Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas adventures with Alex the Great

LAS CRUCES — This time of year, many of us realize that long distance just isn’t as good as being there in person. But hearing the voice of a loved one still beats text messaging and chat rooms, I believe, especially if you have a creative grandson.
I’m grateful that this year I got to spend some quality face time with so many of the far-flung people I love the most on this planet, but work schedules and budgets mean that we’ll have to find other ways to communicate on Christmas Day, 2007.
As I was unpacking my holiday decorations, I came upon the small carved stone nativity that grandson Alexander the Great and I have set up together every year since he moved here when he was three.
We established our own little nativity traditions. We’ve collected interesting critters and characters to place with the little Holy Family around what Alex dubbed “The Jesus Castle,” a white plaster church made in Mexico.
Over the years, he has entertained me with many amazing insights on the nativity story and he’s also contributed some intriguing and creative additions to the tableau, from stuffed sheep and dinosaurs to Lego inventions and assorted action figures, which he perched on the Jesus castle rooftop with the angels, or patiently positioned to abide with the shepherds in the surrounding fields, tending their flocks — and Lego sheep and Zuni bears and plastic roadrunners.
I looked forward to discussing the 2007 Christmas tableau with Alex, now 11 and living in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
“We have the country’s biggest Christmas tree here, and I can see it from my house,” Alex reported during a Saturday phone conference.
We had lots to discuss. I updated him on some of his Las Cruces friends, we talked about his performances with the orchestra in his new school and I called on him for some Gen W (for Wonderful) takes on current trends.
I had TiVoed both “High School Musical” shows and finally watched them. They were cornier — and surprisingly, tamer — than the Walt Disney serial epics like “Annette” and “Spin and Marty” that I remembered from my own wild youth. I wanted to see if Alex could tell me what the fuss was about, if he’d even seen them.
“Well, yeah, with six girl cousins, it’s pretty hard to avoid ‘High School Musical,’” he said. “I only made it through part of the second one, though. After school got out, they kept hanging around the school dancing and singing about how much they wanted to be out of school, so why didn’t they just leave?”
Musicals often don’t make sense and must be appreciated on nonlogical levels, I informed him, and decided to move on to other great mysteries of the universe, like the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
“Ghost? Did you watch the ‘Ghost Hunters’ marathon?” Alex asked.
During our last in-depth conversation, we had established that I’m a fan of ‘Ghost Whisperer’ and Alex enjoys the paranormal investigative teams on the Sci-Fi Channel ‘Ghost Hunters’ series, which he assigned me to watch and report back.
There doesn’t seem to be much that’s new since I reported on parapsychology research in the 1970s and 1980s, I decided. We discussed a episode that dealt with an allegedly haunted site where prisoners were once confined in cramped and terrible conditions.
That led to a discussion of good and evil and the role of the only ghost that really interests me in my sage years: the Holy Ghost.
There was a time in my late 20s when I was fighting some profoundly evil forces, when I called for help and felt a golden hand on my shoulder.
“A ghost?” Alex asked.
It was the spirit represented by the tiny baby figure in our little manger, I told him. And I did my best to explain to him how that moment changed my life forever, how a hope was replaced with a certainty that has never wavered, during a life that has been filled with some very challenging adventures.
Alex knows how to project an eloquent silence, even over the phone. I wished I could see his face, but for some reason I thought of Alex’s father, and the day I came home from the wars to find my then-teenage son Ry playing not his usual heavy metal guitar riffs, but his own version of “Symphony No. 6: Pastoral,” his mom’s soul-rejuvenating, all-time fave. His Beethoven genes had kicked in.
I think holiday traditions are like that. Sometimes, we worry that the true meaning of Christmas is lost in the holiday stress and madness. But spiritual stories have a power that transcends time and manic materialism. I believe Alex will remember and call on the Source that has sustained so many generations before him.
And I hope that you and your loved ones will find comfort and joy in traditions of your own this year.
Merry Christmas.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

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