Christmas reflections


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Christmas Reflections

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Christmas reflections

  1. 1. Christmas Reflections
  2. 2. Preface / IntroductionCelebrating Christmas with Family and Reflections of what it really means.
  3. 3. Table of Contents1. Betty Windsor Cancels Staff Christmas Party. Royal Scrooge Reigns. What she should have doneinstead.2. My most memorable Christmas, delivered by hand, changing my life. Now my time to do thesame.3. God rest you merry, gentlemen. At my home that means preparing everything for the visit of thePrince of Peace. Its a true labor of love.4. First Christmas away from home. Paris. 1967.5. Christmas from another point of view. The Grinch has his day... astonishing revelations from hisfirst-ever interview exclusive to me exclusively here.
  4. 4. Christmas ReflectionsBetty Windsor Cancels Staff Christmas Party. Royal ScroogeReigns. What she should have done Dr. Jeffrey LantYikes!What can she be thinking of?It has been announced from Buckingham Palace (by the Lord Chamberlain Earl Peel) that HerMajesty the Queen (known to favored intimates as "Betty Windsor") has cancelled this years staffChristmas party. Thus are the 600 people who serve her in myriad capacities deprived of the joy ofmaking merrie from her privy purse (meaning she pays for the dainties herself).Why did she do it?Lord Peel in his email notification says its because of Englands punk economic condition. Cynicalroyal watchers opine that its because the Queen wants to make a point about the hardships of royalliving in advance of Parliaments consideration of her civil list, namely what she gets from thenation for doing her job. In other words, shes negotiating with the government and figures thattaking bon bons from the staff will help achieve her goal of more money faster.The reason doesnt much matter, however. The plain fact (whatever the reason) is that Her RoyalMajesty is (dare we say it).... just plain cheap.This Christmas season we need MORE parties... not fewer for the very reason that so many aresuffering and need a good day out. The Queen should be doing her bit, not showing the Sugar Plumfairy the door.Lets contrast the Queens behavior with that of Mame Dennis in the smash Broadway musical (andfilm), "Mame." In the depth of the depression, Mame, her family and staff are glum, decidedly in thedumps. Instead of canceling Christmas (like you-know-who) Mame sings "We need a littleChristmas now"... and belts out a festive song while (at least momentarily) lightening that load forthe people she loves, the people who know and serve her. In short, challenged though she is, shedoes what she can.Its a far better thing she does than the tight-lipped and tighter-fisted Betty Windsor, for the royaldecision (calculated though it may be) brings no joy to anyone... but her, the very antithesis of thepurpose of Christmas.We can help in at least two waysFirst, contact Buckingham Palace at once, protesting this silly decision. We KNOW she has themoney.... and if she wants to negotiate with Prime Minister Cameron for more funds for palaceupkeep and maintenance, fair enough. But lets not take it out on the staff... who have to feel hurtand disappointed at this niggardly decision, stiffer upper lip or not.Indeed, lets go farther. Lets all chip in and turn a bad decision into a terrific pot-luck. Lets all offerto supply a favorite Christmas goodie to her larder, tagged exclusively for the benefit of her staff.My grandmothers Christmas sugar cookies were always a hit back in Illinois and were shipped tograteful (and expectant) friends and relatives worldwide; even the crumbs were treasured. I offer adozen of these... not least because my grandmother (born in 1901) was named after.... you guessedit: Queen Victoria! It seems right and proper that her cookies go towards helping Betty out with herdifficulties! Copyright Lance Sumner - 2012 4 of 18
  5. 5. Christmas ReflectionsMake sure YOU have your own Christmas party... or invite a few more people to the one youvealready scheduled.Her Majestys cancelled Christmas party was budgeted at 50,000 pounds sterling, about $80,000USD. Thats grand indeed. But, remember this about Christmas: its the thought that counts. Ratherthan cancel the party and the joy therefrom, Her Majesty should have held it, doing the best shecould with less... just the way the rest of the world is doing. Just because you cant have a party withthe grand and imperial flourishes youd prefer is no reason to (petulantly) cancel the whole shebang.A party is about the people... not about whether the champagne is vintage.Make this Christmas season the one where you discover the real meaning of the season. It is aboutsharing... the good times and the bad... together. It is about offering the best you can (and can afford)while reaching out to old friends and new, grateful to see and welcome them, not to impress, but tore-connect and make it clear that you care.Here is where Her Gilded Majesty went right off the rails... and shows me she needs to have a TinyTim remind her of wherein the true joy and meaning of the season resides: it is about the sincerityand affection of the gift, not its lavishness or cost. We need gifts that show what is in our heart... notour bank account.Lets say that the Queen really couldnt afford the cost of her party (shes worth a billion or more, butlets not be petty). Who can doubt that if she had done anything... but done it with real affection andgratitude.. that the event would still have been the highlight of the year: a gesture of profoundsincerity and consideration. Yes, it would have been touching and forever remembered. Even withday old doughnuts.Thus, our first suggestion (given with the utmost humility) is this: :Queen of England anddominions over the seas, reinstate your devoted staffs Christmas party and resolve that you will domore with less; above all that you will use the event to radiate more joy and more happy memories,rather than do away with them altogether. Use your royal powers for good, to live the truesentiments of the season.And as for the rest of us: let us learn from this imperial error and use it to enhance our ownChristmas, to make this, because of the misery around us and an economy doing no better thanmediocre, the best Christmas ever... with the one and only focus being on how to bring joy to themost, even if that joy is simply the warmest and most heartfelt of embraces and the sharing ofyourself. For if you do these things, the true embodiment of Christmas, you will do more than aqueen.... be she ever so rich and empowered. Copyright Lance Sumner - 2012 5 of 18
  6. 6. Christmas ReflectionsMy most memorable Christmas, delivered by hand, changingmy life. Now my time to do the Dr. Jeffrey LantAuthors program note. One of the most marvelous things about the Internet is that wherever you arethe riches of the world are just a few keystrokes away, and this is never more true than at Christmas,when you can, wherever you are, remember, access what the most fertile, inventive, and creativeminds crafted to celebrate the birth of our Messiah. It is a feast, a banquet, an embarras de choix thatnever palls, even if you do have distinct touches of Scrooge about you.One of my favorite Christmas carols never fails to exult, thrill, and cleanse. I always feel betterhearing it... and if you know it, I suspect you feel the same. Its called "Carol of the Bells," and ifyou dont know it, its my pleasure to introduce it to you. Youll be glad to have it. Either way, go toany search engine to find it. There are many fine versions.Play it now... turn it up and up again. This is no pallid anthem but a stirring declaration thatsomething of transcendent importance is about to occur... and the bells are ringing out to ensure youdont miss it and are not late.It is of Ukrainian origin; a 1904 choral miniature work by Mykola Leontovych, set to the words ofan ancient Ukrainian pagan chant. It tells the tale of a swallow flying into a household to proclaimthe plentiful and bountiful year that that fortunate family will have. Given the rocky road weve alltraveled this year, I am sure you hope that swallow visits you... as I do.1974.I was just 26 in 1974, the time in ones life when, having assiduously pursued education,self-improvement and development, one is ready to stride lifes stage and announce to the world thatyou are ready to demonstrate your powers and do your bit, however small, to make things better onterra firma. You have your health, your teeth, an ample mane, and that crucial "never say die"attitude, so necessary, sure to be sorely tested in the days ahead. You can be certain of that. In short,youre as ready for life as youll ever be. And that life bloomed for me in 1974.... when I set out, likethe protagonist of every great novel, not just to see the world, but to conquer it.And so this year, I tasted life, and tasted deep I tell you, in the city where everyone finds theEngland -- and the life -- they desire... London.London, beloved, rich, desired, accepting.If one believes in Fate, as I didnt then but believe now, I encountered mine in what I regarded, notalone either, as the greatest city on earth... where every minute was like the best champagne andevery person delivered gifts one had waited a lifetime to receive and was ready to savor. In this year,in this city everything was possible... so long as one was bold enough to dream it, bold enough toseize it. And I was... and I did.Robert Montgomery Scott.... His Excellency will be pleased...I can see him clearly in my minds eye... and will never forget. He was a gentleman to his fingertips...which meant cordial manners, polished speech, and, most of all, consideration; for a gentleman isnothing without that. When I entered his office in the Embassy of my United States, in GrosvenorSquare, he was direct, but most kind; I could see at once he meant to be my benefactor...I had written Walter Annenberg, U.S. Ambassador that year, to see if he would assist me in gaining Copyright Lance Sumner - 2012 6 of 18
  7. 7. Christmas Reflectionsaccess to the Royal pageants I was studying and wished to see at first hand. Ambassador Annenberg,a titan of American media, richer than Croessus, was the best kind of envoy being gifted with meansand the desire to disperse them liberally. He also understood the need that media have for never-ending content and the need to encourage the creators of such content, people like me. And so heasked the debonair Mr. Scott to receive the young Harvard man and see what could be done. He wasno doubt scrutinizing me, drawing his own conclusions; that was his job. But the scrutiny wasoblique, a chat, not an inquisition. And after this most amiable inspection he said, "For the nextyear, whenever the Ambassador is invited to any Royal ceremony, you shall go as a member of hisofficial party."The skies had opened and the road below was clear. I was grateful then... and grateful now becausehe -- and the Ambassador -- had given me just what I needed, just when I needed it. And how oftendoes that happen in even the longest life? But it was happening to me, in 1974, in London, and I putthe bit between my teeth and relished the run.That summer there was a shower of largesse... not least because of the Harvard Traveling Fellowshipbestowed on me, a Fellowship which made it all possible. I went to the annual ceremony of everyorder of chivalry... the Bath, the Order of the British Empire, the St.Michael and St. George, anddelved deep into the mysteries of Thistle, St. Patrick, and Garter. I loved every minute of it and, forcurrent use and later reflection and proof that I had lived, wrote it all down, fodder for many articlesto come. I had occasion to thank the Ambassador over and over again...... especially on the day when I attended the ceremony marking the 25th wedding anniversary ofH.M. The Queen and her Consort of Edinburgh. My reserved place was right behind one of PrincePhilips sisters, as if I were a sprig of the Family Royal myself.But money at an end and the pressing need to harness reality brought me back to Cambridge, toHarvard, to graduate, to get a job I was perhaps destined to hate; how could the mundane details of"real" life compare?But I had a scheme... to write my way to freedom... and so back to London where in due course Ireturned in December of 1977, there to hand-deliver a proposal for my first book, to HamishHamilton the famous publisher whose ranks I wished to join.No knock. Just a letter.It was Christmas Eve, 1977. My friends and I were going to Covent Garden, dressed to the nines,bright, mordant, as sophisticated as earnest money and deadly effect could make us.Just before we left, a letter was slipped under the door... it was hand addressed to me. I opened itwith alacrity only to read, "I regret to inform you..." It was on Hamish Hamiltons stationery. I didntcomplete the letter and was marooned in such unhappiness no Sugar Plum fairy could lift my spirits.Upon returning, I saw the letter, on the floor. Robert Dobson, so often in the right place at the righttime, picked it up and said, "Hadnt you better read this?"And so I did... and in instant, a single instant, there was "Joy to the World" in my heart as my noweditor Roger Machell wrote, "I regret to inform you we cannot accept your proposal as written but ifyou make a few minor changes..." A contract and cheque were waiting for me after Christmas at hisoffice. And so "Insubstantial Pageant: Ceremony and Confusion at Queen Victorias Court" wasborn... and another benefactor stepped forward, Christmas Eve mind, to advance my career andprovide succor.Now it my turn, 64 this year as I am, to give to others in remembrance of the many, now too oftengone before, who have given to me. God having blessed me so, and especially that unforgettable Copyright Lance Sumner - 2012 7 of 18
  8. 8. Christmas ReflectionsChristmas, makes that imperative, pressing, essential, a great joy and comfort. Copyright Lance Sumner - 2012 8 of 18
  9. 9. Christmas ReflectionsGod rest you merry, gentlemen. At my home that meanspreparing everything for the visit of the Prince of Peace. Itsa true labor of love.By Dr. Jeffrey LantAuthors program note. Please note the date: Saturday October 13 for this is the opening of theChristmas preparation season for 2012. Archeologists and cultural historians will be grateful to mein years hence when they get their government grants and write their learned tomes about the whysand wherefores of Christmas in this our particular era. Yes, I say they will be glad to have eachsalient fact, observation and deduction gathered by yours truly and herewith shared with the world.For we are talking about the most joyous event of the Christian year, Christmas, and its preparations,staggering for some, meagre and tardy for others, but all acknowledging that this is and continues tobe an event of significance to each of us.How was October 13 selected as the commencement date for this event? Easy! It was the first daywhen your observant author was assailed by not one but a series of "the Christmas season hascommenced" portents, signs which might easily be dismissed were there but one or even two, butwhich in their concerted numbers make it clear that the great count-down to Christmas, with itstraditions, meanings, songs, poems, foods, displays, sentiments, travels, resolutions, friends,observances has now commenced in earnest and for the next 71days until the day itself your life willbe affected, influenced, shaped and to a greater or lesser extent determined by what our fellowtravelers do or dont do, buy or dont buy, wear, stand in line, decorate... or dont wear, stand in line,or decorate.In other words, because of the birth of a child you may or may not believe was the Son of God yourlife and all its prosaic concerns and tasks will be hi-jacked; weeks of your life will be less yours,significantly influenced and directed by others you dont know, will never meet, but who arenonetheless powers over you, determined you should listen to them... or else.The first portents.The thing about portents, that is a clue to future occurrences, is that they must for maximum impacttake you completely unaware. One moment youre doing such and such a task; considering such andsuch a thing; talking about such and such a topic. Then the portent arrives, preferably delivered byone or more appropriate gods of Olympus, all of whom seem to traffic in the dicey business ofportents, omens, divinations, and auguries. The portent (often obscure and therefore more amusing toits deity deliverer) having arrived, pushes other quotidian topics to the bottom of yourconsciousness, pulling out the rug on what you were focused on a moment ago and substitutingquite a different agenda.Yesterday, October 13 mind, these portents arrived thick and fast; itself a sign that a seismic momenthad arrived; actung! stop what youre doing and pay attention. And unless youre that hapless noodlethe bored and therefore capricious gods have determined to make even more hapless and miserable,you do pay attention. Thus does your life cease to be as much yours as it was just a moment before.The gods know this, but they have kept this insightful observation for their own delectation andbenefit ere now. They wouldnt dream of imparting this intelligence to you; "free will" for humansbeing one of the most potent and popular of their shrewd devices for controlling the not so sapienshomo.Let me make one thing clear, for sharing this with you I shall be persona non grata at Olympustonight, for if mankind knew just how little true freedom their gods have allowed us, there would be Copyright Lance Sumner - 2012 9 of 18
  10. 10. Christmas Reflectionstonight, for if mankind knew just how little true freedom their gods have allowed us, there would besuch a revolution as has never been even imagined before, much less consummated. And the godswould surely have to make concessions, or they would never regain exalted position and control...and what would their excellencies do then to amuse themselves at our expense?What is your portent saying?Portents must be clear but capable of complete misunderstanding. In other words, when reviewingan event that could be a portent, two reasonably intelligent people must be capable of drawing twodramatically different conclusions, for a portent is not a directive... not a declaration... if it were thegods would be most unhappy... for if their signs could be so easily read by everyone the muddlesbeloved of these ancient deities would cease and the gods who already have to wrestle with thematter that is eternity...would fall into even deeper despair; for they already have too little to do andfar too much time in which to do it. Remember, their irritation, ennui and pique become the basis forour misery. No wonder they dont want us to know.Christmas portents by the hour.The gods realize humans are short sighted, careless, capable of massive confusions andmisunderstandings. Thus, the game becomes determining the precise formula that will give us clues(but not too many) and insight (but not too much). Even the Olympian gods are not born knowingthese things; they must learn. And they do so at our expense, for what are we humans for if not toprovide the wherewithal for their education and expertise? We are just so many lab rats to divinity.Nice work if you can get it.Store sightings, catalogs, email.The first shop in my neighborhood to deck the halls was the smoking shop in Harvard Square. Giventhe fact that teen-age smoking has dropped dramatically; thereby proving that even heedlessadolescents can get the message if we adults have the patience and deliberation to beat them aboutthe head with it.As a result, the revenues at the smoking shop have most probably dropped... whilst theirHarvard-charged rent has undoubtedly done the reverse. It is therefore obvious why they want toweigh in with a cheery seasonable greeting and display. "Give the gift of cancer."Even the most knowledgeable of advertising executives might think twice before taking on thisdaunting account. Still, there they are, hoping that the dwindling number of young smokers willpurchase their diminished life span from them, especially if they can do so in the name of Jesus, whopromised the eternal life the smoking shop is doing so much to curtail. Cool.Catalog temptation (and ease) by mail and the net.Stores like the smoking shop need to lure you into their premises as early as possible beforeChristmas; their continuing survival depends on it. But catalogs live to remind you how difficult andirksome store shopping is in the age of catalogs and net. Simply mentioning the invading hordes, theunending lines, the harassed staff, the parking difficulties is usually enough to tip the scales tocatalog shopping online and off. That persuaded me. As a result the last several years such shoppingconstitutes all my shopping.The problem is the proliferation of mail-order Christmas catalogs, especially after you become aproven buyer. Then you may expect to hear from each catalog at least 3-4 times before their lastfrenzied promotion, hitting about December 15. All prophesy consumer distress if you fail to ACTNOW, visit their website and ORDER! Copyright Lance Sumner - 2012 10 of 18
  11. 11. Christmas ReflectionsBut here the retail stores re-emerge as they reap the considerable advantages deriving fromprocrastinators like you. At this point you will most assuredly wish you had heeded their Octoberwarning. You will pledge to do better next year. You wont, of course. And so youll keep your nameon every list; a portent of things to come, especially purchases youre sure to make. They know that,even if you dont.Polishing the silver.In my house there is one certain activity that indicates the coming of Christmas. That is polishing thesilver. It is a very time-consuming task, taking a couple of days. Mercedes Joseph, so giving andwarm in all her aspects, will take these traits and leave the silver burnished into eye-poppingradiance. Its a significant part of our invitation to the Prince of Peace, an invitation that will see usclambering up step ladders to clean the chandeliers in all the rooms to ensure that all is brilliant andevery facet sparkles. So that there is not a single molecule of tracked in dirt or bunched carpet. Wework hard to make it perfect; we work early and late to make it perfect... and we do it all because ofthe advent of this harbinger of our salvation; because we will do it, not because anyone tells us whatto do or oversees our efforts, evaluating what we do.We do it, because this is Christmas and the greatest gift we give is our voluntary adherence and abelief that starts in our hearts and has no ending whatsoever.That is why October 13, I awoke to the strains of my favorite carol running through my head, "Godrest you merry, gentlemen/Let nothing you dismay", first released in 1760. In an instant I find BingCrosbys 1945 version; then in a search engine one other version after another, including a renditionby "Barenaked Ladies" (2004). Only the very young can find the sniggering humor in suchsophomoric nomenclature, but today I dont care.For you see, every off key note I sing proves that I have become a portent myself of the great eventen route "For Jesus Christ our Savior/Was born upon this Day", and we rejoice in the Good Newspassed from me and mine, to you and yours, to a burdened world which needs "tidings of comfortand joy, comfort and joy", the true meaning of Christmas and why we gentlemen and gentlewomenrest merry and shall remain so long past the day and season itself. Copyright Lance Sumner - 2012 11 of 18
  12. 12. Christmas ReflectionsFirst Christmas away from home. Paris. Dr. Jeffrey Lant.Authors program note. Today is the day I sign up to receive Social Security. It will be a day whenlow level bureaucrats will prod me, asking questions they already know the answers to, all designedto prove (or not) that I am the Jeffrey Ladd Lant born 66 years ago in Illinois, into a time andsituation which now only exist in my imagination.I wonder whether the clerk will smile or even look at me when the inevitable queries are asked? Imnot counting on it, for they see a generation advancing to old age, while I consider only myself. Iwant human contact but will have to do with "sign here" and get the money.And so, under the circumstances you will understand that I need something quite different; a kind ofcosmic pick-me-up composed of equal portions of youth, energy, hope and optimism, all things inshorter supply today, here and now, than then. I need Paris. Since you probably do, too, let me sharesome with you.... the better to remember and pass a kindred moment when not a single word isrequired or expected."I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles".For me, only one song would do for the musical accompaniment to this article; Cole Portersseductive tune "I Love Paris". It debued in 1953, in the film "Can- Can" and like so many of Portershaunting melodies it immediately touched the soul of the world; in this case setting us to recall thebittersweet memories of a youth that can only be tapped infrequently, so powerful is even thesmallest part.I like Ella Fitzgeralds rendition about "this timeless town". It cuts to the heart... and does with youwhat it will... just like love itself. Youll find this bijoux in any search engine. Go now and play it...again... and again... and again. If its cold and misty outside and the memories come thick and fast,you are ready for what follows.Paris, destiny.In 1967, I was the luckiest 20-year-old in the world. Though the Great Republic was at war, gravelydivided by whether we should have more of it or less, I was going to Poland for my Christmasholidays. Now as all the world knows, the way to Warsaw most assuredly goes through Paris, atleast in my atlas. Thus I found myself for the first time in the City of Light at the best possible timein life to be there, that is to say whatever time you are there; in my case December,1967 just a fewdays before Christmas.My trip, hurriedly arranged which is to say (in the way of young men) not arranged at all, cameabout because of a notice hung on the campus bulletin board at the University of St. Andrews inScotland, where I was spending, and happily too, my junior year abroad. It promised high times andhijinx in Zakopane, the site of the Eastern Blocs 1967 Winter Olympics. The trip was sponsored bythe Young Pioneers, Communisms equivalent of the "Best and the Brightest." The cost could bescrapped together and was just affordable at just about a hundred quid.Of course we wouldnt tell parents where it was we were going, much less under whose auspices.Bright young men seek to shield the rents from any inkling that they might have had, were having,or would have a "good time." That was always the best possible course, especially whereCommunists... and Paris, mind... were involved.Paris first. Copyright Lance Sumner - 2012 12 of 18
  13. 13. Christmas ReflectionsOur trip to Poland was to have begun in London where we were to meet the tour guide andorganizer. He had been a Tory candidate for Parliament in the last General Election; time now hungheavy while he waited impatiently for his next chance at greatness. Like most young, ambitious,aspiring Conservatives he didnt believe in much of anything; principles, you see, get in the way ofsuccess. It was always better not to have too many or to believe them too seriously.As a result our guide, youthful, good looking and unscrupulous was excellent company and game foranything. Its a pity Ive forgotten his name... hes undoubtedly a retired cabinet minister now, full ofsage advice and pompous aphorisms... the Right Honourable the (first) Baron Twitsbee-on-Thames.Such a man, of course, approved our traveling to Paris first, meeting up with the group later,pleasurably fatigued as men of the world would most assuredly be at that point. He undoubtedlywished us luck... and winked, salaciously.And so I went to Paris -- and to a passionate embrace which has never ended.Every true Parisian believes there is Paris... and then there is everything else. There is no knownantidote to this belief. Once in Paris, walking the Champs Elysee, you are glad it is so. No antidotedesired; none imaginable. And thats as it should be. So I came to see that Paris was not merely aplace... but an idea, a dream, a journey, a vision and where, in grander style and sureness of touch,there was a better me waiting for the ordinary me to arrive.Le beau coup.I remember everything about those days... no detail too small or inconsequential. Paris is like that,transforming even the slightest of matters into Events, primed with Significance. Paris is, after all,the greatest mise-en-scene on Earth, a place where you find yourself, see yourself as larger than life,mesmerizing, captivating, the very person you have always wanted to be... and now are, to thegratification of self and the satisfying envy of the folks back home.No other city on Earth, no other place at all holds such power, such magic, and so you, likeJosephine Baker sing this: "Jai deux amours. Mon pais et Paris"; you are suddenly, unmistakably, toyour complete bliss a boulevardier au fait with everything in this place which now forever holds apiece of your heart and means to keep it forever with fierce possession.And so it started in a boulangerie within moments of arrival. I ordered a baguette... and thanked theproprietor for... her beau coup. "O, monsieur," she said, just for a moment no longer of a "certainage" but young again, with gracious curves well worth the seeing. She patted her haunch, shegiggled, she pointed "O monsieur, cest le beau coup". I had made her happy. It was a portent ofother happy encounters to come."Is this what I think its for?"Later that day, I stood with Mark Morris at the ticket counter of the Opera, Baron Haussmanns greatcreation begun in1861, a venue fit for God Himself to make music. We barely had enough for twotickets high up in the rafters and needed to count it twice over to be sure of even that.. but there wassomething about us, two acolytes butchering la belle langue determined to worship everything wesaw, that touched the heart of the woman ticket seller."Voila," she said, an empress dispensing largesse. And so we came to possess a box at the Opera forthe evenings performance, compliments of a Parisienne determined to turn by a graceful touch thequotidian into a lifetimes happy memory.Everything was new, notable, marvelous.. including how two young men of decidedly limitedmeans, dressed just a shade better than tatterdemalions had their box unlocked for them, then locked Copyright Lance Sumner - 2012 13 of 18
  14. 14. Christmas Reflectionsagain with them inside. And of how they soon discovered a ceramic pot on the floor festooned withthe grandiloquent "N"s of the master who ordered such monumental awe and splendor. Yes, it wasused... and so the customs of Paris turned the most natural function into art and protocol.Last night, first visit. Venite adoremus. Notre Seigneur et Sauveur.No young person wants to slow down the pace of time. Speed, not savor, is always their order of theday. But then comes Paris and the dawning fear one has too little time, hardly any time at all to enjoyeach thing, every thing. And so youth comes to know a secret of age: that the best lived life ispatient, paced, distinguished by care not merely celerity. Thus one grows and matures, another ofParis insights and benedictions.And so in my final hours of what I vowed must be the first of many visits, I made my way nearmidnight to one of mans great achievements, Notre Dame. I went as a curiosity seeker, for I was,after all, the son of Puritans who would decry my very presence at such a Romish place.But God was present that night, and I knew why men of vision had dreamed this place and workedso hard to achieve it. Here was a place where one might look for and even find sanctity, belief,peace, and be touched by the greatest light that shown that night in the City of Light. And it wasgood. I sang the words of the great hymn -- "Venite adoremus" -- with conviction... Notre Seigneuret Sauveur.And then it was over. I was, in the middle of this Christmas night, en route by rail to Poland viaBelgium enraptured by the greatest reason for loving Paris, the reason found in the last line of ColePorters great tune.... Copyright Lance Sumner - 2012 14 of 18
  15. 15. Christmas ReflectionsChristmas from another point of view. The Grinch has hisday... astonishing revelations from his first-ever interviewexclusive to me exclusively Dr. Jeffrey Lant.Authors program note. You just never know what impact the printed word is going to have, and thistale of The Grinch proves the point. Thanksgiving Day, The Grinch (he insists upon the use of thecapital "T" ) was sitting at home having polished off last years holiday left-overs as his wont, whenhis eye happened to see a corner of an article used to wrap the garbage. It was my report on"Squawk", the valiant leader of the "Young Turks" fighting for the freedom of turkeys everywhere.The paper was greasy, ripped, noisome from the remainder of The Grinchs favorite morsels whichstank to high heaven.... in fact, he could only finish the article by searching online for it He liked what he read... and at that moment (as he later told me) hedetermined to break his lifetime of media silence. He wanted his story to be told, and he wanted meto tell it.Within the hour, his invitation was en route to me, never mind that it was the middle of the night,3:22 a.m. Eastern. The Grinch knew his man. You can sleep anytime; but such an interview comesbut once in a lifetime.The letter to me from The Grinch.There was a sharp knock at the door, the kind of knock that summons you to Destiny. I couldntimmediately tell if it were real or a dream but its insistence made the point. There was a note underthe door. It said, "Open the door!", nothing more. So more irritated than apprehensive, I did. Therewas a Christmas bouquet on the welcome mat, wilted, one half- eaten candy-cane alone amongst thedying foliage. And there was a message, too, on stationery engraved with this motto, "After me, youare the most important person on Earth."The message couldnt have been clearer: "You have 10.5 minutes to get dressed and leave for yourExclusive Interview With The Grinch. Be sure to brush your teeth. Dont keep your car and driverwaiting!"Im proud to tell you, nearly 66 that I am, that I was ready with a minute to spare, though there was, Iconfess, stubble on my noble chin.A black limousine was waiting, sleek, important looking... and clearly in need of a good wash. Thenight was chill, the breeze off the snow piecing and unremitting. The door to my car was open, and Icould hear rock music from within. It was Eric Clapton singing "After Midnight" where "weregonna let it all hang out", where "were gonna find out what its all about." It was astonishingly aptmusic....I slid into the back seat, where my full attention was immediately arrested by a pair of creme coloredeyes looking directly into mine. At the same moment he merely brushed my hand by way ofgreeting. It was fur, not flesh, and it was a shade of green I had never seen before. Then right besidea dog, his dog Max, a half-breed rumored to be The Grinchs only friend, faithful to his Master, hisaspect anything but welcoming. Throughout our interview The Grinch idly stroked his hide. I likedhim the better for it."Well, get in, Mack, its cold out there," a directive swiftly followed by a short, sharp nudge to myrib cage. My encounter with The Grinch was well and truly underway. Copyright Lance Sumner - 2012 15 of 18
  16. 16. Christmas Reflections"Ask me anything....", and he grinned broadly, the kind of grin of ribald remarks, very dry martinisperfectly made, and bottoms pinched just so. Thus I learned that The Grinch liked the good life."Cookie, Mack?" He offered a box of demolished Christmas cookies with the air of a prince. Therewere dog hairs in the mix. I declined the dainty. "Your loss, Mack. Now what do you want toknow?", and he told his driver to "get the lead out."The Grinchs personal history."Tell me about yourself, Mr. Grinch," I asked. "Nothing Id rather do, Mack. For as you know, I ama most interesting fellow". Maxs tail wagged as if in confirmation. And so in a voice that mixedinsinuation, wisecracks, and sweet self satisfaction, he laid out the broad outlines of his unlikely life,the life that made him one of the handful of the immediately recognized. He laid back, lit a stoggie(whether I liked it or not) and readied himself for his favorite story... his, at which there came intohis eyes a look of reverie, fond remembrance, and Olde Lang Syne. He smiled the smile of thosewho love themselves to distraction, not wisely but too well.Yes, there he was, the creature of the hour, the creature the world loved to revile, sitting back,oozing self satisfaction, toodling through the darkness of the night, going nowhere in particular,loving the high life. It was all so wicked cool... and then he remembered this all had a purpose."Now, Mack, what is it you wanted to know?"The facts."What started it off, sir?"And darned if The Grinch didnt shake his tambourine and so begin his tale."Mack, it all happened a very long time ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was nearChristmas. I was a shy kid and had only a small role in the school pageant. I played one of the extrashepherds who get put in the back because they have to be put somewhere. It was not my finesthour.""It so happened that from the time I was a nipper I had a beard, full, rich, patriarchal. The day of thepageant, my mother decided her shepherd needed a freshly shaved look. But she was terrible,absolutely awful at what she was doing and cut me to ribbons. I was in despair knowing what theother kids would say.""Mom, was horrified by what she had done. She took some ointment from the cabinet and applied itliberally. Then she kissed me and sent me on my way."At this point he closed his eyes, the better to recall his affecting story."I thought the matter was closed, but as I got closer to school, the kids started pointing at me, usingsome pretty strong words I can tell you. To a certain extent I was used to them; after all I was a kidwith a beard. But these remarks were nothing compared to what they were calling me this day. Itwas the worst ever and every single one of them was pointing at my face.""As soon as I could I went to the boys room to see what I could see. And what I saw horrified me.My whole face was green, I mean every single inch. It had to be that ointment." "I wanted to runaway."The hot words came thick and fast, every aspect of the incident at his fingertips. He decided to runhome and hide. But he was grabbed by a teacher who thought he was trying to escape from thepageant, something boys did. He was deposited on stage... and then it happened.The Grinch explodes. Copyright Lance Sumner - 2012 16 of 18
  17. 17. Christmas Reflections"I couldnt stay on that stage. I couldnt face the teachers and all the kids who started to snigger andpoint the minute they saw me. I just had to get out of there."He turned. He tripped. He fell on a pile of boxes wrapped like Christmas presents under the tree. Hecrushed the boxes. The tree fell. The crowd roared. The kids jumped all over the place pointing atme and shouting. There was the pop, pop, pop as incriminating photos were snapped in theirhundreds.And then The Grinch heard himself shout in a voice not his own..."I hate Christmas. I hate everything about it," sing song like a chant. "I hate Christmas. I hateeverything about it. I hate Christmas. I hate everything about it." The crowd went bananas.Dr. Seuss heard it all, too, because he was in the audience that fateful day. And he knew a great storywhen he heard one. He went home and started work on the book which after many drafts and editsbecame in 1957, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"."Mack, I get a nice fat royalty check every Christmas, which enables me to live in the manner towhich Ive become accustomed."The car was just pulling up to my house. The dawn was just about to break. I had just one morequestion to ask, but when we arrived, the door opened as if by magic. The Grinch poked my rib cageagain, Max glowered at me."Its been real, Mack. Write me a good story." He told the driver to "put pedal to the metal". And heturned his head in my direction and seemed to say something. But Max was barking, while the carshot away and I couldnt be sure. I thought I heard him say something like "Merry Christmas to alland to all a good night". But I cant be sure... its so unGrinch-like.And then I heard one more line from Clapton in The Grinchs unmistable voice:"Were gonna cause talk and suspicion"...... and he was laughing, Mack, he was laughing.... Copyright Lance Sumner - 2012 17 of 18
  18. 18. Christmas ReflectionsResourceAbout the Author Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., where small andhome-based businesses learn how to profit online through automation. Attend Dr. Lants livewebcast TODAY and receive 50,000 free guaranteed visitors to the website of your choice! Dr. Lantis the author of 18 books, a speaker, consultant and well known marketer. He is also the author of"Insubstantial Pageant: Ceremony and Confusion at Queen Victorias Court."Republished with authors permission by Lance Sumner Copyright Lance Sumner - 2012 18 of 18