The Shelf Life of Words

 Every year we extract it from the recesses of our mind, blow off the dust and, like our grandmother’s good china, rediscover the joy in using it. If we were to take it out on the fourth of July we’d be dubbed a screwball but after Thanksgiving, it’s fair game. 

You, reader, are smart so forgive me for spelling it out:  M E R R Y.
          Why is merry such a transitory, season-specific word? Why can’t we wish someone a merry birthday, or a merry anniversary? Why don’t teachers ever use it to describe our children? (“Johnny is such a merry child, all the children like him.”)
            The very word conjures up certain images, at least for me: girls in twirly dresses. Boys with flushed cheeks and cowlicks, running barefoot. Men laughing long and hard in mahogany lined pubs. Peppermint sticks. Gingham curtains. Row, row, rowing a boat. (give it a minute… it’ll come) Little old ladies kitting red woolen mittens. Don’t mind me if I jump on my feather bed and burst into song Julie Andrews style.
Mer-ry  adj
1. Full of or showing lively cheerfulness or enjoyment
            Even though the word stirs my craving for Dickens or Shakespeare, Brits, ironically, are more inclined to bid you a “Happy Christmas”. At any rate, the word exudes charm. And I suppose such charm could fade if we used merry daily. Like the Gingerbread Latte at Starbucks I adore. Love it, but since I want it to retain its I’m-treating-myself-today status, I don’t frequently indulge.
            After the New Year we’ll carefully wrap up our sweet little word merry and tuck her away with our blown-glass ornaments and garlands of ivy. We’ll save her for next year, so she doesn’t become commonplace.
            So, so easy for things to become commonplace.
            Even the story about Mary (the other one) and the star and shepherds and the baby in the manger. So easy for our wonder to fade, for the story to slip into ordinary, to dwindle in its significance. But the baby we’re celebrating grew up, grew up and uttered some pretty revolutionary words:
I am the bread of life
I am the living water
I am the light of the world
I am the good shepherd
I am the gate
I am the resurrection
I am the life
I am the way
I am the truth
I am the life
I am the beginning
I am the end
I am the first
I am the last
         No shelf life there. Words to ponder, words to chew on. If my neighbor spoke these words, I’d probably move.
         What child is this?
         Who is this baby who grew up to claim such things? 
         Celebrate the baby. Celebrate the wonder. Celebrate the Word that became flesh.
         And I’ll write it with a smile… Merry Christmas!

One response to “The Shelf Life of Words”

  1. Thanks for using YOUR beautiful words to point me to HIS. You make me feel downright MERRY!! Blessings, dear friend

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