Wednesday, December 25, 2013
The Present of Presence
It’s Christmas morning about 6:45. I’ve been up for about an hour, not because my kids woke up, just because, as mentioned in previous posts, I am a terrible sleeper. The Toll House pie is in the oven. The tree lights are on and the dog is in my lap (creating a challenging typing set-up to be sure). The house is so quiet.
It’s not a creepy quiet either. Usually I find ways to fill the quiet: radio, TV, having children. But this is a welcome quiet, a Christmas quiet. This is what I look forward to the most. The gifts, the laughter, the eating the parties the traditional viewing of Elf and Black Adder’s Christmas Carol, the frenzy of family are all wonderful. Truly wonderful and I look forward to all of them. But right now, in this living room that is clean enough, in this quiet that is syncopated only by my dog’s snoring, there is peace. And that peace is one of the markers of Christmas for me.
Over the years Christmas has evolved for me. As a child, it was all about cookies and presents and my brothers and sisters coming home for Christmas Eve. As a young adult, it was all about the parties I wasn’t invited to and the kicky outfits I always force-fed on the slightest of occasions. As a young mother it was all about making magic, at any cost, for my children, and keeping everyone as happy as possible which often resulted in achieving the ultimate goal of getting my kids to bed so I could enjoy Christmas. Now it has become moments of presence.
Yesterday I found Christmas in the Acme parking lot as I walked back to my car with replenished supplies to give that new dessert a second less disastrous try when a young Acme cart retriever smiled so genuinely it melted the cynicism of my just forming flip and snarky quips about last minute grocery shoppers. And she wished me a Merry Christmas that felt truer than any I’d ever heard.
I found Christmas as Husband and I took the very grateful dog for an extra long walk and, as we made our way home, witnessed flurries in the air. Not a white Christmas in the blanket of snow sense, but it snowed on Christmas Eve. We were in a 1930’s movie with soft filtered lighting and all the promise of promise before us.
I found Christmas at the caroling party two days ago when an eleventh grade boy (not my own) sat down to play the piano because none of the adults could and sang when none of the adults would.
I found Christmas in the late night request from Teenager #1 for some warmed up Chinese food. He may not have stayed at the table when we ate it earlier because, on a practical level, he was not hungry. He may have played way too much Team Fortress II yesterday. He may not have wrapped a single present. But as I left his room after bringing him his food, he said thank you without being asked, and when I said I love you, he smiled as if he really felt it was true.
The Grinch is a visionary, the movies are true, the gloriously corny books get it right every time. Christmas isn’t in a box, it’s not marked by the perfectly prepared meal, it is not the authentic overjoyed reaction when they open that gift you know they’ll love. It is the art of appreciating all of this, of enjoying the moment whatever the moment is (and sometimes the moment is messy). It is the present of presence.