Traffic was at a standstill at the exit for the Mall. Ashevillians, like the rest of our country, enduring long lines and the crowded Toys R US, scouring the Best Buy for that TV for Grandma, a new iPod for the eight year old nephew and are in a bit of a panic over what to buy that friend who has everything.Really? Everything? Gift giving brings a kind of psychosis over us all. Our blood pressure raises, our shopping list grows every day as the bank account dwindles and we are willing to not pay the electric bill if it means getting that perfect gift. We tick off the calendar “Only 3 shopping days left till Christmas“.
And I am usually a bit bewildered by the frantic nature of this season. A season that should be littered with laughter not tin foiled papers and glitter. A season that is supposed to slow me down so I can breathe in the deep love I have for those in my life. How did the gift become the love? When did the party replace the hug and the words of care and appreciation. And in my family when did that one gift that says it all get replaced by dozens of gifts as if more is …. more love?
So, I am sitting in a foggy day here in Asheville, writing letters to those I love, and all of you who come to this one little blog of mine are deeply in my heart today. Thank you so very much for all you bring to me with your care, your support, your words of wisdom. Thank you for laughing with me through my Driver’s license saga and for being such true friends to me on my adventure.
My daughter’s birthday is today. She began reminding me when she was about eight, that I must have really had it in for her by bringing her into this world just three days before Jesus was born. As if on that full moon solstice, I had much of a choice to do it differently. “Who can compete with Jesus, Mom?”, she would say. Gifts appreciating and celebrating her birth somehow got lumped in the pile with all those gifts for Jesus we were supposed to be offering. And when did that happen. Weren’t we supposed to be remembering the Birth of God Incarnate and not aunt Milly?
And this is the very first Christmas for many things for me. One is that it is the first Christmas without my Mother. She was the Christmas Queen and set the standard for every Christmas that years later I orchestrated for my two daughters. Presents spilled from the living room out into the hall, down to the den and out the front door. Every Christmas. We had a white fake flocked tree that followed me through all my youth which simply had red balls and red bows perfectly placed and then the next year they would be purple or blue or gold. A plastic revolving flood light sat in front of the tree to cast a glow of rainbow colors that changed every few seconds. Christmas cards that were kept for ten years and pulled out every year to be added to the newest arrivals from well wishers, littered the mantle and hung from the curtain rods.
We had many rituals. One was who had the last present which was always a fight. My father, not known for affection, would write each of us a famous Christmas letter that we all braced ourselves to read since we all cried and cried, mostly because he would say all the things he never said the rest of the year, nor did he behave in any congruent way either. Just a little Christmas glimpse into a father that was somewhere deep inside but who just poked his head out one day a year. Like Ground Hog Day. But, what I loved was a drink my mother would make for us all to sip on. It was simply Kahlua with cream floating on the top. Yummy and a big departure from all the beer my father drank every day of my life.
So Mom! Thank you for the wonderful memories. Thank you for creating a Christmas over and over that brought that little bit of magic into my life that made the rest of it endurable. Thank you for all those encouragements to never rip the paper but open each gift with painstaking slowness and then fold the foils and the flocked papers to be used the next years to come. I learned to recycle thanks to you. Thank you for wearing all those Christmas aprons adorned with Santa Hats and bells on the collar of Rudolph. You made me know down to my bones that tacky was in fact wonderful and fun and you gave me the courage to put lit plastic reindeer on my front lawn. Thank you for the China and Crystal we only used once an year that I fell in love with on your lavish dining room table. This gave me the resolve to use it every day of my life instead of only on a special occasion. Thank you for how beautiful you were….all the time.
So as this “special occasion” for giving gifts, may we all get out of the traffic jam of life and give the gift of ourselves to one another. May we open our hearts fully to what this season is about. Unconditional Love. May we share what we hold close to our hearts with everyone, may we freely lavish those we love with smiles and with appreciation and may we remember that we have such abundance in our lives and share that abundance with someone who has none.
And it is the solstice.
Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and the astronomical event that has more rituals and ceremonies associated with it than any other. It is no coincidence that there are numerous holidays around the solstice, for the timing of these holidays is rooted in ancient religions. There is archaeological evidence that the solstice has been important to human cultures for at least 30,000 years; many ancient stone structures like Stonehenge are designed to pinpoint the precise date of the solstice, and many ancient peoples held festivals of light to bring about the return of summer’s longer days.
The term solstice means “sun stands still.” It is when the sun stays closer to the horizon than at any other time of the year and appears to rise and set in the same place for several days in a row. But while the sun stands still and tonight is long, stars may appear to streak through the sky as the Earth passes through a stream of comet dust — the yearly Ursid meteor shower — which may produce a pleasing shower of shooting stars for northern viewers near the end of the night.
So, I am listening to Vintage Christmas tunes on my Pandora Station, the best purchase I made this year, and thinking about cooking for Jessie and me. Thinking about maybe cooking for not two, but eight instead. Taking the food we do not need to someone who does. I am thinking about not having that tree this year and spending time putting colored lights in that big glass vase I have and simply getting a Wreath. I will certainly put a few dollars in the Salvation Army kettle across the street at the Ingles super market, and I will make sure to save the paper I wrap the one gift I give to all those I love. So here is a little poem for the day. Merry Christmas to all, may our hearts be on fire with love.
A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves.
In the dark streets, red lights and green and blue
Where the faithful live, some joyful, some troubled,
Enduring the cold and also the flu,
Taking the garbage out and keeping the sidewalk shoveled.
Not much triumph going on here—and yet
There is much we do not understand.
And my hopes and fears are met
In this small singer holding onto my hand.
Onward we go, faithfully, into the dark
And are there angels hovering overhead? Hark.