Palin’s Book & My Xmas Pilgrimage to Wasilla
Christmas Eve was a bitter night. Despite my best efforts, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I was not going to make it through blogging all of Sarah Palin’s Christmas book, Good Tidings and Great Joy, before the big day. There just wasn’t enough eggnog in the world to keep up the pace.
I had debated at one point handling this predicament like that children’s hide-and-seek trick, where they’re supposed to count to a hundred before they come find you.
“One, two, skip a few, ninety-nine, one hundred!”
Chapter 1, almost done, skip the crap, I’m fin-ished!
But I really wanted to see if I could make it – if it was possible for a human being to read every word on every page and remain a functioning member of society. Was I never to know? Despite the warm festivities, and Christmas cheer surrounding me, I was tormented deep in my heart.
Then, a friend disguised as an angel (or something) said, “Hey, but the 25th is really just the first day of Christmas, right? And there are 12 days, so I think you’ve got until January 6th to finish, if you want to be technical about it.”
IF? Hell, yes I want to be technical about it. I had just snatched my blogging adventure out of the jaws of sanity! My heart leapt! It leapt like 10 lords. It danced like 9 ladies! I could milk this sucker like 6 maids!
And I will beat this analogy like 12 drummers.
Suddenly, the lights on the tree twinkled a little brighter, and the nog was eggier, and a peace fell upon my heart.
Fast forward to Christmas night. The mercury in Alaska plunged, and the stars came out by the bazillions. The forecast called for a potential display of the aurora borealis – the northern lights. Or as Sarah Palin called them in Chapter 3, “the dancing hem of heaven.” Whatever.
A trip north was in order to escape the glow of Anchorage, so Mudflats photo editor Zach Roberts and I charged our camera batteries, grabbed a couple coffees to go, and headed for darker skies than Anchorage would allow. The northern lights were out, but low to the horizon, and a cloud bank had obscured some of the sky. You win some, you drive for an hour-and-a-half for nothing some.
On the way back to town, just before midnight, we drove through the City of Wasilla, and past the Palin Palace where they’d celebrated the real meaning of Christmas with the vaguely racist “Eskimo Bingo” gift grab.
We stopped for coffee again, and across the street an awkward, and sweetly amateurish display of lighted Christmas shapes were propped up next to the the Welcome to Wasilla sign. There was a bell, and a candy cane, and a moose. There was a sign that scrolled words – “Merry Christmas… Have a safe and happy holiday… Jesus is the reason for the season…”
And suddenly I thought that perhaps, just perhaps, we had been called to Wasilla to seek deeper answers - that the reason for our mission lay elsewhere. You may remember from Chapter 2 of Good Tidings and Great Joy, there was a large section about the nativity scene put up by the good people of Wasilla every year, right next to the lake.
It was time to pay a visit to Jesus and the rest of the O’Nazareth family.
The temperature was 14 degrees below zero, and felt colder. By the time we trudged across the squeaking, groaning snow pack from the parking lot to the manger, the tip of my nose was numb, my eyes were streaming, and my teeth actually hurt – an ice cream headache from the air.
I was walking in the high-heeled footsteps of the ghost of Mayor Christmas Past. The journey to the manger site, as Palin described it, involved a change in footwear.
“I replaced my warm Bunny Boots for cool, high-heeled leather ones when I left City Hall.”
She changed out of these:
… and into something a little more appropriate for trekking through the snow and presenting the holy family to the people of the city.
Sure enough, there was the manger, just as was foretold.
She had described uncrating the nativity figures, including Mary:
“Her pale blue scarf covered her hair, and her face was frozen in perpetual admiration for her child, Jesus. Now, that’s not a bad way to be stuck, I thought.”
Looking at the actual Mary, I wasn’t sure whether I’d call the expression “admiration,” and it looked to me like a very bad way to be stuck. Kind of like the person who’s wheeled into the ER, and things go bad, and their eyes roll up into their head.
I’m not sure either (as a mother) that my expression would be one of “admiration” if my child was in this state:
I might be placing a better-safe-than-sorry call to Bethlehem 911, if I weren’t in the middle of a seizure myself.
And as the wise men thousands of years ago, we stood in wonder – shock and awe, if you will.
And I began to notice something else as I stood – sinuses freezing solid with every inhalation, fingertips screaming from the biting cold, in the dark dark Wasilla night.
It wasn’t just Mary. It wasn’t just baby Jesus. It was everyone.
The eyes! The eyes! Don’t look into them!
The sheep is the only one with life. He’s stealing the souls of the holy family, and turning them into zombies!
The wind chill factor from hoofing it back to the car freeze-dried our cheeks. If I’d had my coffee with me, I would have poured it on my face. The engine cranked up and I stuck my fingers in the blower vents on the dashboard.
On the way out of Wasilla, we passed through a strobe light Christmas village where the pulsating lights coordinated with a local radio station playing Christmas carols. We drove through a candy cane forest, and past a larger than life-sized crucifix to the strains of Jingle Bell Rock. On the way out, we decided against taking a free candy cane from the empty drywall mud bucket on the mailbox.
We had seen strange sights this night. We had many questions.
But we did come away with at least one answer to a question that’s been in the news quite a bit this holiday season. Jesus and his family were definitely totally white.
[All watermarked photos by Zach D. Roberts]