I sat with a pile of gifts at the counter waiting to be checked out. I looked at the things sitting there and thought about the commercialism and consumerism and waste that just goes into all that…stuff. I wanted to walk away. I waited patiently, making small talk, as the items were wrung up and bagged.
I’m tired of forced cheer, but I love the twinkle lights and the snow and the aisle of wrapping paper. I like all the options and the promise of something new neatly tucked away with a bow and a label on top. And, for the second year in a row, I’ve had a meaningful conversation with a stranger in the wrapping aisle. (I wonder what it means that I, who usually doesn’t partake in any kind of small talk and certainly not with strangers, ends up talking to someone about a family squabble one year and a recent cancer diagnosis another. Is it something about the wrapping paper or Christmas that makes people willing to talk to a stranger about the hurt they are carrying around? Maybe I should try it next year? I wonder if I’d find a person as willing to listen as me.)
I think like most grown-ups I have a love/hate relationship with this holiday. It’s all anticipation and magic and joy and expectation and work and loneliness and family (which ever side of the love/hate coin that falls on – or maybe just the edge). I love advent and the season of anticipation. I love “putting hay in the manger” (aka finding ways to make the world a little brighter for those whose days may not be so bright). I love celebrating the darkness (and return of light) with candles and strands of twinkling bulbs. I hate feeling like everything good gets lost in the shuffle. I hate feeling lonely. I hate the knowledge that no gift opening will ever feel as good as the Christmas when I was thirteen and my grandmother gave me the watch that I WANTED WANTED WANTED (and was sure no one bought me).
I still feel glimpses of magic between my bah-humbug. I went to Mass where we sang Christmas carols and my daughter held my hand for just an instant longer that necessary after the Our Father. We visited with family and ate shrimp off a Christmas tree (I don’t know, it’s become a beloved tradition) and opened presents after which my son curled up on my lap and rested his head on my shoulder for so long we thought he’d fallen asleep. Today was a simple, peaceful day in our pajamas playing with the things Santa brought us. We ate a lovely meal lovingly prepared. I learned how to play Minecraft using a game controller and had my battleship sunk. So the magic is still there – it’s just dimmer and quieter and never in the thing and far too fleeting.
Anyway, all that to say…I hope you found some moments of Christmas magic this year amidst the gray and the consumerism and the hard. I hope you had someone to listen to you – even if it was just for a brief moment in the wrapping paper aisle at Target. And finally, I appreciate you listening to me as I type into the void. Have a very merry!!!