Sometimes, perhaps many years, Christmas is daunting. It is a lot of work. Decorating for Christmas at my house can be a time consuming proposition. In the past few years, I’ve done the minimum. Last year, we put up a tree and sat out our favorite decorations – we were newly arrived on island and had many other things to do. The year before that, my decorations were on island while we stayed in Wyoming, so I had to go to the dollar store and buy a few ornaments just to make it feel Christmas-y. This year, I felt daunted and tired just thinking about decorating. Usually I like to put up the tree the day after Thanksgiving. I didn’t. I toyed with the idea of just ignoring the whole season all together, what with the worry of hurricane recovery and no electricity. But on Friday, I looked around my clean house and decided that it was time to do something.
I enlisted Karl to help bring the eight bins of decorations down from the attic. Yes, I said eight – hefty, full bins. Then, he kissed me on the cheek and disappeared into the back yard to build shelves. I dialed up Christmas music on the MP3 player and started work. And at first, it felt like work. I was trudging, grudging that I had so much to do. Then. Something wonderful happened. Something Grinchy happened. I unpacked a wreath and loaded new batteries in it and turned it on. A student named Cameron gave it to me back at the beginning of my teaching career. The wreath has a little track on it. It’s motion activated, and when it turns on a train goes around the wreath, lights blink and Jingle Bells – an actually kind of annoying version of Jingle Bells, plays. Every year I put it on our dining room table so that anytime someone walks by, the little thing goes off. And I smiled to hear it. I thought about Cameron, who would be about 36 years old now (I had him in 1992 when he was a 4th grader…) I hope he is in the midst of a terrific life.
From then on, decorating became fun. With each ornament or decoration I was immersed in memories of past Christmases and of precious people and times. I reveled at the two nativity scenes that I acquired when I lived in Spain, and later the fragile glass ornaments that I bought there – when I was a different person living such a different life that even my name wasn’t the same – splurging because we really couldn’t afford them but they called to me.
I smiled at the beautiful hand crafted ornaments my sister Nancy made me over several years – and frowned that she stopped making them because of an unkind word from someone. (Not me!)
I got a little teary when I hung up a little ball that looks like a pixie face. It came from my Mom, who purchased it well before Christmas- and even before Thanksgiving the year she died. Mom didn’t spend the holidays on earth that year, but her love and her gift remain to keep me company.
There’s the bone china ornament from Catherine – a first grader I had in 1993. Her mom always impressed me as one of the most dignified and regal women I have ever met. Here’s the wooden angel my friend Lula gave me. Here’s a mechanical ‘Hop-On’-Pop ornament that I have no idea what it has to do with Christmas but makes me smile.
The afternoon slipped by and by the time Karl came in, I’d heard Miss Piggy and Kermit sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” stream happily out of the stereo speakers and my house had been transformed into a joyful celebration of the birth of our Lord.
Somehow, amid all the pressures life can throw at us, Christmas reminds us of the simplicity and beauty we’ve been given. Our Savior is here. He came to save us and each Christmas we can let the season either bog us down or remind us of all that is right.