Sunday, December 24, 2023

Christmas Letter

Bouguereau (1825-1905) Song of the Angels (1881 A.D.) 
Dear Family and Friends,

I pray this letter finds you in good health and cheer and in readiness to welcome our Savior Jesus Christ. Oh, He loves you so much! And it’s for you and me, our family and friends, our enemies even, that Christ was born. It’s this plan of God becoming Man—the Incarnation—that Satan hated. Non serviam. I will not serve. We can never forget that Satan hates us and will do anything—witness the chaos and divisions—to keep us from our dear Savior. Let us be like Mary, who crushes the head of the serpent with her humility. Fiat mihi. Let it be done unto me. It must really rankle Satan to be defeated by a mere creature, and a woman at that. But she is full of grace and happy to supply what we lack. This is why the Hail Mary is such a perfect prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. 

This time last year, I was in Texas with my brother Mohan. You all will be happy to know he is doing fine. I tell you, he’s a cat with nine lives! Mohan’s illness has brought our family closer to one another. I especially enjoyed getting to know my grown niece Anjali—she has all the best qualities from each of her parents, Mohan’s analytical mind, Sujata’s artistic bent. Praise God for all He’s doing.

I am thankful to be home with Michael—we are like hobbits with our creature comforts. After a lifetime of setting up home in different continents, countries, states, and cities, it is good to finally put down roots. I remember the first Mass we heard at Stella Maris Catholic Church 12 years ago on our 17th wedding anniversary. I wept because I was home. No other place has had this effect. We are blessed here. This year, the biggest blessing was the completion of St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church, the jewel of Daniel Island. We often walk or bike to church for Adoration or to hear Mass and that itself is meditative. It was an honor to be invited to sing at the Mass of Dedication in April. JOY!

Music has taken over our lives. We continue to sing in the Latin Mass choir at both Stella Maris and Sacred Heart but we receive more than double blessings with double dose of Scripture :) We love how Sundays are truly set apart for worship. We enjoy socializing after Mass and are often the last ones to leave :) When my sister Suman came for a visit, she was happy to hear daily Mass and sing with us. She called it a spiritual retreat.

My health has improved significantly by relying on local farmers for meat, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. We’re moving away bit by bit from the medical/industrial food system. Clean living is allowing us to participate more in community life. Michael and I joined a recorder group; it’s a lot easier than singing or playing the piano! It’s such fun to make music together, harkening back to olden days when music-making was a communal affair. I’ve also joined a women’s barbershop that’s very challenging. Good for the brain! We’ve had our first concerts in these new groups and it has brought the same joy as bringing a book to publication. In the beginning, writing is a gift for yourself, then upon publication, it becomes a gift for others. Alas, I’m not writing much but I hope that as I become more proficient in music, I will have the mental space for creative writing. Michael is eager to retire and devote more time to his monkish pursuits—religion, brewing, gardening. He is such a good provider—look at the bounty from our garden (that’s still producing despite the cold).

Max is the opposite of a hobbit. I get tired just listening to him talk about his hectic schedule travelling for work and play. But I really appreciate the time he takes to be present to family and friends. This year, in addition to visits home, we ended up meeting in Chicago. I was visiting my father to celebrate his 95th birthday and Max was visiting some friends for July 4th celebration. So he spent some time with my parents as well. Such a wonderful God-cidence!

Max is happy living and working in DC. He and his housemate Chris continue to host marvelous Thursday night dinners. They remind me of my thesis advisor and mentor Lin, who’d prepare seven course meals for her black-tie dinner parties. She taught me a great deal—good science, good art, good cookingand I carry those principles with me. This spring, Jerry arranged a wonderful 50th year celebration of their Membrane Group. Of course, Lin prepared a delicious buffet for all 50+ of us. It was lovely to catch up with old friends and colleagues, some whom I’d lost touch with. To see Lin and Jerry again was a great joy! The last time was 25 years ago at their restaurant Combray, in Pullman, WA, when we were driving from Purdue Univ. to Redmond, WA. Max was just an embryo!

How time flies! Dagny too has flown the nest but we see her weekly for Mass and choir practice. She tells Max to move down to Charleston and become a wedding planner :) I think he’d be very good at it and we’re enlisting his help… because Dagny is engaged to be married to Ian Jacobs, the handsome boy down the street! Save the date: Monday, Dec. 30, 2024. Come celebrate their Holy Matrimony with us.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. After graduating last Dec. from Ave Maria Univ., Dagny worked at Firefly distillery on the production team. It’s been so interesting to learn more about spirits from her, though I’ve not yet developed a taste for them. However, she makes flavorful mixed drinks. She recently left Firefly to work for SC Dept. of Water. She’s enjoying having a desk job, making more $$$, and not having to wear steel-toed boots. She’ll keep our water clean for drinking, fishing, and playing. Her interests align with Ian’s; he’s studying civil engineering and will graduate next Dec. He’s already studied one of my father’s textbooks!

We took a family vacation in Ave Maria for Dagny’s graduation ceremony in May. We had a wonderful time listening to the inspiring sermons and speeches, meeting professors, parents, friends. Our Lady truly took our children under her mantle and formed them in virtue. Deo gratias! The best part was having downtime at the farmhouse that had kittens not even a month old. Such delight to pick them up whenever we wanted. Made it a purrfect and peaceful retreat. May you also have pockets of peace!

Closing with love and prayers for a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthful New Year. Pax Christi!



Mirka Breen said...

Rejoice! Best wishes to you and your beautiful family, both humans and not. You are blessed with love and know how to share it.

Barbara Etlin said...

What a lovely letter! You've got music, family, occasions to celebrate, and kittens: all things to bring you joy and peace. Merry Christmas, Vijaya! And congrats to Dagny and Ian on their engagement!

Vijaya said...

Thank you Mirka and Barb! We are blessed and I'm happy to share them with you.

Caitlin said...

Hi Vijaya! You responded to my blogging question on the Blueboard and it made me so curious to see your blog! You have a lovely blog, and a lovely family, and a lovely faith! So nice to "meet" you. ☺️

Caitlin said...

Oh, I meant to say, so fun to see you're in South Carolina! I grew up in Ga and went to college in South Carolina and only recently moved to Colorado. Charleston is so lovely.

Vijaya said...

Caitlin, thank you. It is lovely to meet you too. Did you go to the College of Charleston? I feel so blessed to live here. I didn't know I have a Southern grandma heart until I moved here--no wonder I felt at home immediately. I imagine growing up in the South, it's quite a culture shock in CO, but I know you will find your tribe there too. All the best and God bless you in your new adventures!