On Tuesday, I rushed my family out of the house. They were dragging themselves against the strong current of restfulness out toward the blustery world as I was dragging boxes up from the basement to be filled with the things I've called Christmas my whole life. The tree came down. The knick knacks were wrapped in tissue and ever softening newspaper. All tucked safely away for next year. This year, really.
For the past few years, well, more like ten (have I been a mother that long?) putting Christmas away has given me nothing buy joy. Taping the Christmas tree back into its box with grand dramatic guestures is the grand finale of my triumph. We survived. Then eleven months later (if I could wait that long) there I'd be, chomping at the bit to pull everything out again.
This year, when the things came out, I felt little. These things weren't Christmas at all. Only the tree tugged at my heartstrings. The tree was tradition, so full of my children's short history now. Preschool handprints. Popsicle sticks covered in glitter. Pictures pasted to the bellies of snowmen. Our tree is covered in ornaments that once belonged to our grandparents or were gifted to us by someone special during childhood. Family friends, cousins. There is a weight to it now. It is pregnant with meaning. Our past, their future. The roots that bore me into this new year; this new cycle with a whole new purpose.
This year, Christmas did not feel like Christmas and I couldn't put my finger on it. I wrote about it, but never posted what I'd written, because the sense of waiting--of lack of completion so permeated everything in December. Here is some of what I wrote then:
Every time of year is pretty much my favorite. Truly. Weather delights me in all its forms, in exclusion of extreme heat that is not accompanied by thunderstorms. The turn of the seasons fuels my fire, and advent, the season of waiting honors the process of turning like no other for me.
It's not just the change of seasons, and the coming celebrations that are lending themselves to this turning energy this year. Human beings seem to be at the vertex of their turning as well. Regrettably, we are not as graceful at rebirth as the trees. There is no joy in watching the death and destruction falling all around us. It is easier when the trees are the ones letting go. The suffering is palpable. It is hard to celebrate.
It's striking me that the undercurrent of the energy of Christmas in the U.S. has, for a long while, been triumph. Religious triumph. Commercial triumph. We didn't call it that, certainly, but I think it is what we meant. We said words like 'peace' and padded ourselves with the security of things and beliefs. Oh, so comfortable to be the chosen ones, and the ones with the most stuff at the same time! Joyful and triumphant.
I have been wandering around looking for triumph, under different titles of course. Tradition. Joy. Cheer. I found the tradition. I found the joy. I found the cheer. They just didn't feel right. All the old ways to do Christmas weren't working-they weren't even desirable.
Triumphalism. It's clearly been dying for me for a while, what with the greatest triumph being that the whole thing was over. Don't get me wrong. I'm the kind of person who listens to Christmas music all year long, loves baking and cooking for people, loves an opportunity to give and serve, and knows that family is the golden thread that runs through my veins. It's just that November, December, and January are the months I want to creep all the way in, let my soul be immersed in God. December being the climax of this rest, and all that Bing Crosby cheer and the parties and the travel and the whatnot and the general loudness of it all need to just hush up for a hot second so I can hear the voice I want to hear.
No wonder I've been living for January for so many years.
The silence comes and I can finally hear and think and see straight. This January I am revisioning; feeling my roots plunged so deeply into the heart of my being. The aliveness. The readiness to be present to what is right now. And I am so grateful for last year's lessons--which were discerned with last minute suddenness--appropriate for the drama that was 2016. To have landed both softly and firmly true in my own footsteps in the midst of chaos was a gift I will not forget to live into this new year.
As swiftly as I rushed them out to begin the week Tuesday morning, I'll be rushing my people back in this evening. A weekend of winter's rest and toil--all together--nestled into life. What luxury.