For some reason the words are not coming to me as quickly this year. I usually find those words spinning through my head in the late hours of the night as I work on the Christmas cards. Perhaps this year those words were more along the lines of “what was I thinking?” – to say that this year’s design was ambitious is putting it mildly. I really enjoyed doing them, but this December seemed to have a lot of other obligations that we don’t normally have in this season of Advent. Our weekends and evenings were full of work and programs and meetings and then sickness, and in the end, the days seemed to be segmented into the hours that could be allotted to each of those things – the calculations became skewed as I went from dolling out the sixteen or seventeen hours of awake time to dolling out twenty or twenty-one. I’m embarrassed to say that there were more nights of less than four hours of sleep than those with more. Wednesday night I napped for two on the couch under the lights of the Christmas tree. Did we finish all of those things that we wished to? No. Am I okay with that? Most certainly, yes. As I like to say in this time of mad preparations “no child (or husband) was harmed in the production of this Christmas”. We did those things that we always do, we relaxed, we read books, we snuggled, we sat under the lights of the tree… if I have to give something up to get everything done, I usually choose sleep. I need to work on that. You’ll see that on the top of my resolutions for the new year. Right behind cutting my hair – but that’s another post entirely.
What is it about this time of year that gets so busy? We spend so very little of it running around buying things – I much prefer shopping throughout the year for the season, and limiting even that. We try to make as many of our gifts as possible (there’s the culprit), but that’s the enjoyable part of the season to me. I think it’s the rest of those things that need to be done that add up to more hours of the day being portioned out. Wouldn’t it be nice to transform the month of December into a season of preparation, not of maintenance? Twenty-five days of no laundry, no snow removal, no trips to the gas station, the dry cleaners, and we really still need to plan menus and make dinners? Who can fit the daily rations amongst the cases of eggs and creams and bowls of chilling custards and gelatos in the refrigerator? Much of the month becomes a shifting of spaces – from creation stations to dinner time to wrapping stations to homework desks to ice cream parlor. A shifting of priorities, a shifting of seasons, a bridge to that new year, where the possibility of change and renewal seems so real. There is an importance to this ritual – I see that as I work through those late nights and early mornings. It is this moment, sitting here on my parents’ couch, with family around in various stages of comfortable silence, coffee cup in hand, computer in my lap. There is a peacefulness that is more profound after the rush. It is the same as that sweetness of the bread that follows fasting, the taste of that single orange in the toe of a stocking of a family so far away from the sunny south, the feel of your own sheets after a long journey away from home. The pink, puffy cheeks of that tiny child crafted solely to erase the previous twelve hours of unimaginable pain and effort. The same cheeks that press against mine each night before sleep, with some sort of topical elixir that makes time and obligations and stresses stand still. Our joys are magnified by the work that precedes them. We mark our blessings that this work is not really work, that we’ve never known truly hard work, and that we’ve always seen the joys that result from it. We know that we are lucky beyond words to have work that involves creating Christmas scenes out of paper and ice cream confections. By doing this work, we are giving thanks that we are able to do it. We can choose where to give this thanks – to our God, to our parents, to that soldier, to our leaders, to that doctor, to that friend, to a tiny child born in a stable, to all of the above and more.
This year has been a year of making things work and celebrating the resulting joys. We’ve had to devote a lot more time and effort to making things work in a difficult economy and strained workplaces. We’ve stretched a bit more, and made things work where we thought they just might not. And we’ve been continuously reminded of just how very fortunate and blessed that we truly are. Last Christmas we received a gift from my grandparents with the only instructions attached “to enjoy”. And enjoy we did. We probably had lots of things, and projects, that could have been completed or purchased or even started – but once those things were listed out on paper, they lost a bit of their importance. We live in a house that isn’t “finished”, with or without things that we wish we had (more kitchen counter space? a commercial ice cream maker? a studio space?), and with more to-do’s than time to do them. Instead we did the things that would normally have come off the list in a year of cutbacks – we escaped for a week to the shore to introduce the littlest one to the joys of sandcastles and eating whole peaches in your bathing suit, and rinsing off later in the sea. We travelled to big cities and climbed skyscrapers and snuggled in hotel beds and introduced the older one to another world of fabulous architecture. We travelled to see family and see sights, we climbed canyons and dams and bridges and celebrated ten years of marriage, and we collapsed, happy and exhausted, back into our unfinished house each time. Celebrating the joys has been our motto, and in that vein, the celebrations have been abundant.
Thank you for visiting us each day here – we are glad that you have shared those joys with us this year. May the joys of the new year be abundant for you and yours.