Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas in Maine

(N.B. I originally wrote this on Christmas Eve, but am just getting around to posting...

Christmas is here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
At right, Jed demonstrates how to be a penguin in the snow- we watched March of the Penguins on Christmas Eve and stayed up all night making penguin noises and demonstrating through the use of shadow puppets the regurgitation process of feeding baby penguins.

The picture at the left shows Jeremiah, Wayne, Nana, Jed, Chris, me and Anahita on our hike through the woods Christmas morning.

I'm spending five days in Maine, enjoying the Merchant-Borna-Pajuhesh-Davis-Johnson-Richards-Scott-Kelley clan Christmas.

Yesterday, I got up at 4:00 in the morning. The Object was kind enough to wake me up and drive me to the airport, where I arrived just in time to miss my flight to Boston. No worries, I took the next flight out, and caught my bus to Augusta right on time.

As soon as I arrived, Anahita, my picked me up. As we drove out of the parking lot, I changed out of my sweats into fancy churchy clothes. Yes, I went to Church! But not Catholic Church, crazy Protestant Church, United Church of Christ. The church doesn't even have a church-y sounding name, like Our Lady of Guilt and Eternal Sorrow- it has a classic Maine name, Old South. The last time I was in this Church was three years ago for Chris and Wayne's wedding (Anahita's mom and stepdad, respectively). I was scantily clad then with a one shoulder shirt and a punky skirt- it was a wedding! This time, I was also overdressed and fairly scantily clad in my clothes from my date with The Object the night before. I had packed at one in the morning after a few drinks- the clothes seemed like a good idea at the time. I'm still pulling some fairly curious things out of my bag- at least I remembered the presents.

I sat in between Anahita and her little brother, Kian, for the service. Kian is a junior in college and has far better things to do than attend church once a year. As soon as the service began, he busted out his cell phone and started text messaging. I'm not one to judge- maybe he was giving the play-by-play of the service to his friends who couldn't attend.

I doubt it.

The procession began with a group of women walking down the aisle playing tambourines in a rhythmic-like fashion. They wore all black, tinsel and, as all true Maine women do, each of them wore some form of the latest trendy comfort shoes- Danskos, Merrills, Crocs, etc. One of the things I appreciate about Mainers is that they do not mess around with footwear. In any case, the minister invoked an opening prayer in which Jesus was casually mentioned. To complete the opening, a group of families from the parish got up to sing God Surprise. Apparently in Protestant church, they sing less about Jesus and more about casserole.

After some more praying and singing, we got to hear the Christmas story. In the Catholic Church of my childhood, this was a pretty quick affair- you sat and listened to a reading from the old testament, a psalm and a reading from the New Testament. Then you stood and heard a reading from the Gospel. In Protestant Church, it's trickier affair- you sit for a reading and then stand for a hymn, sit for a reading, stand for a hymn, etc. This goes on for quite some time. It's a pretty tedious affair; after the third sit/stand set, Kian remarked aloud with disgust, "You have GOT to be kidding me." I can't actually tell you what the readings were about- maybe Jesus? Birth? I'm pretty sure the gist of the story hasn't changed over the last 2,000 years, so Ani and I leafed ahead through the hymns to work out the alto parts. Let me tell you, it's been a long time since part-reading classes. We got some funny looks. We finally nailed one- Angels We Have Heard on High. When we high-fived Chris gave us the evil eye and told us to behave (we secretly may have been chit-chatting a bit, too. I decided church was the most appropriate place to tell Anahita about the Christmas present I received from my boss- a gift basket full of, um, well, let's just say very, very personal body lotions).

To close the service, the congregation stood in a circle around the Church, lit candles and sang Silent Night and Let There Be Peace on Earth. And as the boys of the youth ministry tried to set each other on fire with their candles and Ani and I harmonized to God only knows what song, the church was washed in the peace of Christmas and tears stood in my eyes at the beauty of it all.

Then a guy came in too early singing Joy To the World, and we all pointed and laughed at him.


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