A Plate of Snickerdoodles
Our large family of six children had a father who worked long hours hanging drywall. He owned the business and it provided food, shelter and education for everyone. He went to church and volunteered in the community. He also had anger issues which flared without much warning. My brothers bore the brunt of his physical anger. My sisters and I were the recipients of his acidic comments. It is hard to say which was worse; the physical or mental attacks.
When the shouting and fighting became too intense, I would escape upstairs to the third floor of our house. It was my brother Buddy’s room and he had tons of records. I would lie on the braid rug and listen to cast albums of Broadway musicals, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones. I’d make up stories and pretend I was a surfer girl or Laurie, riding in the surrey with the fringe on top, or a girlfriend of Mick Jagger, swinging along on a London Street in my mini skirt, laughing and free, without a care. Far away from the family violence, I found a dreamy peace. Buddy would come in, finally, often with a plate of snickerdoodles and two bottles of Coke. “Battle’s over, kid,” he’d say. Now I was safe.
“We Exchanged Gifts”
In December, 1914, in the cold, wet, miserable trenches of WWI, French, British and German soldiers declared a Christmas truce. Some of their commanders threatened them with insubordination; they were supposed to be in battle, killing one another.
But on Christmas Eve 1914, in places like Ypres, France, where during the preceding weeks and months, the brutality of the fighting exceeded any the world had previously known, a French carol, sung in chorus by exhausted soldiers, floated over the no man’s land, the ground between opposing trenches. Soon, a lighted Christmas tree made its way above the German trench. Soldiers from both sides began to show themselves. Others walked, unarmed, into the middle of no man’s land. In some places, cigars were exchanged. A bottle of champagne was found and shared. One French officer admired the brass buttons on the uniform of German officer. A knife was produced, the only weapon to be seen. It was used to snip the thread of three of the buttons. They were given to the French officer as a souvenir.
It was a full moon and as the midnight hour approached, voices were raised in song: Adeste Fidelis was sung, then O Tannenbaum, then Douce Nuit (Silent Night). Different languages but one humanity; a sacred moment of peace. The following is from a Union soldier’s story about a similar kind of truce during the Civil War, “We bridged the river, the bloody chasm. We exchanged gifts. We showed empathy toward the enemy, greetings back and forth. We kept Christmas and our hearts were lighter and our shivering bodies were not quite so cold.”
All is Calm
The tail of violence is long, winding through our memories, our pasts, tangling itself up in our present lives. Whether it is experienced through a difficult childhood or through the tragedy and chaos of war, all human beings need respite and surcease; moments of being surrounded by trust, safety and the knowledge that our individual souls are aligned with the collective soul of goodness and love and peace and the continued faith in the notion that somewhere, someplace, perhaps in the center of our own hearts, all is calm, all is bright.
Kate Fuglei is an actress and singer who divides her time between Studio City and Brooklyn. She has appeared in over forty episodes of television, including most recently in one of the first episodes of STAR TREK/PICARD. She is a published author with two novels based on the lives of the physicist Enrico Fermi and the educator Maria Montessori. The greatest blessing in her life is her marriage to writer Ken LaZebnik and her two sons, Jack LaZebnik and Ben LaZebnik. They inspire her every single day.
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