Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chandeliers of Hope

When I was in the third grade we went out to a local tree farm to cut down our Christmas tree. It was cold and dark and it seems like it was snowing, but I'm not sure about that now. Memories start melding into one another when you hit a certain age.  I have to ask someone else who was there if they remember it the same way I do. We went out to the middle of the tree farm and my mom saw this little tree, and she said that was the one she wanted. We all said it was too small and went on looking a little longer until we ended up back at that little tree where my mother told us one more time, that's it, that's the one I want. My father said Dear, that tree is too small, but my mom wouldn't budge and so my dad took the ax and he cut it down.

We got home and  put it in the stand and my mom looked at the tree and said it was too small. Then she started crying a little. I was a kid so I thought, why is she crying, it's just a tree. But I'm an adult now and I would venture to guess my mom wasn't crying about that little tree. It's not really my place to tell you all about my mom's life, but suffice it to say, she suffered great loss in her early years and the holidays have a funny way of making every loss and heartache come around and smack you in the face. I wonder if she was feeling it at that moment she looked at that tiny Christmas tree. To her credit, our holidays were filled with tremendous joy and love and fun and laughter and I've been chasing that kind of Christmas around for years now. I get glimpses of it with my own kids, but the big high, the absolute care free days of those childhood Christmas times are a little out of reach.

People come here to laugh (I think) and I'm sorry for having disappointed you. I shouldn't be writing right now. I should come back when I feel sunny and happy, which could possibly be tomorrow, but who knows, probably not.  I told a dear friend  that I  get anxious this time of year, that sometimes I just want to skip over it, and she said, hey me too, do you like spring, let's just pretend it's spring, and so I did for a little while. But you can only do that for so long. Trees come up and lights go on and holiday songs are playing everywhere and you would have to be a complete idiot to not notice that, hey, it's the happiest time of the year! So be happy!

I went for a long bike ride today. Halfway through I started bawling my eyes out. I was riding down Lakeshore Drive crying and wiping my snot on my sleeve, but I kept on riding. It's hard to ride a bike and cry at the same time. It's impressive really. And funny and stupid, too. I started doing that thing you do when you're sad and life's gotten the best of you. I thought of the starving people in Africa and of the people who had no one to go home to and no one to eat dinner with, but that didn't cheer me up all, imagine that.Why do we think other people's misery will make us feel better about our own? It's warped, isn't it? But what I thought about mostly, what brought about the tidal wave of tears, was that someone close to me is going through tremendous heartache and I can't do a thing to ease that person's suffering and I started to cry so hard I couldn't see anymore.

It's Christmas and you came here to get some holiday laughs but I'm not giving you any. I can give you hope though. Well, I can't, but God can and I'm kind of grateful Christmas is rolling around right now because as my sister commented to me, if there's one time of year you believe something good will happen, this is it. Something good will happen and there will be light. I know it. Everyday from now until Christmas morning a little miracle will happen that will give me hope that everything will be okay. Maggie will smile at Santa or she'll dance around the Christmas tree downtown and sing. Jane will help me make Christmas cookies and Kate will make sparkly paper snowflakes, huge ones that look perfect. Anthony  will string the lights around the tree in clumps and we'll laugh at his craziness and Greg will come through the door and ask if anyone wants to go for a walk to see the lights and Leo will charge at him and probably knock over the tree in the process. My sister will send me a perfectly worded email or text me the sweetest little picture of her Advent Wreath and I'll see it there, I'll see hope and happiness and peace and I'll be thankful for all the people who made me believe it, for the people in my life who gave me a Christmas miracle when I needed it most.

Up above, candles on air flicker
Oh, they flicker and they float
And I'm up here holdin' on
To all those chandeliers of hope - Coldplay

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent Season

Here's something I wrote back in the winter of 2010. It seems like way more than two years has past. Anyway, in lieu of being original and ambitious, I've decided to give you this recycled post because it's all I can manage at the moment. Also, the original comments are here. If you commented two years ago, please feel free to comment again! Have a happy Advent everyone.

Here's what the beginning of the season looks like for us...

We get really excited about the wreath, go to look for it in the attic and realize it's lost again. Someone (it could be me) complains that our house is a mess and disorganized and then threatens to throw out everything in the attic. Someone else walks in with the Advent wreath and says,"were you looking for this?" I look for candles and can't find any. I run to the store hoping that  I will be able to find pink and purple candles. I believe this is the year the store will have stocked enough of these. But alas, there are no pink or purple candles to be found within a 20 mile radius of the town where I live. I make a mental note to not wait until the first day of Advent to buy candles next year. I get white candles instead and tell the kids it really doesn't matter and Jesus would not be upset, but this doesn't make anyone feel better and there is still the belief that Jesus would be upset, at which point I get upset and beg my children to go with the flow a little more because I am their mom and if they don't learn to do that while living with me they are going to be miserable. I get super crafty and tie pink and purple ribbon around the candles and then someone starts to worry that the ribbon is going to catch fire.

I look through my Advent schedule and get out the appropriate readings, at which point all of my children who know how to read descend on me and start arguing about doing the readings. I say something reassuring like, "See, this is actually something Jesus would be upset with." Then I read the readings and tell them I will continue doing that all through Advent if they all scream like that again. We finish and I ask if anyone has anything they want to say. We all look at each other like a bunch of mutes and I start to wish we were one of those families that felt free and easy talking about their thoughts on God. We end with an "Our Father" and "Hail Mary" and I almost start to cry because nothing sounds sweeter to me than the sound of my kids saying these two prayers together. And the fact that Maggie can almost recite them on her own this year just about breaks my heart in two, in the best kind of way of course.

I have set my standards low this year for the Advent Season. I simply want to light the wreath every night, read our meditations, have a few minutes of quiet and not argue about who gets to blow the candle out, and really should anyone else but the three year old be allowed to do this? Should there even be the slightest argument?