Christmas has officially arrived at our house with the ritual of the breaking of the ornament. Bearcat, one of our 4 cats, performed the rite this year. We have 4 cats, all strays left by people who think that it is a good thing to leave their unwanted kittens one half mile from town. I think our gate must have a sign that says "good food, warm beds, nice man" - like those codes left by hobos in The Depression. My husband is a softy when it comes to these orphans - we currently have 3 indoor cats, 1 who comes in
to eat and to sleep when it is too cold. But that is a different rant - back to Christmas.
Every year while our kids were still home we would try to provide the imagined perfect Christmas and desire of the heart presents (of course that desire seemed to change up to the moment of unwrapping). This drama would find its peak when one of the children would drop a glass ornament and yet another piece of family history would shatter on the floor and I would break down into the screaming mother. The years of my childhood Christmases I remember as dinners at a rich relative's home with more silverware (and it was sterling!) than we knew what to do with - terror at using the wrong fork or spoon or whatever, and Christmas morning hoping every year for that pair of cowboy boots and receiving another doll or doll accessory. Now I know that the relatives were just trying to give us a lovely party and my parents were trying to figure out what to give the alien who had been left on their doorstep.
Ordination as an Episcopal priest freed me from the Christmas nightmare - now I was excused from all the family duties so that I could be attentive to my work!!! Sinking into the preparations and rituals of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany I began to look forward to Christmas. All our kids have now moved into their own homes and hopefully into their own less dysfunctional Christmas celebrations.
Last week Jim and I hiked up the nearby canyon and cut a tree, I decorated it with the lights that flash in 8 different patterns. The ornaments consist of everything from a Santa that was given Jim in 1940 to gifts through the years to ones made by the kids in school and church. I put the glass ones up high, I though out of the cats' reach but obviously not high enough. As I heard the smash of glass scattering into the mix of fir needles and dust bunnies - I thought - ahhh - now it is Christmas.
Sweeping the fuschia colored shards and needles so we don't have to give the vacuum hose yet one more thoracotomy (duck tape is your friend), I found that I have come to a new place about Christmas - presents are on their way (thanks to the internet - a great thing for those of us who live 150 miles from the Mall - ordered, wrapped and mailed with the tap of the keyboard), Christmas carols on the CD player (everything from the Anonymous 4 to the Nylons), fire in the woodstove, telephone connections to the kids and the grand, and I looking forward to Christmas eve in little log churches in Pinedale and Bondurant. The Holy comes to birth in our midst telling us that life is worth living. I did a funeral for a man last week - he carried this anonymous quote in his wallet - "It starts at a time called birth and continues until a time called death. It is called life. It comes with no guarantees of '60 years or 60,000 miles whichever comes first,' and somehow they've even left out instructions. Yes, all we get is life itself and it's up to us to do the living."
So DO the living - it's about love and presence (not presents). Give thanks for gifts as signs you are loved not as judgment of the givers or your essential being and don't worry about using the wrong fork - enjoy the food. Merry Christmas!!!