Four senior level executives stand on a bare stage facing the audience.
From left to right they speak.
Executive #1 (Steps toward and speaks to audience):
What shithole country did YOUR grandfather come from?
Lights to black.
It’s snowy and icy outside. A few days ago, we’d all be declaring this a winter wonderland.
For the obvious reason, songs about Christmas stop when Christmas is over. For no good reason at all, songs about winter also stop at Christmas, just when winter is moving into second gear.
It’s time we put a halt to this. January is blah. We need to reject this. But this is not just a job for one man. I need all your help. Join me on this freezing, snowy January 12 to be the ones who stand up and say NO to the illogical decree that winter music cannot be played after Christmas. Fun winter music shall not stop at Christmas. It shall stop only when the last snowman melts!
It’s that time of year when I like to share my history of Christmas in five 1-minute plays. Here’s another…
A Hotel Clerk Changes Christian History By Acting Like One, or, “Now What Goes UNDER the Tree?”
(A new comedy by Neil Simon Peter)
Lights up slowly on the lobby of small inn. Faded, chipped sign says, “Inn of Bethlehem.” Fresher, newer hand-painted sign – with misspelling — says, “Welcome Censis Travellers.”
Man behind desk leans back in chair, dozing. Young couple, Joseph and Mary, enter wearily. Young woman is extremely pregnant. They do not speak, but their noise upon entering startles the hotel clerk, who responds comically, knocking over cup. He grumbles and gripes as he reaches for a cloth to clean up the spill.
We are sorry.
Not as sorry as me. I have to tell you, we’re all booked.
Joseph & Mary are defeated, exhausted.
Everybody is full. (Sighs.) Can my wife at least sit for a moment?
Of course. Are you here for the census?
What else? Looks like it’s good for your business.
And bad for mine. I have twelve chairs to build. The wood is in Galilee. But I am here.
Mary becomes still. She has quickly fallen asleep. Both men notice and are quiet.
She’s at peace.(Pause.) My friend from Galilee, I have a little space in the back, if you don’t mind a friendly sheep or two…
Mary’s sleep deepens, her breathing is louder, nearly a snore. Joseph’s head hangs in weariness.
What am I saying! You’ll take my room. It’s the best in the inn.
The best? I have very little money.
Consider it an early Christmas present.
Lights fade with Mary’s rhythmic breathing the only sound against a backdrop of stillness.
See the other four 1-minute Christmas plays here.
As Crosby, Stills and Nash once sang, “The ones you never notice are the ones you have to watch.” The rest of the lyrics are juicer, but go off track for what I’m trying to say today.
Here’s poem for you to ignore the loud noises of megaphones and tweets and TV camera hogs and whores.
by Witter Brynner
O, there were lights and laughter
And motions to and fro
Of people as they enter
And people as they go. . . .
And there were many voices
Vying at the feast,
But mostly I remember
Yours — who spoke the least.
Two days ago, I was able to honor the memory of an old friend, Barry Logan, who served three tours of duty in Vietnam. He was nearly a generation older, in his mid-thirties, when I first met him in college.
He regaled us with many stories of his time in Vietnam, some harrowing, some hilarious, but always with a pride in having served. Barry served as the president of our student professional communications organization, Alpha Epsilon Rho. He was the same age as several of our professors and he could pivot between us and them. He often wore a suit. In the end, he was always our ringleader, from organizing meetings and hosting regional conferences, to piling us in his car and supplying rides and making sure the beer pitchers at our table never went empty.
In the immediate years after school, we stayed in touch pretty well. Barry came to my wedding. Then, as life got busier, we talked less frequently. Christmas cards every year, then every other year. Then a longer lapse. Last year, I wanted to touch base again — our last call had been in 20007 — and I put out the word among our mutual college friends. It was our friend and classmate Brenda Irwin who hunted down some information and shared the bad news with me.
Barry’s obituary. He had died just weeks before.
He’d been sick and in a VA assisted living facility for a few years. We were sad to learn that we missed rich opportunities to see him just when he was in a spot in life where a visit might have meant the world.
The only thing I could do was a write a letter of those fond memories to Barry’s siblings.
Barry gave his youth to serve his country. In death, he gave his body to scientific research. About a year after his death, just days ago, his family held a memorial picnic and buried his remains with full military honors.
Barry’s brother, Tom, also a veteran, found my phone number on the letter I wrote and invited me to this even. I attended and shared more of the stories I would have shared with Barry himself had I stayed in touch better. Barry’s family received me and his stories happily.
France, 1944: My father, Raymond Morelli, in the center.
My father served in World War II with great pride. On every Memorial Day of my childhood a parade was held. The simple parade includes a few small floats, the school’s marching band and then the military veterans marched, in order of era served. When I was a small child, the World War I veterans came first. Then the biggest group, the World War II veterans, followed by veterans of Korea and Vietnam.
While he was very patriotic and extremely proud of his service in the battlefields of Europe, my dad never walked in those parades. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s simply because he was quiet and preferred to be in the background. He’d observe, “You can always tell the Vietnam vets,” and he’d point out their ponytails and untucked shirts. But it was just an observation about changes in generations. He respected their service. They had war in common.
My father told us many stories of his service, too — mostly affectionate portraits of his brothers in arms. I met a few when I joined him during one of the annual reunions of the 4th Armored Division, which served under the command of General Patton. My father passed away in 2001. He requested that the insignia for the 4th Armored Division be engraved on his headstone.
The stories he told about his buddies who died in action were always softer, punctuated by a soft phrase such as, “And he never made it home…”
One of my dad’s most realistic war stories was just a sentence long. He never really liked fireworks displays like you see on the 4th of July. “I saw enough of that in Belgium,” he said.
The reality of war was something I could count on from Barry and my father. They were kind men who both knew the horrors of explosions, chaos, and the cruelty of death and injury from wars. They were both skeptical of jingoism — which squanders precious blood and resources and is false patriotism masquerading as the real thing.
I honor not just their wartime service but the strength of their postwar reflections on what war — and patriotism and responsible good citizenship — is really about.
I know a priest who says the churchgoers who complain the most are the C&E (Christmas and Easter) Catholics.
They show up twice a year. It’s crowded. It’s hard to find a place to park or sit. They are often seated in overflow rooms only to see the service on a big screen. This brings them no peace or spiritual serenity.
Let this be a lesson to all. If you want to enjoy someplace, go in the off-season. Christmas and Easter are to Christianity what the 4th of July is to patriotism, what New Year’s Eve is for a night out for a drink.
It’s like judging the retail shopping experience based only on Black Friday.
A faith walk is most meaningful in the quiet moments. Judge your church experience on the second Sunday in April, not Christmas Eve or Easter.
Anyway, a spiritual journey is ongoing. It is the accumulation of every step along the way. If you wait for the big, showbiz holidays, then it’s too late, like waiting till your kid is 14 to talk about sex, versus setting an example with open discussion beginning when they are 3.
Imagine if you exercised only two days a year, then complained because you still gained weight!y.
So try not to be so obvious. Instead of volunteering at a soup kitchen on Christmas Eve, do it on some random Wednesday in February, or a Thursday in July, or a Monday in August. That’s when they need the most help. That’s when you’ll do the most good.
Then on Christmas, sleep in. Besides, at church, they need all the seating they can get.
Old dog early morning back yard
It’s before 6am and I let Amy the dog out into the back yard.
Everything is put away for the winter.
The patio table. Chairs. Grill. Fire pit.
Most of the leaves are raked, but there are always leaves left behind. Nature’s way of saying, “I win.”
The back yard will be just like this when I look on it for the last time.
Except then, I will think of everything that has been here:
Trampoline. Volleyball net. Swing set. Sandbox. Little swimming pool.
Little girls dancing, cartwheeling and cheerleading. Kicking soccer balls.
I’ll remember the few times they begrudgingly mowed the lawn.
Now it is barren. The old dog trots out into the twilight.
Amy, the 15-year-old schnoodle, has a relationship with this space, sniffing at the corners.
Barking at possum in the patch of woods beyond the bent but functional wire fence.
Chasing, never catching, squirrels.
Then there was the time she met the skunk, and my late night Googling taught me that a shot of hydrogen peroxide with dish soap is better than tomato soup.
And the time when a baby jaybird fell into the trampoline. When I tried to set the bird free, it’s mother dive bombed right into my head.
I backed off. Nature wins again.
Please, Amy, go relieve yourself in the yard and come back so I can sit in my chair, sip coffee and read a little before I no longer own the day.
But Amy takes her time.
Just as a watched pot never boils, the old dog won’t return if I stand guard at the door.
So I look away for a few moments, then look back, and the old dog is right there on the back door stoop, waiting to come back in.
Now I am in my chair with coffee and early-morning book.
The old dogs hobbles upstairs, nails on the hardwood steps that need refinishing, returning to the bedroom where she sleeps with my wife, in my old spot.
It’s that time of year when I like to share my history of Christmas in five 1-minute plays. Here’s one in which the truth is told: Everybody needs affirmation — even the one in charge.
Scene: Department store. Lights are dim. Santa is seated on an elevated chair. Three steps lead up to the chair. Six or seven children wait in line to be next to sit on Santa’s lap.
We hear the store PA system: “…The best savings and value on your Christmas decorations and gifts right here, now till Saturday, so shop, save and celebrate!”
Light holiday music comes on. The kids are buzzing with anticipation.
Lights up on a cross little girl, seated on Santa’s lap, with arms folded in defiance. Her face is contorted in an angry, grimace. She glares, eyes locked onto Santa’s, challenging him.
Santa stares back for the longest moment but weakens. Breaks his gaze. Breathes deeply. Looks at the row of children. Looks back at the little girl on his lap. Finally, he breaks the silence.
I don’t believe in me, either.
After a long a pause, little girl slowly softens. Uncrosses her arms. Pats Santa on the arm. Rests her head on his shoulder.
Fade to black.
See the other four 1-minute Christmas plays here.
It’s that time of year when I like to share my history of Christmas in five 1-minute plays. Here’s one that examines how Saint Nicholas fell under the spell of a marketing guru.
Mark Morelli is a New York Times Bestseller reader.