Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas is different this year...

It's not so hectic, for one thing, as everything Christmassy in any way has been cancelled and I have had almost a week of pure rest, with the only thing in my mind being "will we have to cancel _____?" Though I was looking forward very much to our first Christmas in our new building, when we had to cancel last night's service because of the road conditions I was almost relieved to have it be a clean sweep.

I'm not much for prolonging my regrets, so once the decision had been made to cancel Christmas Eve's service, I moved on and found myself teetering on the edge of "after Christmas"---which is a place I didn't want to be quite yet.

I hadn't planned to go anywhere for the holidays because of the Christmas Eve service, though I'll leave for Reno and the FS, FDIL, and FGKs on Saturday. So what to do to stay in Christmas mode, even though none of the traditional celebrations were occuring because of weather. A person who lives alone has to figure out her own way of being celebratory in private.

Luckily, a church family who lives nearby had invited me to share supper after the (now cancelled) Christmas Eve service. I had thought I couldn't go because Richard and Debbie and I needed to use the afternoon to record, but then Richard couldn't make it because of the ice on his road, so I did get to join them, along with some other neighbors. We had a marvelous evening together and when I got home, I turned on the PBS broadcast of Luther College's choirs singing carols. Boy, those Lutherans really know how to sing! It was beautiful and I went to bed with a new song or two in my head.

This morning, the snow is steadily melting away, unable to withstand a chinook wind out of the west, gentle rain and temps in the mid 30's. Max is outside, rejoicing in his greater freedom, Loosy is on my lap as I type, and Lily is sacked out in the big chair.

And I'm remembering Christmases past: the FS being dedicated at Jefferson Unitarian Church by the Rev. Leon Hopper on Dec. 24, 1972, squalling loudly as his dad and I jiggled him in our arms to quiet him (to no avail) long enough to receive the traditional rosebud and certificate; the FS finally walking by the next Christmas, having learned to talk in full sentences already (do you see a pattern emerging here? you'd be right); Christmas mornings with all the Colorado relatives--grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins; the first Christmas after our separation and how hard it was to celebrate separately--we gave up and had Christmas morning together; learning about the Holiday Project and thereafter spending Christmas morning singing carols at hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons.

It used to be that I felt very ambivalent about Christmas. I needed lots of presents to be happy and they needed to be the right sort of present; I gave a lot of expensive presents and needed the recipients to give the right kind of appreciation and gratitude in return. I didn't experience much joy or peace of mind. I loved and hated Christmas at the same time. I hoped for so much and was always a little bit disappointed.

It's different now. I'm not sure when it changed, maybe the year not that long ago when I couldn't be with family members and would be alone the whole long 48 hours of that officially sacred time. I'd never been all alone on Christmas before. I was scared, so I decided to make it a deliberate spiritual retreat, spending the time with music and carefully selected reading and, of course, my favorite holiday foods.

I went to Christmas Eve at a nearby UU church and then came home, opened one present, went to bed, and the next day spent the whole day in solitude, reading a little bit, and, for dinner, a small prime rib roast, baked potato, and mince pie. It was lovely, peaceful, joyful even though I was all alone for the first time at Christmas.

Since that time, my expectations have diminished and my joy has increased. I have learned to be grateful for everything that happens, not to hang onto any hope that something wonderful will happen but to view as wonderful the things that do happen and reframe negatives into something more uplifting. Even sorrow has its hidden meaning, its invisible-as-yet joy.

Right now, I need to get busy making preparations for my 4 p.m. onslaught of dinner guests, musicians coming to share a meal and make a joyful noise. Even though it's Christmas Day for many, it feels right to let Christmas be past and celebrate being together as friends. We'll light the Hanukkah candles, toast the Winter Solstice, and look ahead to a New Year of friendship.

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