24 December 2011


Christmas, won't you please slow down?

It is the morning of Christmas Eve, the [dvd of a] fire crackles and "warms" my tiny living room, A Winter's Solstice II tinkles quietly with piano and string, candles flicker and pop, casting shadows on their surroundings now festively decked and sparkling for the holiday, steam rises from a freshly warmed coffee cup and this last morning's minutes seem to be cut in half. It goes too quickly. I want to put this past week on repeat.

Mornings have been spent in my chair, just as described above, with book and cup and pen. Behold the Lamb Of God: An Advent Narrative by friend and compatriot Russ Ramsey (the cover of which contains my art, by the by) has been my daily read. I started it by rushing through each day of advent in chunks, but then had to slow down, read more deliberately and ingest it piece by piece, morning by morning. His telling of that great and totally absurd story of Christ's birth is at once reverent and wildly illustrative. I need things told to me in story-form, especially the Bible. I am an absolute drooling infant when it comes to comprehending the largeness of what has been done for me in the work of that little boy-become-Savior, Jesus. "But this couple carried a holy secret, whispered into their ears by the lips of an angel and conceived in the warmth of her womb my the overshadowing Spirit of God. It played like a distant symphony, building in its movements and phrases to a coming crescendo that would shake the foundations of the world. But for now it remained a quiet, distant sound pulsing in the hearts of the man and his bride." And so I sit, I think, I read, I think some more, I write, and I pray. I breathe. I savor.

And then I set out about town (maybe with my hair washed, maybe not) to have long lunches with my dear sister or my dear friend, I tackle the retail world with aplomb, I laugh in its face! I bite my thumb in its general direction! I delight in the bustle and the traffic, I do my best to cheer and shock tired salespeople with patience and smiles, I slow down occasionally for afternoon coffee or chatter with the odd old friend or student I encounter (which happens plenty).

In the evenings I return to my little home, lights twinkling a path up to my door through the grass, happily and brightly. I light the candles once more (where, oh where does the wax go?..like, really?..), I settle in with a glass of red and, cueing the fire on the screen, I commence to wrap everything that's not nailed down, so prettily. (This year I made wrapping paper with my second graders with kraft paper and potato stamps. I got quite into it and it gave my wrapping aesthetic a real solid direction. Yes, I do that. I plan a wrapping aesthetic.)

So now it has become, all too rapidly, the Eve of Christmas Day. Menus are (roughly) planned, grocery lists are written, packages are wrapped, laundry is clean, the sleigh is loaded (Rosie loves Christmas), and I am yet in my pajamas. This day, too, will pass me by, as will tomorrow. But, as I answered a friend's thoughtful question last night, "What are you looking most forward to this Christmas?" 

Christmas morning. "Christmas morning." That little two-word phrase holds millions of different meanings and emotions for folks around the globe, I understand...but ours is best.

Christmas morning on The Hill is a rare and wondrous phenomenon. We rise whenever we feel like it, but most likely when we hear Billy the cat go harrumping maniacally down the hardwood hallway floor. He dashes and darts between chair and food bowl and desk and table, then again, running through an Olympic-standard obstacle course. We do brush our teeth but that's the extent of it. We whisper "Merry Christmas!" to one another, we giggle, we pour coffee and sneak one of mom's Spritz cookies (a favorite tradition and mainstay from days of old), we light the candles, we turn on music, we love. We just plain love.  Because we know that the day will vanish like a vapor we sit, the five of us, and enjoy one another and the prettiness of the setting. We think we are the richest five in all the world, and a lump will rise in my throat when I think, fleetingly, that this will someday not be the same as it is now. I don't spend much time there, and we get on to reading the Christmas story via our favorite Nativity book, illustrated whimsically and colorfully by Julie Vivas.

(This post is waaaay longer than I intended, and it's nearing 10:30am. See? I told you it flies. More later, I'll leave you with that cliff-hanger of Mary and the Angel in combat boots.)