taste buds, because they give me so much pleasure. I was looking forward to eating the second lamb chop in my doggie bag the next night. Not so the dessert, Hasty Pudding, which I selected because it sounded so Harvard-like, reminiscent of the theatrical society, and of merrie old England. This consisted of a glob of vanilla ice cream in a puddle of cinnamon flavored sauce. Never mind; we were having a wonderful time talking, especially when Sarah suggested we each tell what was his/her favorite book, TV program, and movie of 2018.
After 4 hours, we looked around and realized that practically everyone else had left the dining room. We then moved to an adjacent baronial looking parlor room where, while sipping more wine, we engaged in a family Christmas ritual: Secret Santa gift exchange. Some gifts were thoughtful (silk eye mask), and some were silly (Trump action figure). We ended up being the last ones to leave, because we had been having such a great time. All the while I felt immersed in love emanating from my family and I’m sure they experienced it too. I had just enjoyed one of the best times in my life.
When my daughter and family brought me home, they said, here is your lamb chop or would you want to give it to Gracie, Helen’s dog who had been waiting for hours at home. How could I deny faithful and patient Gracie from enjoying a Christmas Dinner too?
My neighbor at the church service had experienced Heavenly Delights, love flowing between her and Jesus. My family and I, the Earthly Delights of love flowing between us and enhanced by the earthly pleasures of eating. But both are Love, whether between you and Jesus or between you and family, and even you and your dog. And isn’t Love what it’s all about!
Favorites from 2018 (Sarah’s list)
Show: The Good Fight
Article: The White Darkness (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/02/12/the-white-darkness/amp)
Book: Shoe Dog
Article: How the Elderly Lose their Rights (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/09/how-the-elderly-lose-their-rights/amp)
Show: Designated Survivor, Peeky Blinders
Movie: Sorry to Bother You
Show: My Brilliant Friend
Article: an article from Hoenester and Campbell on Integren (inside the cell membrane)
Place: the lab
Movie: A Star is Born
Theater: Othello at the Globe Theater with Mark Rylands, Antony and Cleopatra, The Jungle
Book: An American Marriage, Lake Success, Educated
Show: Patrick Melrose
Least favorite event: the royal wedding
Favorite sporting event: Rapha winning the French Open
Favorite parade: Capitols winning the Stanley Cup
Favorite march: the women’s march
Non-fiction: When a Crocodile Eats the Sun
Fiction: Prague’s Spring
Show: The Bodyguard
Book: a manuscript by Lydia’s neighbor Maryam
Movie: BlacKkKlansman, A Star is Born
Show: Nature on PBS
Email: from Chris Schonberger about how he included Lydia in his year-end presentation on Hot Ones