December 2013 archive

So many baubles smashed.

There was one Christmas when my father in a fit of rage
pulled our Christmas tree up by its branches and ripped it from its soil filled
pot in one corner of the lounge room.
The tree fell heavily and there was a clattering of baubles, a sea of cut glass that my mother later tiptoed through with
her dustpan and brush.
My father sulked
off to his room.
Some of the Christmas
baubles had come from Holland, where they had once adorned the
Christmas trees of my mother’s childhood. 
Through them she had held onto hope for a better life on the other side
of the world.
 
Did she lose hope then, at the sight of the smashed tear
drop bauble, the one that hung from the topmost branch and glittered from its
many edges?  This was a bauble
renowned for its shape and the way its maker had caved in one side and filled
it with a different colour and texture from the smooth round outside.
 
How could my father have done this?  How could one person so destroy the
beauty of Christmas?
 
It was never the same again.  So many baubles smashed. 
Over the next few years we went to
Southland and bought new trinkets to put on the tree but none so glorious as
those that came from Holland.
Today my mother is too old and tired for a tree.  She
prefers her ancient nativity set, careful as ever to leave the baby Jesus
hidden behind the crib until Christmas eve.  

Once more this Christmas one of my daughters has decorated
a potted olive tree from our back garden with origami birds and butterflies in
subtle colours, alongside the glow of white lights from Target.
 
In our house where no nativity scene appears, there is only
the spirit of Christmas, a time when tensions are high but love cuts deepest;
where we help one another; think of one another; grow frustrated with one
another and sigh at the advancing of another year’s ending. 
May your Christmas be as good as mine, with all its hard
edges and joy.  

Three bears, cults and extraversion

I made up a bowl of porridge for my daughter this morning,
the easy stuff out of a sachet, with two minutes in the microwave instead of one and
a half, given I had put in too much milk. 
My daughter was in a rush for work and I was trying to help her get out
the door in time. 
The porridge at first was too sloppy and therefore needed
more time in the microwave and then when she did not eat it immediately it
became too lumpy.
 
I think of those three bears, and Goldilocks’s desire that
things – chair, porridge, bed – be just right.
I did another Myers Briggs test this week and came out
with a slightly different score from the first time I’d tried it. 
I’m sure this is not the official test but it’s one that’s
free to try on line. 
My daughter reckons I should take the results of the first
test seriously, at least more seriously than later results because by the
second and third times I was likely to answer less honestly given I could anticipate the questions.  
Funny
questions like: after you have been socializing heavily do you prefer to spend
time alone.
 
Well, yes and no. 
I can manage more company after a I’ve been with a crowd but equally
there are times when I’d like some quiet time. 
This is why I dislike these tests so much.  They tend to demand ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers
and therefore become reductive. 
I know the test managers ask the same questions in reverse
order to try to trick the truth out of you but I suspect people can become
test-savvy and answer in whatever way they feel might best suit their
purposes. 
These tests to me are like horoscopes.  You go along with whatever suits you – namely the positive
interpretations, and ignore the rest.
I came out as Extravert 78%, Intuitive 38%, Feeling 62 %
and Judging 22%.
At a glance, I’m not much of a judge.  The other results don’t surprise me so
much.
I have my third Christmas party this afternoon, and my
last bar Christmas day on Monday evening. 
I haven’t done too badly.  I
do not yet feel overwhelmed by the sense of excess this time of year
brings. 
Shades of the question I quoted above from the Myers
Briggs test.  That one is to root
out the introverts,  I’m sure.  
 
My husband and at least one of our daughters are so-called
introverts.  My older sister
reckons a person on the introversion scale a la Myers Briggs, is simply one who
derives energy from their own company, from quiet times.  While an extravert is a person who
derives energy from time spent with others. 
I’d like to think I derive energy from both sources and to
an extent I suspect we all do.  But
it’s true, I prefer the company of others to total and prolonged solitude.
When I was a school girl we went on retreats once a
year.  A week or maybe three to
five days during the school day dedicated to prayer.  I pretended to enjoy those days.  The imposed silence. 
During retreats there were times when we sat in chapel
together and a nun read to us or the priest held  Mass or benediction,
something that involved noise, voices, or better still singing, but
then later we were meant to make our own entertainment, namely in the form of
more prayers and contemplation.
 
I can see us now, thirty or so fifteen-year-old girls, our
missals in hand wandering around the gardens of Vaucluse Convent ostensibly in
deep contemplation.
 
The more outgoing girls caught one another’s gaze and
burst into fits of giggling.  The
nun in charge who stalked around behind the rose bushes offered an unspoken
reproach and silence prevailed again.
I longed for the hours to pass.  It felt as though I had been tied in a strait jacket and
could not move my arms.  I should
have known from this experience that I would never make a nun. 
Nuns take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.  All three would have been impossible
for me, and yet there was a time in my life when I contemplated taking on such
a life, out of love for my favourite teacher, whom I once decided I had wanted to
emulate.  Even if it meant hours of
imposed silence and a pretense – for me at least – of prayer.  
This nun has since left the convent but
not before I gave up on that particular vocation. 
The other day I listened to Phillip Adams during his radio program Late Night Live on the topic of cults
Apparently there is a group of people in London who were arrested.  Three women had been held in enforced
captivity for thirty years, one of whom must have been born into slavery.  Apparently they are part of a cult
Their story fascinates me but the discussion of cults
fascinates me even more.  One
speaker made the point that if you get a group of people together and keep them
separate from outside influences for long enough they can begin to develop
kooky ideas. 
Madness breeds out of too much introversion, though
equally there is the opposite madness, that of the mob. 
It all comes down to balance I suppose, a bit like my
daughter’s porridge this morning: not too runny, not too firm.  

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