The Women of Christmas

birth-of-jesusThere aren’t a lot of women in the original, biblical Christmas story. This should come as no surprise given that in the bible as a whole women show up less frequently, and in more minor roles, then men. Years ago I decided I was going to conduct a sort of spontaneous self-taught class on comparative religions and to do so I was going read a holy book from every major religion in the world. I made it through ten of them. With one, maybe two, exceptions, the bible actually looked pretty good when it came to including women in the narrative, which gives you an idea of just how bad some of the others were.

visitation-by-albertinelli-florenceLet’s face it. It’s basically a patriarchal story about patriarchal times, as told and retold by men. Mary is pregnant and has a child, which is what some woman has to do in any story in which there is a birth. Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, gets to play a brief but kind of cool role as a precognitive who has an inkling of what is coming. I think the bible gives it about a paragraph, but in any reality I can imagine, when one cousin turns to another and says anything resembling “hey cousin, blessed are you among women” you know that the conversion is going to go on for awhile.

What we don’t get to hear about is what Mary’s mother Ann thinks of this whole immaculate conception thing. Or Joseph’s mother for that matter. Is the woman who does half the work of running the inn (some would call her the innkeepers wife) sympathetic to this pregnant woman who is sent off to the barn? Is she angry with her husband for not kicking out the three drunk merchants in room four to make room for this nice couple? Or instead does she focus on how stupid these census laws are? I’d love to know the whole story.

Clearly doctors were not in the habit of attending births in those days, but midwives were. It’s hard to believe that a woman with no sexual experience and an older bachelor, who might well have been a virgin, too, managed to deliver their first child together without incident. My guess is that somebody sent for a midwife, and the story of the woman who delivered baby Jesus would have made a great addition.

what she said 1The British of a few hundred years ago seemed to really take to the angels and shepherds part of the story, given the amount of their Christmas carols inspired by the idea. I always wondered if girls got to be shepherds back then, and if they did, why were shepherds in pictures always boys? I decided it was because all the angels were girls.

As a child my favorite part of the Christmas story was the three wise men.  I don’t know, they just seemed more interesting than the rest of the people. Riding camels following a star, now that was cool. I though being a wise woman would have been a lot of fun. Arguably, three women on camels might have been quite a force for good. Maybe it’s a shame that the three wise women weren’t part of the story.

For other slightly offbeat looks at Christmas, see my posts “Christmas is Not about Love, but“,   “Duct Tape and Christmas Cards” and “The Future of Christmas.


crowdThe first few months after my father died, I kept seeing him in crowds at the airport, just out of the corner of my eye. He’d show up in restaurants too, and sometimes in bars, anywhere that there were lots of people. Often he’d be gone before I could get a good look at him, but every once in awhile I would get a closer look, and clearly see that it wasn’t him at all.

Years later I read that this was common for those missing a loved one. It was a disconcerting side effect of death, divorce, serious break-ups, deployment overseas or any prolonged physical separation.

The country-western songs referred to in the novel c3 came from a larger group of songs suggested by a young female C&W fan. I knew the first time that I heard her suggestion of Tim McGraw’s song “Everywhere” that I wanted my character to like this song and mention it. Love comes in all sorts of flavors: that of a child for a parent who dies too young, that of a young girl worried about a missing friend, that of a man who has said good-bye to childhood sweetheart but never really left her. Those of us who suffer a loss (isn’t that all of us) tend to see our missing person “everywhere”.

From the novel c3:

Tim McgrawAs Teddie worked her way through the relaxation and concentration exercises, she was all too aware that this would be her first conscious travel attempt over any distance. It was sort of like that first time you take off driving all by yourself.

To keep from being nervous, Teddie let her mind play a soothing song, and found that she was humming “Everywhere,” the country music tribute to a man who loved to travel and yet saw his stay-at-home ex-girlfriend in the crowd wherever he went. That was funny. Over the last couple of months it had seemed like she’d seen Michelle everywhere she looked. Must be a common thing when you missed someone.

Teddie thought sadly of the used black and white two-tone pick-up truck setting in her folks’ driveway. She’d only been able to drive by herself for four months before she’d headed to India. She thought of all the places she and Michelle had driven in it before they left and all the places they hadn’t yet gotten a chance to explore. She felt a little pang, and then there she was. Standing outside her truck in the blazing sunlight. Of course. It was daytime in Texas. Her folks were at work. Her truck looked fine. She touched its faded paint lovingly but she couldn’t feel it like she could in the solid world. “I’ll be back in a few months,” she mouthed the words. Then she added, “Now I want to go to my friend Michelle.”

Right away she began to move quickly, speeding down the sidewalk and then down streets and she thought, “Wait, I know this route. I’m on my way to Michelle’s house.” And sure enough, Teddie found herself on Michelle’s front lawn, baffled. Had Michelle come home? She hesitated, feeling odd about invading the Tran’s privacy. She told herself sternly that her friend’s safety was at stake. The outside wall of their house was harder to penetrate than the walls at Usha’s convent, instead of merely tickling her, it left Teddie with a feeling of passing through some kind of unpleasant mush as she went through it. Ick.

Inside it was deserted. Both Trans were at work as well, and Michelle’s room showed no signs of having been disturbed any time recently.

“Take me home,” Teddie said in frustration. She felt a momentary confusion, as if on some level she was trying to decide if home was across town or across a world. That’s when she realized that she had somehow covered thousands of miles and crossed an ocean and she had no idea of how she had done it. She froze in absolute terror.

There are several decent enough concert videos out there of this song, but the ones I watched all made me feel a little too much like I was in the audience, right there with the crowd noise and the bodies occasionally blocking my view. This acoustic version is a little different. It is performed at a fancy dinner with violins, acoustic guitars, a back-up female vocalist and a couple dancing in the back of the audience. I thought that it all captured the song well. Enjoy!

You can purchase this song at