Any sane person (I am not including Newt Gingrich in this assessment) might certainly ask, "What is the possible connection between Tinker Bell and the Virgin Lady?" Let me work on this. But first, let's zoom in on the scene yesterday of controlled devastation called, Decorating the Christmas Tree.
We had bought the tree--at great expense. We had lugged it up our long stairs to the deck, let it sit out overnight to bring a sense of its own sinfulness to said tree, then lugged it indoors and set it up, with many swears, nudges, "That's not straight, Dummy!" "Stop pushing, stop pushing, I've got it!" "No, you have NOT got it!" As you can imagine, this faithful and sacred dialogue prepared my husband and me to decorate the tree for one of the seriously big holidays in the Christian liturgical year--the birth of Jesus. This is the happy season, right? This is the culmination of this part of the year where we wait for the inbreaking of the light, the inbreaking of grace.
"Damn. Wasn't there another box of ornaments somewhere up in the attic....honey," I hissed in my sacramental mode. "Mmmm." Rick was busy doing the manly part of decorating, i.e. taping the extension cord to the floor which ran from the outlet to the plug of our set of erratic lights. We passed the strings of lights around the back of the tree, swearing inventively but sort of faithfully, poking the pine twigs through the wires. I put on some Christmas carols, determined to enjoy this and have a sense of festivity entwined with the lights, the colored globes, the strings of red something beads from Wal-marts...
"Damn. This is probably the saddest and most chaotic tree we have ever decorated....honey," I hissed again. He thought it was fine. I thought it a disaster--only the middle of the long strings of lights worked, so it was lit up like a car coming towards us with only one headlight working. Can you have piddiddles on Christmas trees and did I spell that right? Perhaps this was an occasion for kissing and that would transform this cranky chore into something lovelier.
But that didn't happen. I was on a tear, kicking myself mentally in the butt for such a pathetic array of ornaments. What had happened? How had something that promised festivities, good cheer, and a slanting glance at the real meaning of Christmas degenerated into an occasion for self-incrimination, with flashes of intense worthlessness. *shrug* as they say in Face Book messaging. Determined to avoid holiday depression, I threw some more ornaments on the tree--including the green shiny dress and wings of Tinkerbell, who was basically part of my daughter's pantheon of goddesses growing up--and wondered briefly about the bracketing our our tree with Tinkerbell on the top and the Virgin Mary down below, sitting beside a miniature Jesus.
Then I gave up theology and decided to make some sweet breakfast bread. Surely some cooking, butter, sugar and eggs would help lift my mood. This is a recipe for the bread I baked (adapted from The Bread Bible, by Beth Hensperger):
--1/2 cup dates covered with boiling water for 10 min. to soften
--1/2 cup Smart Balance, or butter if you prefer
--1/2 cup brown sugar plus 1/4 cup white sugar
--1 large egg
--2 cups white whole wheat flour & enough white flour to make stiff dough
--1 cup pumpkin puree (I made mine from my own pumpkins, cooked down in slow cooker with maple syrup for 8 hours on low)
--1 tsp. baking powder
--1/2 low fat sour cream plus 1/2 sour milk
--1 tsp. vanilla extract
--1/2 cup flaked almonds
--sliced zest of 1/2 orange (grating grates on my nerves & is too slow)
1/ Preheat oven to 350 degrees--on my convection I used 375 degrees.
2/ Cream butter & sugar first, then add egg and vanilla extract.
3/ Add flour, baking powder, then add milk & sour cream.
4/ Fold in nuts, drained dates, and orange zest; I add 1 tsp. of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg.
5/ Put into greased 4" x 8" loaf pan (batter comes 3/4 of way up pan) and bake for 45 min. Take out and check with toothpick to see if done. This is a moist bread and needs more baking than you think to make a bread firm enough to survive our toaster. (I often do 50+ min.)
6/ Cool on wire rack, then take out of pan and put on plate, cover with plastic or foil.
7/ Beth's recipe has you making an orange glaze, but I skipped that one.
Enjoy with some cappuchino, which, I just learned from "Why Do Catholics Eat Fish On Friday? The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything," by Michael P. Foley, was invented by a Capuchin monk (surprise!) after the Battle of Vienna in 1683. He had discovered sacks of coffee beans left by the fleeing turks, make a bitter brew, and sweetned it with honey and milk which came to be known as "the little capuchin," or, cappuchino.
So. Sit with your cappuchino and feast on your sweet holiday bread, as I did, with my mood finally translated into something suitably festive. I went back to pondering
the meaning of the Virgin Mary and Tinker Bell and what connects them. Doesn't Mary break into the world with her "magic", her grace? Does she not appear to Juan Diego saying, "No, soy tu madre?", and also appear to Bernadette Soubirous, the children at Fatima, and at Medjugore? She spreads her arms and says, "Come on DOWN, baby, I am your mommy!" And Tinker Bell? Who can be nasty, vengeful, and is decidedly not nice to Wendy. But--she sparkles. Light bounces off of her, as it used to shine in my daughter's eyes when contemplating Tinker Bell. She invites people into her magic world, and that sounds almost sacramental to me.
Mary is sitting beneath our tree now, waiting for the birth. Beside her is faithful St. Joseph, the heavily-breathing donkeys, and soon to appear will be the wild and strange wise men from the East, bringing gifts. Soon will come the inbreaking of grace, and we will forget the drooping strings of light, the off-tune carols, and our need for perfection. Amen, I say, and a happy holiday to you whatever you believe and however you celebrate it.