By Dr. Jim Ferguson
This is an unusual Christmas season for me. I say this because all my shopping is done, the presents are wrapped and are already under the tree. I’m not being smug because my wife Becky, like most women, does the lion’s share of Christmas shopping. Actually, she likes shopping, and I don’t want to deprive her of this joy. And remember Ferguson’s axiom #5, “Women shop; men buy.”
In truth, the entire fall is “my gifting season.” You see, Becky and I were married in September, her birthday is in October and both of our daughters were likewise born in the tenth month of the Gregorian calendar. So, the “gifting season” for me begins with the day Becky took me in, extends through multiple birthdays and concludes with gifts commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ.
I try to pay attention to gifting hints from my girls, but my family is so blessed we want for little of substance. And this Christmas the adults in my extended family have decided to make donations to charities rather than trying to find gifts for people who already have so much.
I’m relieved this Christmas Season because most years I find myself wandering in shopping malls along with other addled men seeking inspiration for gifts. Adding to my annual confusion is the sizing of women’s clothing. As a science based guy I understand that measurements must relate to an agreed upon standard. For example, if I use a tape measure to determine the dimensions of a door frame, I must be sure that I’m reading the numbers in inches rather than centimeters.
Some years ago I learned that more expensive women’s clothing has a different standard of measurement than used with less expensive brands. And I know of at least one higher-end women’s shop in Knoxville that has developed their own scale with sizes 0, 1, 2 and 3. Perhaps this is something like small, medium, large and extra large in men’s clothing. However, using these adjectives would obviously be bad marketing in a women’s store – if not suicidal!
Some years ago I was attending a medical conference in Mexico, and we decided to take our daughters with us to the fancy resort. Unfortunately, our luggage was lost and the winter clothes on our backs didn’t cut it in Puerto Vallarta. So the next morning we went to town for swimsuits, sunscreen, toothbrushes and underwear. I’m a medium size guy, so I assumed Fruit of the Loom was standard, at least in the non-metric Northern Hemisphere. That night at dinner, Becky noted my pained expression. I explained that my underwear was cutting off the blood flow to my legs – and elsewhere. It was over Fajitas that I realized “Mexican medium” is not medium for a gringo, especially one with a full belly!
Many people now do their shopping online, and it’s one reason why Jeff Bezo is one the richest men in the world. I like Amazon’s service, but I get more inspiration from Christmas catelogues than surfing the web. I attribute this year’s Christmas shopping success to both a catalogue and their local brick and mortar store. It was a relief to point to a picture in the catalogue of what I wanted and have the helpful sales lady shepherd me around the store. Again, the only touchy part of the exercise was sizing. It helped to compare my daughters’ and wife’s height, etc. to my shepherd’s physical attributes However, in this now surrealistic world, I’m just glad I wasn’t shopping for women’s unmentionables at Victoria’s Secret.
I love everything about Christmas, but especially Christmas music. Carols resonate throughout the Ferguson household beginning at Thanksgiving. If you have a smart TV, look for or download the Pandora app. This site has all types of Christmas music, including traditional, classical, country, doo-wop and more. Christmas music transports me out of politics and the cares of the world to a better plane, and helps me focus on family, friends and the “reason for the season.” Perhaps we should pipe Christmas music into Congress, The White House and the press room beginning at Thanksgiving and extending through New Year’s Eve. “The Beltway Boys” would still have plenty of time to fight during the other eleven months of the year.
My church is noted for its music ministry and its magnificent Casavant Frère organ. Recently, the choir and accompanying musicians performed our annual Christmas cantata. The sermon was preached with beautiful music and voice. Mozart wrote magnificent orchestral and operatic music. Musical experts surmise that Mozart considered the human voice to be the most musical of instruments. Though I am not a musical expert, I think Mozart is right. And as Count Basie said, “If it sounds good, it is.” If you doubt me listen to the Kyrie of Mozart’s Requiem, the acapella group Pentatonix or go to YouTube and search Sugar Plums’ Holiday Treats, especially their medley of The First Noel/It Came Upon a Midnight Clear/Joy to the World. Nuanced vocalizations are sublime.
This year is also unusual because all my family will be together on Christmas Eve. My daughter from Portland, Oregon and her family will be with us at The Big House for food, wassail, carolling, and children’s “performances.” What is also unique is that Big House, once mine, is now my daughter’s, and she and her husband will be the host for Christmas Eve in their new home. I sense a passing of the torch.
I have already received the best Christmas gift, and perhaps someday I’ll tell you about it. Until then, I maintain that we have all received the best Christmas gift which came, not by UPS, but a “long time ago” in a country “far far away.” What amazes me is that so many still choose their way and reject the Way.
The notion of “intellectual honesty” is often used to justify a non-spiritual life. Like the Proverbist 3000 years ago, I’ve come to realize that I can’t know everything. Demanding that reality conform to what I know or can measure is hubris and leads to a limited horizon. I now welcome the mystery and the majesty, and, especially at Christmas, I celebrate it.