On Christmas Eve we bring up the boxes from the basement. Opening them is like revisiting old friends. The tree skirt, garland and star have waited patiently to adorn this year’s tree. The ornaments are unwrapped, hooked and spread out over the table: the wooden elephant, little purple house, doorknob, wax angel, metal snowmen, and all of the glass ornaments that must be placed out of reach. Each one tells a story, pulling us back into the Christmases of the past.
The good news is that we finally found a tree, even though three of our usual spots were sold out when we arrived. We are a little different from some families, in that we like to put our tree up on the 24th. It started out of necessity when M and I both worked at the bookstore, but now it has become our tradition. After a near panic over the thought of having no tree at all, a dear sweet family rescued us by offering to let us cut one from their front field; insisting that it needed to be cleared and that we would be doing them a favor. Christmas Eve afternoon we put on our boots, grabbed our saw and gloves and piled into the car. We found a tree, a skinny little thing that looks perfectly at home in our living room. And even though we didn’t have an extra moment to spare that day we made it work. It will become the story that we tell next year, the year after that and the year after that. It will be the Christmas we were Tree Ninjas.
Those stories hold us in the past but they give us the jumping point for the future. Without that event there would be a hole, a space, a rickety framework on which we rest. Instead, brick by brick, tale by tale, the three of us have built this past year and it will soon take us forward.
It’s like our visit to the beach on Thanksgiving break. I walked around on the shore in awe of the sea in front of me. I only visit the ocean a few times during the year and each moment in its presence is a wonder. While I was walking around, I stumbled on a small patch of ice and realized that juxtaposition of the water in front of me in constant motion and the frozen water underneath my feet. The seaweed sculpted into a scriptlike initial, the flourish a surprise to my downcast eyes. The end of the year marks the spot where the end and beginning meet. I know that I wish to remain on the solid, frozen sparkling ice, but my heart longs to move ahead to be amongst the movement– to be a sea girl adorned in costume, riding the waves careless and free.
Every December I buy new ornaments for the three of us. I buy one roll of wrapping paper to add to the collection and a new CD to put into our carol rotation. This year I bought the Elizabeth Mitchell recording of the Ruth Seeger songbook. I am a big fan of her work and my Library owns all of her children’s music. I put the CD in the player on Christmas morning and let the music fill the room as I went to attend to the baking we would be taking to our friend’s house. I had a moment, and was curious, so I opened us the liner notes. I glanced at the letter that Elizabeth had written explaining the genesis of the album. What caught my attention were the pictures. I felt an instant connection with the people who made this music. The outfits they chose to wear to have their picture taken, their images preserved. They looked like dear, sweet honest people– smiling family members who enjoyed making music and sharing it with others. I felt relaxed, like something magic and soothing had settled my nerves. Christmas suddenly wasn’t a day to be fretted over, it was a day meant for laughter and hugs, for the warmth of a fire and the glow of the tree lights. I hope to keep these thoughts in my heart as the end of the year approaches. The leaving and the coming, the ebb and flow. Letting my arms open wide, to let it all go and in return be ready to receive that which awaits us.