Sunday, December 29, 2013

We Did Christmas.

How was Christmas?

One might say it was busy:

We spent a rather frantic week after returning from Thanksgiving, decking the halls; there was a gingerbread workshop; youth group dinner; a choir cantata; a choir celebration; a visit to Santa; a Santa Lucia party; a nativity and craft event; a Christmas party in town; school parties and teacher appreciations; a performance of The Nutcracker; Christmas caroling at assisted living communities; a picnic dinner in front of the tree; shopping; wrapping; finishing up homemade gifts; helping brothers with their gifts to each other; Christmas Eve tea.

Throw in some other non-Christmas related stuff on top: birthdays to celebrate; a belt test where Aidan earned his purple belt in karate; planning for January birthdays to celebrate.  Add in a few snow days, just to mess things up a bit, including forcing the delay of the children's Christmas pageant all the way to January 5, the 12th day of Christmas.
Way to go, Aidan!  We are *so*proud of you!

Do you feel tired just from reading the first two paragraphs?

For many days, I was dismayed to hear my inner voice keep shouting at me, "You're too busy!"
The only goal I had for this December was that I wanted to be bored, not busy. I'd hoped to make this year one of peace-filled waiting, anticipating, hoping.  I was dismayed because of what I had given up to make this happen: I baked far fewer cookies than ever before; crafted far fewer handmade gifts; drastically simplified the gifts of service; gave up entirely on sending out Christmas cards, despite the joy it brought me last year.  I neglected this blog space, which matters to no one except me - yet it matters, because there is so much I never wish to forget - and that I need to process.  And so I was frustrated, and feeling very Busy.... until I stopped being Busy.  I let go of many of my too-high expectations for myself.  And started being Aware. I was Watching.  I was Waiting, and Hoping, and Preparing.  In quiet moments snatched from the busy ones, I found so much to celebrate.  As I embraced the preparation, I made room for the discoveries of Christmas.  Here, I remember a few:

Hurrying home one night from the downtown mall, I was feeling weary and heavy-hearted.  As I waited impatiently for the light to change, I noticed a mother and her son walking down the sidewalk.  The son had scaled the stone wall along the side of the path, and was elated at the chance to test his balance on its edge.  The mother slowed her pace and waited patiently, ever so patiently, for the boy to take all the time he needed to conquer the stone wall.  She did not rush him, did not say a word to hurry him.  She did not tell him there was dinner to be made, or laundry to fold, or that she was tired and wanted to go home.  She waited for him, and laughed with him in his delight.  She gazed at him and his deft and able self, radiating with love and affection for her son.  Instantly, it made me remember another mother who gazed in wonder and admiration of her son.

I watched Santa hold a three week old baby, saw the full knowledge he had of what a special moment this was in the life of this newborn's mother, the gift of holding new life in his red velvet-clad arms.  I remembered the first Christmas I had a new son to hold in my arms, to hand over to Santa's arms.

We visited Santa.  I was nonplussed with the initial photos the "photographer" took, and then I saw this moment -- and I saw the moment.... even though it eluded the photographer.

After our visit with Santa, I explained to my kids the idea I had for them to be Santas, too:  anonymous gift givers.  Aidan and I wrote simple notes on the outside of envelopes:

Leo and Pax stuffed the envelope with the required amount of money for vending machine drinks and rides on the carousel.  We stealthily made our way through the mall, careful not to be spotted when leaving these little surprises.  It was a quiet affair, and yet the thrill that Aidan (in particular) felt in being the anonymous gift giver was palpable.  I watched him, witnessed his gift giving, and loved his generous heart and his furtive ways on that day. 

In the pre-dawn hours one Saturday, I'd stumbled down behind my early riser Pax.  After plugging in the newly decorated tree, I wandered back to the kitchen to pour my cup of coffee.  I didn't know where Pax had gone, so I went back to the living room and discovered this:
...which was even more beautiful in person than in this photo.  He did not notice me as he first stood and gazed at the tree before eventually repositioning a few of the ornaments.  He stood in wonder and awe.  That is to say --

We both did.
Last week, we enjoyed the last of our Christmas 2012 "experiences" (see gifts) at Richmond Ballet's matinee performance of The Nutcracker.  I have been waiting, many years, until my children are old enough to sit through the ballet that I love so much for both the music and the artistic beauty of the dancers. Blinking back tears of happiness and gratitude, I held Pax on my lap as I whispered to him reminders of the story we'd read for days before the show.

"There's Clara, see how excited she is about her nutcracker?"
"Oooh, there's the mouse king!"
"The Sweets and Spices! Look, coffee from Arabia!"

During intermission, we surveyed the orchestra, exclaiming over the huge harps and tiny piccolos, excited to hear - and see - the rest of the performance.  At the opening of the second act, Pax took in the shepherd and shepherdess (dressed in blue), and all the little sheep, and proclaimed loudly --
"Now them is doing Mary and Joseph!!"

Later, whem Mother Ginger enters with all of her "beautifully behaved children" (with angel wings and halos, to boot), Leo exclaimed,
"Those look like the Gabriels!"

Afterward, we went out to dinner, the five of us.  We talked about our most favorite parts of the ballet. We marveled over the athleticism of the dancers, and the agility of the musicians.  We reveled in our last experience, our December family date.

And in those moments, and the moments to come, I realized how much we were Doing Christmas.  In the waiting.  In the hoping.  In the preparing.  In the celebrating.  And as acutely as I was aware of how busy I felt, I became acutely aware of something entirely different:  In wanting to be "bored" in December, I was realizing how rich and how full - not how Busy - our December truly was.  After a particularly cathartic 4 mile run with my best running buddy, I'd discovered, in our conversation, the key to all of this hustle and bustle:  our community.  Our church. Our family.

And now, days later, I have thank you notes to write; decorations to take down; resolutions to make (or not); I have appointments to make; stuff to do.  Endless, endless stuff to do.  One might say I'll be very Busy in the new year.

But what we did this December?  We did Christmas. 
4 Shepherds and 1errant sheep, delivering the Children's Message on December 22

Heading over to Christmas Eve Tea, then worship on Christmas Eve

No comments: