Monday, January 8th, 2018
I wrote about the holiday blur that occurs as holiday time becomes pressure cooker compressed and we are not ‘in’ the celebration but are managing it and trying to endure to the end of the race intact to then be smacked by the cultural demand for New Year’s resolutions.
And yet, I had my shining moments in the midst of it all. They stand out and last past the moment. I used to ask my kids for their mental snapshots from their day. Here are mine are mine from Christmas 2017.
—One moment was my daughter Megan singing with her friend Sara in concert in Portland a few days before Christmas. The first big snow of the season was in full force. They opened singing acapella, both dressed in long white dress, facing one another singing a Christma carol–In the Bleak Midwinter. The stage was adorned (adorned is the exact right word) with white pine trees. Behind the audience, the huge window was a diorama like scene of snow and colored lights and bundled up people walking by. The two women looked like burning candles candles as they stood absolutely still, singing this holy song. This Friday night audience ready to party were stunned listening into a silent, holy night moment.
—A week before Christmas, I did a reading/conversation of the book I wrote I PRAY ANYWAY: Devotions for the Ambivalent. A friend hosted the gathering of about twenty-five women. After wine and chatting and food we gathered around the fireplace and fell into a great conversation, talking informally and intimately about God and prayer and modern religion and our personal beliefs. We laughed a lot and wept a little. It was what connection feels like. We left with “comfort and joy”.
—I was happy to have my granddaughter spend Christmas Eve night at our house. She sleeps in an alcove off the master bedroom.i. At 3:30 Iin the mornng I heard her call me. She couldn’t sleep. I took her into my den and we had a Christmas Eve party. She unwrapped a gift, a book about the Nativity that had flaps to open (always a hit) and we had a cookie and and an orange and she sat in my arms and we talked and opened flaps. We headed to bed at 5 am, happy and sleepy.
—A few days before Christmas, late at night, I was alone in the living room. I had stubbornly decided to put up a live garland on the stairway leading to the second floor even though it would be up only a few days before we left for Mexico for the Winter. Putting up a twelve foot garland alone takes—well, contortion is what it takes. But I had done it every year. It was close to midnight but I hung the darn garland. I plopped down in my usual arm chair triumphant but grumpy. . I turned off all of the lights but those of the tree and mantle and garland . I picked up my iPad for one last game of Solitaire and instead went to Pandora and chose Christmas music. On came the Alleluia Chorus. Up I stood (headphones in place) and I conducted the chorus wildly swinging my arms while I sang through the entire Messiah. It was (and I am minimizing) exhilarating!! (I would love to have a recording of me belting out The Messiah totally out of tune but with grand abandonment.)
I like the ritual and planning for the holiday season. That’s one of the reasons I put up a long garland alone late at night. I had always put up a garland and I was going to do it no matter what. My Oregon daughter called to say she was making ritual food from our Christmas’s. My Seattle daughter-law called to say she was thinking of us as she put food on the back porch when her fridge was full, which I always do in Winter. My Portland Maine daughter made my mom’s favorite cookies and my Portland Maine son had the usual liver pate and country bread. My California kids who met us in Mexico told stories to their daughters about Christmas Eve at my house and exactly what the ritual was, from food to timing to activities.
I honor the holiday rituals. They hold us together beyond geography and, even, time. But my shining holiday moments were not planned.Still, they would not have happened without the customs (demands?) of the season. I’m reminded again and again that preparation is done so the unexpected can happen.