Christmas is upon us once again. Funny how it turns up every year like clockwork. This year, like many recent years, I have groaned at the thought of Christmas looming on the horizon. I hate crowds, I hate traffic, I hate the fact that I don't have any money, and I especially hate the fact that my two oldest children are far away and can't come home. Given all that rampant negative feeling, I never want Christmas to come. But every year something happens; something strange and remarkable. Something that makes me remember how much I love this time of year.
I drive home from work at night and see all the Christmas lights on the houses and feel good. I listen to Christmas music and feel good. I observe the excitement and anticipation in my last child and feel good. And all this feeling good makes me love Christmas again.
Christmas is a state of mind fueled by memories; memories of my own childhood holidays and the ones I shared with all my children as they grew up. My best memories of childhood are summers and Christmas. In the summer the days were temperate and beautiful and we took off in the morning and roamed all day in blissful freedom in the meadows above our house and among the redwood trees. I can't recall a single day that was not a kind of adventure and we never worried about rain or bad weather. We would walk for endless miles, climb trees, clamber over rocks, and lie on our backs among the wildflowers staring at the cloudless blue sky. If my baby brother got tired or his short, little legs could not keep up, we would take turns carrying him piggy-back. We never once thought about leaving him behind.
Christmas was a time of wonder and delight. From the moment we put up and decorated my mother's beautiful Christmas tree the magic was among us, and it seemed to float in the air around us like music wherever we were and whatever we did. Christmas is a ritualistic time and we always knew what to expect, but that never diminished the excitement and anticipation that we felt. Every year it was the same tree, the same decorations, the same cookies, the same music, but it seemed fresh and new as if we had never done it before. Christmas is a time that never loses its magic with repetition nor its delight with familiarity. It is one of the few things in life that cannot diminish over time.
Chuck and I don't have the kind of Christmases that we had when he was younger. Jamie and Katie are gone and far away and our financial situation is not as secure, so there is not the abundance that we once knew. It is a little sad and lonely without them, but we have each other and together we make a home for the holidays. Chuck is not as crazy about Christmas as his siblings were or as he was when he was little. He is not as invested in the rituals or rigid in his expectations. Chuck is pretty happy as long as he has me, and school is out.
We don't live in as much space as we used to so we have no room for our big tree. This year we decorated differently and we like it. Chuck has been a collector of nutcrackers since he was little and has a rather prodigious collection now, 35 of them to be precise. We have two rafters that span the room in our living room and we decorated them with green garland and lights and he placed his nutcrackers on the rafters in an impressive Christmas formation.
I am not able to get Chuck a lot of the things I would like to, but I find myself terribly excited about watching him unwrap what I am giving him for Christmas. This year our mutual present is going to see the new Star Wars movie together, which will be nice. I am looking forward to it just as much as I used to when he was little and still believed in all the Christmas magic and miracles. When my brothers and I were young we had never seen snow and used to think how wonderful it would be to have snow on Christmas. I don't look forward to snow these days, but I would not object to a beautiful, gentle snowfall on Christmas Eve with big, fluffy flakes that float down out of a windless night sky. That would be nice. Chuck and I could stand outside and watch the snow fall and think how lovely it would be if the world could just remember the meaning of Christmas and live by it all year long.