Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Feliz Navidad, Happy Whatever-You-Celebrate? My Dutch friends here frightened me with stories of a town without food or provisions for the nest few days, so I spent Christmas eve running around to various shops for last minute supplies as though I were preparing for an encroaching blizzard. The house we are staying in has such a well-appointed kitchen that I vowed to cook at least one really nice meal in it for Alex before we leave and Christmas seemed like the perfect occasion. I bought some beautiful lamb from the organic butcher around the corner, a crusty loaf of bread and a nice bottle of wine. Alex has been dropping subtle hints about butternut squash soup, ex, “All I want is some butternut squash soup,” but there was nary a squash to be found, so carrot soup it is. Someone please make that girl some butternut squash soup when she gets home?

We were surprised and saddened to find Tuti still in his bed when we arrived, his holiday furlough shortened by a fever. The mood on Tuti’s side of the ward was somber. In the midst of this odd combination of sober watchfulness and celebration, we put on the Christmas cds sent from Carol & Traci, and moved Todd to a quiet lounge for the Skype video calls to his family.

The first call came from Todd’s father and his stepmother, Renate. Todd’s eyes locked on the screen and never left it. Subsequent calls from each of his sisters, his mother and his beautiful nieces and nephews brought tales of chicken enchiladas brunches and Christmas morning ski trips.

Mark and Amy and Jake Eddie called next. Jake Eddie asked if Unci Todd felt better and eagerly showed off his new toys. Todd seemed especially interested in a radio-controlled Godzilla that spat fiery flames at us. Several of the nurses popped their heads in to meet Todd’s friends and say hello.

Our call to Barney was the day’s highlight. The other calls had been pre-arranged, but we surprised Barney, who was fast asleep at his parents’ guesthouse in Calistoga. Gamely, he answered and agreed to turn on his camera. The connection was poor and the room was dark, so he stumbled around outside with video camera, cell phone and laptop in hand for a few minutes before realizing it was 34 degrees outside and he’d forgotten to put on shoes. Once he was properly shod, he gave us a walking tour of the Haynes compound, almost falling into the swimming pool because his attention was divided amongst so many devices…… all before his first cup of coffee.

For the man who is chair of the Media Arts department at CCA, it was somehow appropriate that Barney’s call should be plagued with technical difficulties. The video and sound weren’t syncing, so we talked via cell phone and watched his mouth move seconds later. Several times, his face dissolved into pixels or he appeared to have three mouths. We had a blast employing as many recording devices as possible: phones, cameras, laptops, video and stills?and a lengthy discourse on how many layers of technology were involved?an uber/meta video smash-em-up derby. Todd seemed to really enjoy all the techno chaos. His mouth and throat really started working as soon as he saw Barney. Maybe he was trying to tell us how to fix the problem.

We were all tired after almost two hours of calls and Todd was sleeping soundly when we left. A nice email from Barney was waiting for us when we got home. It was, he said, a great way to wake up on Christmas morning and the best present he’d gotten all day.

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