Supper's done, and good it was too. Just the two of us to eat it this year, so a quiet day, but a very pleasant one. Each with his own book, the Christmas tree lit and still fragrant, my eye wanders to the cards arrayed before the fireplace. (Lovely cards, from lovely people -- and the dentist, but such a nice card it was kept with the others.) Cards from the four corners, or nearly so, certainly from far and near. On this one two lovely kittens curled together. I've met them myself and was glad to find them come to visit in an envelope the other day. Another card from an old friend, an old man now, old even when I knew him better. Now his hand's grown as light and spidery as a cobweb, but still that penmanship I envy. And another and another...
We were remiss this year, due to the weather mostly. So many cards we didn't send, and yet the cards came to us none the less. I'm so glad of them.
One in particular I take up again. It is the usual kind of family photo: mother, child and father. The little girl, sweet Cecelia, is so beautiful, her father, my friend, so obviously proud, her small hand 'round his neck. She is so beautiful that I wish, again tonight, her uncle, my dearest friend Peter, had lived to see her. I saw her only once, when she was but a baby still, but I've loved her since and love her still, for her father's sake and for Peter's.
Christmas is for me in the company of my friends; present and absent, near and far. So for a friend I turn to Charles Lamb. He was a good friend to many in his lifetime and is still to me and to any reader lucky enough to find him. Opening a book of essays I find the following, and offer it tonight as a gift to my friends, big and little; to shy Blix, and to bright Sam, to angelic Cecelia... and in memory of the man who loved Christmas best, and children ever, my dearest friend Pete, who sadly never saw his niece, and died with his own childhood still in his eyes.
"I know not whether it be the dotage of age coming over me, but when I see or think of these little beings, I feel as a child again, my heart warms to them, I enter into their joys and sorrows, their pastimes and their thousand imaginings; and I fancy I could fly a kite or wield a bat with the best of them; nor is any thing more refreshing to me after much intercourse with the heartlessness and affectation of the world, than the society of intelligent and amiable children."
-- from Holiday Children, "by an Old Boy," Charles Lamb