At 7:57 this Sunday morning I sat beside the hubs considering. We had arrived home late, on the longest night of the year, from visiting with his bff & family; the man who has stood by my hubs’ side for as long as I’ve known him. He had proposed to his wife, a former roommate of mine, on our wedding night. She and I are outnumbered by five male children and our respective husbands.
The hubs’ proposition was that we skip church, this morning, so that we could get a jump on the list of errands needed to be done. Time was ticking and we are hosting Christmas eve. Our numbers have grown from hosting his side of the family to include mine; since they recently returned from international travel.
I quietly listened to his logic and reluctantly agreed. But due to my hesitation and indecision we found ourselves in the uncrowded church. The priest commented that everyone was busy with their errands but would pack the pews on Tuesday and, to enjoy the comfort of space this fourth Sunday. My sons, who were not scheduled to serve, found themselves in robes as the deacon thanked them for helping out. My boys’ willingness to volunteer, without prompting, was a gift. We were supposed to be here for a reason.
Later I found myself taking shallow breaths as I attempted to breathe. Today it finally dawned upon me that we would be hosting our families in our very messy home in two days. Breathe. Just breathe.
The grocery list compiled; the hubs and I set out together as we plotted the most efficient routes to complete the tasks to be done. Our schedule has been jam-packed with concerts, parades, parties and get-togethers with friends since last Saturday. My struggle to slow the pace and carve out space was unsuccessful; even after declining several invitations.
How does one create room? For most of the holiday season my pace has been slow and steady; but today I feel like I’m sprinting towards the finish line. Why is that!?
I continue to breathe. I just realized, a few moments ago, that my family of five is scheduled for a dental cleaning at 9 AM. This appointment has been re-scheduled three times when our calendar began to fill with mandatory school events and presentations.
I am, once again, caught in the race to have everything perfect. The food is bought, the gifts are wrapped, the house is decorated. Laundry is tumbling and I have time to clean. But then there are the cookies; one of the few traditions, with my boys, that they still enjoy participating in. I remind myself that I can continue to freak out or I can roll with the punches and just do it. I do not mind the work, I am just overwhelmed by the lack of time.
I need breathing space. I need to make room.
We all now sit in front of computer consoles with very clean teeth. The daunting task of making cookies and side dishes loom before me and I am adjusting my frame of mind. It is always the anxiety and procrastinating of a project that causes the most stress. Once the task is begun it is all downhill. I reasoned with the hubs that I need not make cookies, this year, to simplify my tasks.
Making room can mean many things. In my mind I envisioned blocks of time of doing nothing. But, as the hubs reminded me, making room can also mean inviting others into our home with food and drink. Being hospitable. Opening our hearts. You have to make the cookies, the hubs replied.
I realized, then, that my non-Catholic husband did not volunteer to usher in our church mass for recognition or works. He served because there was a need; to welcome people into a community that has welcomed him. He does not worry that we are feeding more mouths than we expected. He has the capacity to make room for people in our life and food and hospitality is how he opens his doors in welcome. It is how both of us have been raised.
It is I who has created walls and rules of social engagement. The busy-work of food preparation and hostessing, usually a noose around my neck, is slowly loosening. Performing works is not a bad thing if done for the right purpose; with no expectations. I have been trained to reciprocate and compare and I must return to the time when I enjoyed hostessing just because. And what greater purpose is there than to celebrate the birth of a babe with both of our families. This core value of my faith has returned, front and center, away from the perfectionist expectations of the Rockwell painting Christmas. Without the birth of Christ there would be no Christmas.
I am able to breathe deep. Let the cookie baking begin.