The tree is up, collected today from the local feed store by Lucien and Papa. After the usual puzzling and trimming and “to the left,” and “no, too far!” it stands in the living room as an item of pure wonder for small eyes and hands. The surest sign that Advent is over, Christmas has begun. There are no twinkly lights this year, only candles. For three years, or was it two? we had both. Perhaps it was a little difficult to let go of the warm memories of childhood, or simply that twinkly lights really are beautiful. But, no amount of twinkly lights can equal the power of a tiny flame shining through the darkness. So, in honor of this real bilder, we decided no electric tree lights this year.
Lucien’s Christmas sweater is blocked and wrapped. I left off the elbow patches in the end. I suppose they are what give the sweater much of its character. But, I was satisfied with it and weary of all of those tiny stitches. I knew I was done–that I had poured all of the love I could into it, and that was that. It will be well worn, with plenty of room to grow. Knit in sock yarn, it’s not too heavy. Lucien runs pretty warm, he doesn’t need Aran weight bulk insulating him. (Mattheus once burst in the door from school, and before saying anything else, announced that “Lucien was the only one at school that didn’t have to wear a coat today, and I was so grumpy about that!” Whether or not this is accurate, it is an honest picture of Lucien’s ever-burning internal furnace.)
John is finishing the last minute wrapping, tidying up and starting some food prep for tomorrow as I type. The first round of Christmastide baking is done, taste tested and approved. All the little things that happen while the children are sleeping are still left, but I like to do them very last before bed: the images of the Annunciation replaced with the Holy Family, fresh red and white roses, the presents on the top of the piano, the table setting.
But before that, this post. It’s the last typing I’ll be doing for a couple of weeks. After giving much thought to how the blog might change my annual Holy Nights media fast, I’ve decided to hold it as usual: no screens and no mechanized sounds aside from music. In the end I could not imagine forgoing this tradition of turning my gaze from the day to day, to the lifetime that keeps it all in perspective. At this turning point in the year, from dark to light, we are offered the gift to remember who we’ve been and what we can still become, and how it all fits into the grand picture of all that is around us. What is lost in taking a break from the day to day is regained manifold when new understanding is cultivated and ultimately allowed to enliven it. Worth it, if you ask me.
As for the rest of the preparations, the house, laundry, dishes, bathroom, well–much has gone undone while we’ve been busy merry making. But that’s okay. While it calls for our attention, Mattheus reminds Opal not to eat the apple slices off of the tree. Lucien wraps two small presents for me and insists that John labels them, “Merry Mama, this is a rock for you.” The second is a ribbon turned into a necklace. He checks in with me several times a day to make sure I am still wearing it. I hold up the tree while John attempts to screw it in for several minutes, only to realize he needs to cut off a few more branches. Mattheus jumps up to our aid, running out the door, “I’ll get the tree saw. I know just which branches need to be trimmed!” Once it is up, Opal stands at the base of the tiny miracle in our living room, summing it all up in one word, repeated over and over again, “tee! tee!”
The mess is not going anywhere, but these moments happening amongst spilled flour, not cleaned up quickly enough and tracked all over the house, they fly by so quickly it is even hard to create a memory. Through the fuzziness, there is a feeling. This is what I will remember, if I am lucky enough to reach the ripe old age of spending my days in an electric easy chair: the love that streams out of the the heart of a small child, so connected to and filled up by the unseen things of this world, that they can do nothing other than be the impulse of love and compassion that is Christmas.
And so it is. The joyful storm is upon us. After weeks of gathering energy in the heavens, it is full to bursting. While we sleep, in the deepest moment of night, the skies will open, bringing cathartic rain, wind, force. Not with fury, but magnanimously, offering us the new that only comes from transformation.
But, it has not arrived. We find ourselves here again on the most magical day of the year, Christmas Eve. Now, in this moment, soon to become fuzzy memory, we stand within the anticipation and the revelation at the same time. The slight uneasiness of all our doubt falls away into peace–it is coming. Tomorrow. But, not just yet. Tonight, we are allowed to live in the perfect beauty of the-just-before, where the ideal still lives untarnished by the earthly.
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It is in this moment that I thank you all for sharing this blog with me. I could never have imagined what it would become and look forward to the coming year with excitement. I wish for you all the many gifts of the powerful days ahead. Merry Christmas!