Some 40 years or so ago, a group of British musicians "invaded" the American music scene. Exactly 40 years ago yesterday (I'm writing this on Christmas Day), Apollo 8 orbited the moon with guidance systems more primitive than the computer on my desk. And somehow, the news coverage this week has drawn them together for me.
The title of this post was inspired by a song one of those invading British musicians, an extremely cute young man named Peter but known as Herman, made famous. The refrain was There's a kind of hush/ All over the world tonight . . . and went on to talk about lovers in love. There's a hush in my neighborhood right now, the hush that comes on major holidays when everyone's inside, at gatherings that mark romantic and filial and friendly love.
Not all of these holidays are Christian, of course. The world's Christian population is somewhere between 20 and 33 percent, depending on which sources you consult. Which means the rest of the world follows creeds (or nonreligious ethical systems) other than ones based on Jesus's teachings. In the United States, Christianity (and thus, Christmas) is a dominant cultural force, but that's not so in other parts of the world, where Jews, Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists dominate. In those parts of the world, I assume, shops are open, streets are bustling with whatever traffic is usual, and people are going about their daily business. Yet all of the major religions and ethical systems have at least a couple of things in common--a belief in kindness or charity to the rest of humanity and a desire for peace among peoples (I except the militant religious splinter groups from this statement and hope we can avoid discussing them. For me, at least, today is a day to think of peace on Earth).
Which brings me, at last, to Apollo 8 and its crew, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders (who took the famous picture at left). They noted that there are no boundaries or divisions on the planet in that photo or in the view from space. Subsequent astronauts have said the same thing, that after a few days in space, they stopped thinking about their own parts of the world and saw it as a whole. The Earth is, of course, still fraught with war, genocide, famine, and plague. The hush in my neighborhood doesn't extend nearly far enough. I hope, though, that it will someday.
In the meantime, I'm grateful for my family and our friends and neighbors and our peaceful morning. I'm also grateful for all the Christmases past that I shared with family and friends who've moved away or passed away. A good friend of ours made our beautiful tree skirt, came over with her husband to help decorate the tree every year until they moved to Arizona, gave us ornaments and beautiful, cross-stitched art, and reveled in all things Christmas except the holiday itself. They're Jewish, you see, and she didn't feel right about putting up a tree of her own.
One year, when I was about 7, I got the Barbie Dream House for Christmas. The adults in my life didn't realize it came with Massive Assembly Required (all the furniture--think tab A and slot B--which was then cardboard). I don't think, personally, that could possibly have been as bad as tiny decals for Gundams and Power Rangers, but I could be wrong. Anyway, the adults were so distracted by furniture assembly that they forgot to open the chimney flue. Until the smoke from burning wrapping paper poured into our living room to remind them. We had to evacuate the house until they got the situation straightened out, and then we froze with the windows open for a couple of hours. My grandfather lived with us, so our house was jammed with aunts and uncles and cousins on Christmas Day. And all us kids were in the yard together that morning, freezing. I cherish the memory of that day. All the adults are gone now, and the kids have kids of our own, and the cyle of life moves on.
I hope you've had wonderful memories of this day or other holidays your family celebrates. Will you share them? What's your favorite holiday, and what does it make you think about?