Warm thoughts on a cold night

As I wrote this column Monday evening, the thermostat outside read “deep freeze with a side order of wind chill,” just shy of minus-30 C.
Nothing is fun or heart-warming about that.
It is the kind of winter weather that demolishes my otherwise fervent outdoor spirit. The bullish cold drives me to over-eat and to sleep—two enemies of the seasonal slowing of metabolic body chemistry and two enemies I cannot afford to entertain if I’m to maintain the status quo on this pleasantly curvy Greek figure of mine.
So I guess it goes without saying that I should not have just eaten three of those melt-in-your-mouth little round truffle balls, huh? I take solace in the minimum 43 percent cocoa content of the dark “Lindt” lovelies.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is playing on the stereo. It’s James Taylor in a duet with Natalie Cole. The sound of their voices made me swoon as I popped another truffle and danced solo around the living room.
“Millie” the cat lifted her head from the “spoiled cat” pillow on the sofa and flat stared me as I swirled about—lost inside the song and dreaming about that hot toddy recipe on my holiday celebration “to-do” list.
I danced, smiling, in front of my Christmas tree—its branches decorated with the ornamental history of my life.
I love my Christmas tree.
If it wasn’t so doggone cold outside, I would have donned my wool underwear and ski pants, stuffed my toes into my Sorels, pulled on that checkered wool coat, grabbed the leather mitts, a face mask, scarf, and my Cossack hat and made good on my annual peek.
When I was a kid, I wished I could hide inside our Christmas tree and gaze at the world through a rainbow of colour—the way the chipmunks did in the Christmas cartoon starring Mickey Mouse.
Sometimes I still wish I could do that.
Instead, I do the next best thing. One evening each year during the holidays after the tree is trimmed, I get bundled up, turn out all the house lights except the Christmas ones, and go outside.
Then I pretend I don’t live here and peek in the living room window as a stranger looking in on the Christmas of someone else.
I recall doing this when I owned a mischievous dog that I’d left in the house. As I looked from the outside in, he was trying to climb the Christmas tree to reach one of my favorite J-cloth ornaments.
I taught Sunday school at Knox United Church here in the early 1990s, and along with the students in my class had made a figure of Jesus out of a green J-cloth. He was a folded and wrapped soft figurine with a hooded robe.
Every Christmas since, the faceless humble ornament, respectively known to me as “J-cloth Jesus,” has sat in my Christmas tree among the branches.
And when I think of all the years since that I have not attended church, I am warmed yet again on a freezing cold day by thoughts of the late Patrick Playfair, who had ministered at Knox United Church here years ago.
By 1996, I’d become “truant” from church services. My well-meaning grandmother at the time had pointed this out to Patrick while the three of us were chatting one day.
Patrick turned to me and said, “That’s okay, I’ve been going for you.” It was one of the most profound and heart-warming choices of words anyone had ever offered to me.
Above my writing desk is a framed verse that reads: “There is a destiny that makes us brothers, None goes his way alone. All that we send into the lives of others, Comes back into our own.”
Gratitude for the small things. Sometimes it is enough to get us through.

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