Star Stuck

Even paper stars entice us to look up.
Even paper stars entice us to look up.

Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder when I stopped wondering what you are.

I was nine years old when my mother gave me a copy of “Mary Poppins.” I loved it. But some parts of it stuck with me more than others. In particular I recall the chapter in which Mary Poppins takes the children to meet a wispy old lady who makes gingerbread stars. The key magical element was the gold foil stars covering the cookies that (spoiler alert) the old lady, with Mary’s help, pastes to the night sky.

Of course I knew it was make believe, but I liked the idea. The hard-edged modern world has little patience for such whimsy. We know too much now. Or think we do, anyway. Once those spectacular photos from the Hubble telescope started showing up on the Internet, putting to shame all of George Lucas’s special effects, not to mention Gene Roddenberry’s best efforts, it became obvious that the stars are far more complicated and numerous than was once thought.

Back in the days when the Greeks and Romans were giving names to the twinkling lights in the night sky, and in some cases imagining origin myths and personal narratives for all that glow, the chance of anyone going up there and assessing the actual content and dimensions of the stars was remote. Now satellites clutter the atmosphere, not only bouncing signals back and forth and observing our mundane activities here on Earth, but allowing us to watch the exploding swirling dance of distant galaxies.

It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. And right now, what with the eggnog and the rum punch etc., I really don’t need any more confusion in my life. I used to enjoy the Christmas hoopla. But ever since the 12 days of Christmas turned into 12 weeks I’m too burned out on the whole marketing juggernaut to stop and smell the gingerbread.

I miss that simpler Mary Poppins sort of magic. I’d rather look up at the stars on a clear cold snowy evening than watch another sappy holiday special about the meaning of Christmas.

I think meaning is best when it’s homemade. Like gingerbread stars. And this holiday, I’ll be pasted.

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