Rudoph and Santa

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    12/22/2009
    9:46 am
    The first book I remember reading was Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It was a slim little volume with a hardboard cover and a gold colored spine from the series called Golden Book, probably purchased in a grocery store.
                  I remember writing my name in crayon on Santa’s list and I remember crying when the other reindeer wouldn’t let Rudolph play in any reindeer games. And I remember feeling vindicated, I didn’t know the word, but I knew the feeling, by that foggy Christmas Eve in which Rudolph was allowed to shine literally and figuratively.
                  I never noticed, back in the sixties, how woven into the tale celebrating difference, Rudolph was a particular favorite of black children, was the message about work and love--do well at your job and everybody will love you.
                I don’t think I read Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer to my daughter. I read her Chita’s Christmas Tree and Twas the Night Before Christmas, stories in which no one was ostracized or made to feel less, particularly by some aspect of their color.
    For a good many years our Christmas tales were happy less dramatic stories.            
                 Eventually I took her to see Dickens A Christmas Carol and eventually we watched so many remakes of a Christmas Carol into so many decades. I have a strange foundness for A Diva’s Christmas Carol (2000)starring Vanessa Williams and Ms. Scrooge (1997) staring Cecily Tyson.
                This year I wanted to step closer to the manger.  I want to remember all that was wanted for the first Christmas was room in an inn and all that was needed was a mother a child, a stepfather, and cattle shed.
                 We are travelling this Christmas, literally to Greenville, South Carolina, a town where we have no connections, venturing into an unknown wrapped not in tinsel and foil but love. There will be gifts this Christmas but not the kind you can see the kind that were there at the manager, companionship, trust, hope, commitment, and love, traveling to the manger gifts.
                We aren’t waiting for Rudolph or Santa. We love them still but we’re on a different adventure.
                The Christmas song I remember most vividly from my childhood, the song I remember struggling and intrigued to learn in English and Latin as a five year old Kindergartner in an all black Lutheran school in Detroit, Michigan was Come All Ye Faithful. Debate swirls around this song like Victorian Christmas snow. Who wrote it? Is it about the birth of Christ or a Jacobite Revolution?
                One thing is clear: the song implores us to move, not to wait but to come, to venture forth and forward.
                This year, in Greenville, I’m going to invite my daughter to read to her fellow travelers a Dylan Thomas poem I forgot to read to her when she was little, A Child’s Christmas in Wales.
                It’s a very good mid-winter tale for travelers. Particularly travelers looking for invisible gifts that last. It’s a story about being an engaged traveler. And it reminds me that the Christmas story is a traveler’s tale, surrounded by traveling tales.