It's not our house. We don't have a fireplace or built-in bookshelves or a pillow with a truck on it. There are gifts under our tree, including some pretty buffalo plaid gift bags. The resemblance ends there, but it's a pretty picture, isn't it? And the verse is from Luke, in the story of why Christians celebrate this day.
This has been a different holiday season. There have been losses and will be more. Grief is heavy and hearts are broken and I don't know what to say to anyone to make them hurt less. Then again, grief is an organic part of love. The knowledge that we will lose someone, or be lost to them, doesn't make the love any less precious, any less splendid. We would not give it up. Not a single day of it.
I hold onto memories, don't you? Of my kids sitting on the stairs making noise so we'll wake up. (I say my kids, but the boys have always blamed Kari, and since she still does it, who am I to say they're wrong?) I remember when Jock saw Santa and when we saw deer crossing the road in the snow as we were on our way home on Christmas Eve. I remember yellow bicycles, ping-pong-ball guns, and a Holly Hobby dress. A mandolin that was never played and enough Craftsman tools to have opened our own Sears. A Linde Star ring and year after year, gift certificates to JoAnn's and Walden Books. I remember robbing Peter to pay Paul to get through December and not really having as much money as month until March or so.
I suppose there have been unhappy Christmases, too. We had one in the midst of remodeling when we didn't have a Christmas tree, one that...well, I don't really recall any that were really unhappy--even the one without a Christmas tree. Sometimes a poor memory is helpful. (It's also one time when I'm actually able to let something go, rather than worry it to death. But I've written that column before.)
It was unarguably more fun when the house was full of kids and then later when grandkids filled the random spaces that weren't already stuffed with torn wrapping paper and wishes fulfilled. I suppose a part of me will always miss that, but mostly I'm grateful to have had it. Grateful for what we have now. That we laugh a lot. That we make mistakes and forgive and are forgiven.
I'm thankful for friends and family and sunrises and sunsets and the 30 days of November when I'm reminded of gratitude every day. I'm grateful for the Light of the world and that we celebrate both His birth and His life.
This column is like the gifts under the tree this morning. Little and big, good parts and parts that failed, shiny bow parts and no bows at all. It's raining this morning, and unseasonably warm, but I've done my 15 minutes of housework this morning, fed the cats, came to the office in my beloved orange raincoat I bought in Maine, and am sitting here with my coffee. I'm warm, blessed, and happy.
One of my less attractive writer-traits is my dedication to comparatives, but I can't help his one. Happiness is like a shiny, polished pine board, isn't it? It's beautiful and lasting, yet has all these knots in it that can either enrich it or deface it--it's all in how you look at it.
Wishing you happiness, knots and all, and gratitude. Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.