I sit here at my laptop exhausted while I watch 6 of my 7 dogs wandering around my kitchen licking the floor to pick up the spilled sprinkles from a day of candy-making. The little ones have a real advantage, they are close to the floor with smaller tongues and get the sprinkles easily, but the bigger ones just swipe their flat tongues across the floor and see what sticks. These dogs are well fed, but judging by their behavior, it would seem that standing between them and utter starvation, is one red sprinkle.
I don’t know why I keep making Christmas candy, no one eats much of it, but it’s one of those things you do because you’ve always done it and in some way confirms I’m not a complete humbug and assuages my guilt over a general apathetic approach to Christmas decorations and cheer. My husband doesn’t have this problem. As soon as our boys were gone from home he vowed never to hang another string of Christmas lights and he meant it - nary a Christmas light graces our home.
We now have grandchildren and as a Mimi I feel the need to make an effort, so off to Walmart I go, purchasing one of those inflatable figures and a wire polar bear with lights on it. When back at home I attempt construction of the polar bear, which is another ordeal I won’t go into, but somebody in China needs to actually put one of these things together before presuming to write instructions on how to do it. I arrange them in the yard and plug my Yuletide beasts into an outlet with an extension cord which, unfortunately, is a tacky orange, but Scroogy Mimi’s cannot be picky, especially if they do not want to make another trip to Walmart.
Night falls. The inflatable is cute, but doesn’t light up much and can’t be seen from the street, which is its entire purpose of being. The polar bear is another matter altogether, so bright it can probably be seen from space, shining in all its ridiculousness, as the single holiday ornamentation in a one-acre front yard. We have another problem. The dogs can see the thing from a front window and are convinced it is another dog and stand vigil, snarling and gnashing their teeth at the glowing bear. I’ve had enough, his Christmas glory will be delegated to daylight hours, and I haven’t plugged him in since.
I live next door to my husband’s family and they are wonderful people and Christmas decoration experts, the neighborhood should probably pay just to drive by at Christmas. Their yards are gorgeous, beautiful lights in the bushes, figurines made of wood, wire, lights and sparkly stuff, sidewalks lined with cute Christmas bulbs blinking on and off to the beat of Felis Navidad. (Okay, I made that last part up, but you get the idea.) The polar bear never had a chance, but I’m not particularly concerned, it’s useless to pretend otherwise, and when everyone else is busy after Christmas, dismantling all that stuff and packing it away, I’ll simply walk in the front yard, pick up the polar bear and put him in a closet. All done.
Christmas mornings are quiet now, just two of us and a bowl of cereal and some coffee, more than enough. I remember other Christmas mornings, two boys jumping up and down because Santa Claus came through with the proton pack just like Peter Venkman’s or the very rare Green Power Ranger. I remember eating cinnamon rolls, watching the boys with their new treasures, surrounded by discarded cardboard packing, the four of us happy, satisfied, the feeling of getting it right, even if Santa did get the credit, everything was right in that moment, the grace of being a family. That’s Christmas to me, my forever gift, and it sustains me still and makes me think that Mary must have felt that same joy, holding her child in the peace of morning, like any other mother, not yet aware of the path ahead and in that single moment of grace, he belonged to her alone and it was enough.
My sons have their own families now and their own Christmas mornings, which is as it should be and I pray they embrace peace where they find it, in their homes with the loves of their lives. Grace tiptoes in and then slips out while our heads are turned, leaving behind a whisper of a memory to get us through the disappointments and the griefs in the unknown days ahead until we once again, stumble into joy.