I walked past the meetinghouse and noticed Frank had left a light on, so I went in to turn it off. Frank was there, seated by himself in the third pew, right-hand side.
I wasn't going to disturb him, but he looked up, noticed me, and motioned for me to sit beside him.
"Everything all right?"
"Oh, sure. I don't know. I was just walking past and thought I'd sit for a while. It's nice in here."
"Yes it is," I agreed. "Very peaceful."
"So I'm sitting here thinking old man thoughts."
I didn't know what to say so I kept quiet.
"Mostly remembering when my daughter was little and we'd sit here on Christmas Eve. She'd be in her pajamas. Right here." He patted his lap. "Now she's in North Carolina. I wonder how she is."
"I'm sure she's just fine," I said.
He didn't speak for several moments. "I missed this tonight. I missed the Gospel of Luke and going to the basement for cookies."
"I did, too, Frank. I missed it, too."
We grew quiet, remembering, Frank with his Yule thoughts, and me with mine. Sitting at the dinning-room table writing out Christmas cards with my wife. Finding that exquisite tree at Grant's Hardware, eight feet tall with vertical integrity, a tree among trees. Walking the isles of the Five and Dime searching for the perfect gift, my sons in tow. My boys sitting on Santa'slap—one a skeptic, the other a true believer. Tucking them into bed not an hour before, their little bodies squirming with excitement. Still little, and still with me…
I've collected Christmas books for years, and must have at least a couple hundred. Their contents range from anthologies of seasonal poetry, short stories, and novels, to histories of the holiday and its customs and traditions, sketches and narratives of remembered Christmases by various writers, cookbooks, even a craft book or two, though Myladylove collects the latter two categories and probably has upwards of a hundred Christmas volumes of her own.
This year, starting on the first day of December, I thought it might be fun to dip into a few of these works and share a quote or two from their pages—a few lines of poetry, a bit of prose, maybe even a recipe—on a daily basis, a sort of "Christmas Quotedown," which I'll put up in addition to my regular posts. I'll also include a photo of the book's cover, from which the day's quotes are taken—though a few, lacking a dust jacket or any sort of fancy cover design, might be decidedly non-photogenic. On the other hand, several of my favorite Christmas works are quotably rich troves, indeed, and thus might end up furnishing more than a day's worth of quotes—though I'm starting out with the notion of a different book each day.
Along the way, I hope I select some things you enjoy.