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Thursday, December 25, 2014

May We Remember One Another

“It was a hard day for me, wasn’t it Mom?” asked my 9-year-old as I lay in the dark next to him in his narrow bed, the red glow of his gecko cage illuminating his raised thoughtful eyebrows and silky pale skin.

My mind snapped to the image of him grabbing his brother’s brand new neon green remote controlled SUV and running out the door...I recalled the salty tears staining the wood floor and the low hanging bushy brown head of his 8-year-old brother who once again was unable to embrace a moment of joy with a shiny new toy without interruption.  I remembered the chase and then the 9-year-old throwing the remote and kicking the car after being cornered by me with it in his arms…I recalled his pointy fingers later poking his sister’s toes until she yelped with frustration making him jump (sensitive to sound) and whack her across the thighs. More screams radiated through my holiday memory.  I then pictured the football catapulting through the family room, the empty bag of marshmallows that he just consumed, the sound of his screeching as he maniacally ran around the house, away from my husband who was trying to wrestle away one more gift that did not belong to this boy.

“It did seem to be a hard day for you” I agreed. “Do you know why?” I pictured all of the reasons the day had dipped into mania. I could see the things I had NOT done to avoid his over-excitement. I had forgotten to structure the day, forgotten to limit the activity, I had missed my cues. I was tired.

“I have no idea, mom. But I want to thank you for all of the nice gifts you got me that you wanted me to think were from Santa, but were of course not.”

I giggled.

“Don’t laugh at me Momma! I HATE it when you laugh at me.”

“I am not laughing at you, I’m just happy because you sounded so sweet just then. Like you were thinking about me.”

“What? What do you mean, Momma?” He said so softly. Maybe a little horrified.

“Well,” I replied carefully, “You are usually too busy and a little distracted to remember me. It feels good to know that you are thinking of me and the effort I made today to make Christmas nice.”

I worried that I was telling him too much. Maybe making him feel guilty. But he had tossed me a nugget, and I needed to thank him for it. The compliment (he was thinking of ME!) felt heavier than gold. I wanted to tell him the truth.

“I don’t remember to think of you?” He sounded truly horrified. “Really?” Pause… Pause…Silence… I could almost hear the ticking neurons in his little brain…how many years he had worked to get here…to feel empathy. Then, “I can see what you mean. I’m really sorry Mom that I forget to think about you.”

It was my Christmas gift. However tiny, it was the slice of connection I needed on this day full of expectations. A star telling me I am walking in the right direction. A light allowing my child to see me as I am, even if only for a moment. And I could see him, too. We accepted each other completely. We remembered to think of each other.

For me, Christmas this year brings with it a tiny, but enormous and ridiculous hope. (Hope directly from a newborn King, born in a stable, to a poor teenager. What if everyone had been too busy to notice Him?) First, may we simply slow down enough to remember one another. A thought, a gesture, a message, a moment in time where we go beyond our busy lives. Perhaps every day, even more than once, we can see the opportunity to carry light into a dim world. What if we think of our moms, our husbands, the checkout lady, the boy who is making the annoying sound, the mom whose mouth is turned downward, the friend on Facebook posting sad feelings, the dad looking for someone to talk to. What if we stop for a moment like my 9-year-old did? Second, I hope that we will all live together this way, somewhere, someday for more than a moment— I pray for an eternity of this kind of living. United. Loved. Accepted.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Be Merry Because of The Small Stuff

The season crashes into my kitchen like a thunderbolt. I pretend I can’t hear, didn’t notice that giant flash, but then I force a glance at the tattered family calendar on the counter next the granola box, and I see that there are just over two weeks left before winter break is here. THAT must be why I’m seeing so many Facebook posts of cute families toting around tall evergreens. I better get moving! Two weeks to finish draping the garlands, lighting everything alive down the driveway. Two weeks to finish scribbling the list of gift ideas twirling around in my head. Snap cool photos of the kids, make a better card than last year, create address lists and mail cards before Valentines Day. Craft thoughtful handmade gifts, mail cards (didn’t I just say that?) Wrap presents. Or should I let Amazon do it all? Two weeks to demonstrate my gratitude to the One who created me and saved me from my own very frantic self while I hum a jolly tune, bake gingerbread men, mop up spilled egg nog, and prance around looking as good as possible in my newest red or silver sweater and snowflake earrings that I just bought... Wait, where did I put them again? Two weeks (plus the week of Christmas) to lose a few pounds before I’m on the warm sand in Florida, sipping a lemonade in my hot pink bathing suit… Me merry? Crap!

And then down the stairs pops my eight-year-old. “Mom! Guess what? Only two days before we go get our Christmas tree!”  I watch him patter down the hallway in his soft cotton socks, brown clumps of hair sticking in all different directions. “Oh YES, I love this thing! Can I hang the next ornament?” he asks as he peeks into the 4thtiny pocket of the advent tree my sister made us a few years ago. His fingers pull out a miniature word ornament pronouncing “Noel.” The three dimensional word is trimmed in gold with a shiny safety pin on the end of a thin shimmery thread. Lost in my chaotic, frantic thoughts, and the smell of burning toast, I would normally miss this little moment all together. But my eight-year-old gently shows me a different world. He carefully rises onto his toes, pinning the word “Noel” to the cloth tree. Even though it is a fairly plain ornament, it shines when I peer at it through his eyes. Gently he steps back and the curve his lips create is like a giant upside down rainbow. He is very, very merry.  

As I write this I am learning that there are magical lessons to be learned from our children during the holidays.  The word “Noel” is speculated to have been derived from the French word “nouvelles” or the Latin word “natalis” meaning birth.  My eight-year-old showed me this morning that the light of birth, newness, youth, magic, unexplainable joy….this light shines in to even the most chaotic, old, distracted minds like my own. If we let it.

This holiday season I pray that we find a way to allow the Noel, like the young mind of a child, to shine its light into the madness of our days. May we stretch our minds to pierce the distracting and disappointing bubbles of busyness we live in, and to embrace, on the other side, a joyful, magical world. May we be merry because of the small stuff.
Listen. If you haven’t already, sit down for a minute like I just did, and take a tally of the magic you have already missed today. Maybe just a word, a smile, a song, a drawing, or a quiet question.  And then give thanks.

You will be merry-- I promise!