A quiet Christmas
Like just about everything else this year, Christmas will be different for us. A whole lot of things have changed. And while it seems like all-of-a-sudden, our lives have been headed in this direction for quite a while.
Most of the "kids" won't be coming home. That's because most of them aren't "kids" at all any more. Several have moved into other places they call home. And the wonderful lives they were each created to live have taken many of them far away from the people and places they grew up with. Far away, that is, from us.
It's the first Christmas my grandmother won't be with us. The light-up musical Christmas tree she loved to sing with all year round has found a new place in our front window. But I think if we listen closely, we may be able to hear her improvised alto line to every Christmas carol. When someone dies at 102, there is a lot of gratitude and few regrets.
Last year, we decided to get a second dog. The two of them together were full of antics that added a lot of joyful activity to our home. That was particularly welcome to me as we prepared for our youngest child to leave for college. Over the summer, though, our almost 12-year-old dachshund Watson began having some health issues. Those problems worsened, and we made the difficult decision to put him to sleep a few weeks ago. Now that his buddy is gone, the little guy seems uncertain of what to do with himself. The fact is, I'm not so sure either. We had Watson for a third of our married lives.
Because Andrew and I both work most of our days from a home much bigger than we need right now, the quiet can become rather thick. Deep inside, I know that quiet doesn't have to mean sad, and that transition doesn't have to feel like loss. I just haven't found that pathway through it just yet. A smaller house at this point in our lives would probably feel less empty. The truth is I'd love to downsize. But realistically we can't handle what all that would take right now, and the where, when, and how aren't easy to figure out.
The Ghost of our Christmases Past is certainly fat and jolly and loud. There was gift shopping, and Santa, and dressing young children up for midnight Mass, and singing carols in the car in four-part harmony. There were parties at school and scouts and dance class and work -- a never-ending bustle of joy, (and our share of pressure and anxiety).
The Ghost of Christmas Present has a very different face. Christmas will be quiet for us this year, and probably in every year to come. There will be things I've always done that I suspect I won't feel much like doing any more. I'm not sure whether I will do them anyway, or not. But I think the one thing I'd better do is resist the temptation to equate Christmas with all the noise and activity that has accompanied it in the past. Christmas doesn't come in one size or color or shape. The first Christmas, after all, was a very small and quiet affair.
Nothing can stop Christmas from coming: no person, no place, no circumstance or situation. Christmas will come to us in the quiet this year. But it will break into hospitals and treatment waiting rooms, too. It will descend on inner city neighborhoods, cul de sacs, and family farms. It will visit both the lonely and the harried. Christmas will come to those who work as well as to those who have not been able to find work. It will find us where we are -- at home, at school, at work, at play, in church, and on the street. And it will come to us as we are, because that is, after all, the point of Christmas. God-with-us. God-for-us. God-one-of-us.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.