O hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing – Edmund Sears
Hey! Unto you a child is born! He’s in the barn! Go! Go! – Gladys Herdman, in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
I tried to put it off, but the calendar answers to no one; and so, it’s Christmas (and now, Christmukkah) again. It’s been a season of ricocheting between joy and pain, (remember, I have two daughters) with pauses for cookies. I always find the yuletide somewhat surreal, given that the relentless advertising and decorating begins around July 4th. But I give in all over again when I see how much my children love it. Oh to feel their elfin, greedy joy. “Mom! Do you know what day it is? It’s Christmas Eve EVE Morning.” (For the daughterless: that’s the morning of the day before Christmas Eve.)
Thankfully, they are pretty self-sufficient. We went to the tree farm, and as the girls capered around their chosen tree, (a bushy monster of which I heartily disapproved) squealing, my friend’s husband said, “Aren’t you even going to put up a fight?” No, no fight. They decorate it, make the fudge, and attend to the advent calendar. There are currently 84 (census verified by my husband!) hand-cut snowflakes gracing my living room. As I told my husband, the place looks like Christmas threw up. Next year I am teaching them to use Shutterfly so we can send out Christmas cards again. My husband’s relatives flood us with cards sporting pictures of their lovely families cavorting on beaches. “Do you ever feel guilty when we get these?” my husband says, rifling through the pile. No, just tired. I love my husband’s cousins, but why are they so…productive?
I prefer to spend the time walking in the woods, doing a bit of baking, and starring at candles with my family (silently, please) around me. I see it as a season of contemplation: Jesus lived on earth among us avaricious, myopic, sh**heads – why did he bother? I want to ponder the mystery, maybe see if it makes me nicer. Can we please sleep in heavenly peace? Please?
The girls insist on Christmas music, so any car trip finds me pinned to Warm 106.9. I have only just been introduced to Michael Buble’s “The Christmas Song” (the one I have always referred to as “The Chestnut Song”). Wow, that velvet-voiced devil can sure sing. I found my eyelids had succumbed to half-mast and I was feeling around for a jade green, lace-trimmed negligee to slip into when my eyes popped open and I remembered I was in my minivan, cruising down the interstate on my way to leave a broken chair at the dump. What just happened? I can only say, in my defense, he made me feel like a girl of 45 again.
Yes, that’s right, it’s December, so another birthday has come and gone. Again, mixed feelings, again melancholy mingled with gratitude mingled with incredulity at my age. My birthday went more smoothly this year, though last year’s car breakdown and sick husband offered me more colorful blogging fodder. What can I say? I am lucky to be alive, and, for all my failings, I still make a startlingly good chocolate cake (my birthday cake was a chocolate bundt with coffee glaze – a little bit of brandy in the cake really tips it over). Plus my oldest made me a key lime coconut cake – reminding me, again, why we reproduce: doubles the kitchen staff.
We had the pleasure of seeing Olympia Family Theater’s production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, a story that surprised me by bringing tears to my eyes with its reminder to be always attuned to the sacred as it walks among us, offering us the chance to experience wonder. I used to be a crier, but gave it up in my late 30’s after what my best friend describes as two decades of weeping. But it’s a hobby I have recently revived, post-election. We saw OFT perform this play seven years ago and were so grateful they revisited it this year. If you have not seen it, or read Barbara Robinson’s novella, I recommend it. We are going to read it together every Christmas Eve from now on, while we crank out our annual noodles.
In the end, it’s a season of contradictions; I am overwhelmed by glitter and wastefulness but always deeply moved by certain Christmas songs (I am not talking about Michael B. right now). As I have said before, if you don’t see my eyes get at least faintly moist during, for instance, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, then I am officially tired of life, so mercifully shoe me out into the cold, cold night, stark naked, to perish quietly under the stars. Edmund Sears, a Unitarian minister, wrote these ebulliently lovely lines in 1849:
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
For lo the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
It’s ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.
Go ahead, fling those ancient splendors. May we ever be eager for peace. Search it out. Make it, if you have to.