I've put the Connie Willis Christmas book away for now, stowed it carefully in my Kindle, and if it gets too crowded there, it'll always be available on my computer or in the Amazon archives. Come next November, however, I'll want it back there, right at the top of my reading list again, to savor some quirky story of Willis's in the quiet moments while waiting somewhere in a line, while riding in the car or bus to some destination, when a speaker's delivery isn't up to snuff, or when I'm waiting for the doctor to see me.
Hopefully, I'll use them again to better evaluate my place in the world in terms of the stories and their allusions to history and to myth.
To me, that's the value of reading great stories: self-evaluation and, of course, inspiration. I won't discard other Christmas favorites: Dickens's A Christmas Carol and Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory. Or even the one's Willis recommends there in her own collection.
There's something unique in reading Christmas stories with that fantastical and, at times, science-fictiony element that Willis is so renowned for. The whimsy and the easy nature of her storytelling is so conducive to the Christmas spirit.
So next year, sometime after Thanksgiving, I wouldn't be surprised if my wife catches me cozied down in the leather recliner with a subtle smile on my face reading about Joseph and Mary caught up in current times through some time warp or something, finding themselves in a Christian church where people are encouraged not to get too caught up in compassion, and the two of them not knowing quite how to get back on the path to Bethlehem. I'll be contemplating "Joseph lying about the baby being his, and the wise men sneaking out the back way, the holy family hightailing it to Egypt and the innkeeper lying to Herod's soldiers about where they'd gone."
My wife will speak to me, asking what I'm reading, and I'll say, "We are all capable of murder. It's in our genes." She'll say, "Boy, you're getting in the Christmas spirit, aren't you?" and I'll say, "You know, 'the story of the Second Coming was a single narrative, but it was actually a hodgepodge of isolated scriptures.'"
About that time, the electronic file on my Kindle will magically disappear. It had its origins in Connie Willis, after all, and she has just that kind of magic in her writing. If you've read these stories, you know just what I mean.