I know I definitely want to wish you a happy Christmas and I worry that I may still owe you an email. But once you and I are done talking today, I’m switching off every screen –– Mac, iPhone, iPad –– and turning on the TV.
It’s strange to not be going anywhere this Christmas and yet for all that I miss meeting up with you, I’m really glad of a quiet space for a while.
Usually, I get a very particular two-hour-long quiet space on Christmas Eve, which is actually when I’m writing this. Usually I have what I think of as a lagrange point.
Those are actually the points in space between, say, the Earth and the moon where all the raging gravitational forces are precisely balanced out and all is calm. On Christmas Eve, the phone has stopped, there’s no one to answer an email or to ask for anything.
Usually my wife Angela Gallagher goes out to church with her sister and I have somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours alone. Usually, I spend that time watching a film I’ve been saving up and usually that film takes me away from everything.
I keep saying the word usually and that doesn’t seem to have quite the meaning it did before. This year’s Christmas Eve lagrange point will be the first where I’ve not been alone. Angela’s joining me and though she doesn’t know it yet, we’re going to watch one of my favourites from previous years.
It’s “Safety Not Guaranteed” and it is a quiet joy.
But speaking of quiet joys, nothing is going to change my other Christmas Eve tradition. For the fifth year in a row, I’m going to be watching Arrival sometime around midnight.
That’s partly because this is now my metric equivalent of midnight mass, partly because the stillness of the time seems right. But also because it’s the anniversary of when I saw the film in a cinema’s midnight screening.
It was actually the second time I’d seen it and I put this tradition down entirely to poet and celebrant Charlie Jordan, who took me to see a film without telling me what it was. I owe her.
That first time seeing it seems so long ago. That first Christmas Eve, driving out at midnight in the cold, that seems like fiction. I don’t want Christmas to be like this, but it has to be –– and I do want Christmas Eve to be precisely like this.
Take care of yourself, okay? Good talking with you. Now bunch up, get the Malteasers, we’ve got two movies to watch.