Tag Archives: Christmastide

Christmas Lights

We have exterior illumination adorning our Wolfe Street porch! After almost 29 years of intending and hoping and one years, the time is finally here. It is a reminder that there are still tree of life moments in the midst of looming death.

I love your lights! I can see them from my kitchen window while doing the dishes, and it’s so cozy!

Our little girl loves walking past your house and looking at the Christmas lights.

The comments come from neighbors and bring my heart joy. I laugh that we have a slow turn-around time with our house projects and intentions and tell them that to think of us on the days when discouragement sets in that things will never change. I want them to think of and remembers us in ten years when the days are hard and hope for change feels far-off.

One day the light will come.

This is the year of another phase of extensive electrical work in our big old house. External outlets made the list. Every year during the post-Christmas review we say next year we will hang outdoor lights. Time passes, other things take precedence, and it remains dark.

Steve and Roo hung the Christmas lights.

We hold on to hope in dark places. This year we see and celebrate the playful, colored light in the midst of it.

It is the last day of 2020, and I sit in the early-morning hours in my parents’ living room. Though I am the local daughter, I am here for the week like my sisters from out-of-town.

We spend time doing daily life together, living with both parents like we did so many years ago in so many houses in so many cities in so many states. Our uncle visits bringing with him a rush of childhood memories.

My young self is so close, the one who hung a strand of colored lights around the window in her tiny room on Nicholson Street. She has much to tell me, and her big feelings come in waves, in sobs.

She is comforted by sisters, mother, father, uncle in ways that are new. She sits as part of the pack when she can and wanders off to far-away corners of the house when she can no longer. She laughs and cries and feels all of her feelings and is neither a sick cow nor crazy person.

She is a human .being with permission to feel all of the things and to talk about whatever she wants to talk about and to be quiet when there are no words to say.

I ride with my parents and uncle to the family dinner at my brother’s, the other local sibling. Sitting in the back seat of the Odyssey, I help Mom with her seat belt, and we ride side-by-side like sisters. One sits behind her dad, the other behind her brother.

We ride, admiring the twilight and clouds and full moon. We realize that we almost have made it through 2020 and then sit quietly, enjoying just being together.

On the way home, Dad suggests a drive to look at Christmas lights. Mom loves to look at lights and has been hoping to do so. She wants to see my house at night, but the timing has been off.

Tonight is on. Her brother is in the car with us, and it is fun to show him her town and neighborhood.

Dad knows exactly where he will drive, mostly, and turns left onto Dogwood. Mom and I hold hands in the back seat.

This is where we used to go for walks when I could go for walks.

Dad turns down streets and side streets and crosses over to my side of town so Mom can admire my porch. She loves it and tells me so. We continue the drive around my block and back home, noticing the different types and colors and scenes and winter wonderlands and just enjoying being together. That is the theme of our days and times.

Just being together.

Winning Christmas

We won Christmas.

Waking early to stack presents under the tree, then rush back to bed for a few more minutes of sleep, it is the first year Steve and I are awake before our kids. Mom is still here and celebrating with Dad low-key across town, as we open presents at home. Snow falls. Her final Christmas is white.

I open thoughtful, fun gifts from my kids. We do not eat our traditional Christmas breakfast until after 10:30. I guess that makes it brunch. Everyone is growing up.

The day is relaxing and slow. We give Mom and Dad space together to exchange their gifts and time to visit with other family members. Family begins to gather to spend the week between Christmas and New Years. It is a time that works for us all, and we seize it.

I pretend to be an out of town kid and pack a bag to stay at my parents’ house for the week. I have a grandbaby coming in mid-January and need to quarantine soon in preparation. I savor every moment with mom and family as we embrace the bittersweet, sacred space.

We won Christmastide with mom. The days led to weeks and to over five months and here we are on the fifth day of Christmas. Still together. Still living and laughing and loving until the end.

Christmas Morning

I woke Christmas morning to quiet. Thoughts filled my head. Words filled my heart. Leaning over the bedside, I pulled the laptop from it’s place on my nightstand shelf.

Propping up on pillows, I opened it and began composing. The bedroom door cracked, my husband doing his signature peek to see if I was awake from my sleep.

Do you think you will be long? Everyone is waiting for you in the living room.

Of course they were! In a classic move of having words come to me at the worst time, I closed the laptop, replaced it on the nightstand shelf, and eased my way out of bed.

Wrapping in a cozy robe, I exited to the living room, where a combination of excited and sleepy faces awaited my arrival.

The month of December has been full of celebration. From the first weekend when our eldest and her husband came to celebrate with us, to the weekend before Christmas when my son and his wife visited, we have eaten no fewer than three Christmas breakfasts and as many dinners.

Programs, concerts, gift exchanges, parties, and the wedding of a friend’s son filled the days leading up to the big one. Shopping, wrapping, tending to individuals occupied my time. Christmas cards still being worked on were intentionally set aside until the days after Christmas.

Christmastide.

This brought me to Christmas morning and all of the words in my head and people around the tree. Two adult children and the four still at home greeted me with various levels of excitement and exhaustion written on their faces.

I knew they had been up together late into the night playing games in one younger sibling’s room, sleeping over together in another. The one sharing his room slept downstairs by the light of the Christmas tree, keeping his own tradition.

All of this worked itself out without my planning or control over bedding and beds and sleeping arrangements.

I’ll take care of it, Mama. Don’t worry, adult daughter said. And she did. I went to bed, slept soundly, and woke thinking I could write while everyone was still sleeping when they were all quietly waiting for me in the living room.

This is how I know change has come.

We weren’t awake late into the night trying to settle small children into their beds and startled awake early in the morning to excited knocking on our door. The excitement, while present, was more contained and less explosive.

Present.

Contained.

Less explosive.

These word choices reveal work that has been taking place in my heart and the hearts of those in my home. Learning to be more present. Helping to contain and handle strong feelings. Revisiting and repairing places of rupture with adult children. Revisiting and repairing places of rupture in my own heart.

I woke to words from my story, the story of a younger self, the last Christmas spent with my family before marriage. It was the self of 20, the age of my youngest adult. The words in my head were spoken by a sibling, 13, the age of one of my own.

I have a clear visual of these ages and more context than ever, which is why I think the words came so loudly and clearly. It is why they came with kindness for those present in the scene.

I am still coming close to late-teenage me. From ages 16 to 20 is a painful blur in my story, beginning with a move following the Christmas of ’87 and punctuated with the words,

We’re not having Christmas this year. We’re having a wedding, Younger Sibling, 13, Christmas ’91.

I was married on January 4, 1992.

Christmas and the season surrounding it holds much for me. There is loss and grief and struggle and joy. There are heavy places in my story with Christmas, places even nostalgia can’t reach.

I didn’t write on Christmas Day. I spent time with the family, soaked in the tub, and took a nap. I spent moments on an unexpected phone call with a friend. I hugged adults goodbye and found presents that had not been wrapped in the excitement and passed them out and played a board game.

I watched Elf and went for a walk after dark to look at the neighborhood lights. I fed my parents’s cats. I brewed a cup of Sleepytime tea with my husband, choosing to end the night with tea and reading instead of wine and more eating.

It was a kind choice. As is this early morning writing time two days later. Little by little, step by step, things are changing, have changed. (Yes, do click on that link.)

It is a good gift.

Merry Christmastide, Friends!