I stare hard at my screensaver; hardly staring. I let the anger flow through me as my eyes glaze over; willing myself to hold my breath and breathe deep.
For the fourth time in-a-row my son’s instructor has flaked. Annoyed and irritated it was all I could do not to take out my frustration. Eyes wide my son stared at me; wondering is she gonna lose it?
And after the umpteenth time of my hubs locking the garage entry door (which my key does not turn), I kicked the locked door angrily. The garage motor whirred the heavy metal rolling gate closed. When the hubs asked for my keys to prove that they would not turn this lock; I threw them at him. Nice catch.
Slowly my eyes focused on the beach of my childhood home; my screensaver. I saw myself standing with the camera in my hand; shivering in the cold. My family had been behind me and I had stood before the whipping wind hearing the waves roll upon the shore.
This is my happy place.
I heard the squeals and shouts of my neighbor’s son; joined by my own. The sounds of glee filled our dark home amidst the twinkling Christmas lights. The other son was playing chromatic scales on his trumpet with screeching high notes. I could hear the jingle of the dog collar’s bell and my bubbly champagne candle’s aroma filled the air. I let my senses take over.
This seems to be a daily mental and physical exercise for me; finding ways to diffuse and relax.
I think of the days ahead, Christmas eve, Christmas, New Year’s eve. I have long since let go of “perfect” holidays and trying to keep up with the Joneses. These past few years I’ve tried to simplify the stress, the mess. But there is a lot of mental work still to be done.
The boys reminded me that I needed to bake. I had been surprised by their ardor and each day they would ask if baking day would be today. As I tiredly sat at my table, after six hours of baking, I wondered if it was worth it. When the three boys made cookie crumb trails throughout the kitchen and drank all of our milk I came to my conclusion. It was.
As I packaged boxes to give away the boys asked if they could hoard some cookies for themselves. But Mom you only bake once a year! Why give it away to everyone else?
It is in what you give to others that you will receive in return. In love. In service.
At church, last Sunday, I had turned to greet the family who sits behind my own. In a sing-song voice I chirped, “It’s the last Sunday of Advent!” The matriarch laughed out loud, replying that I was just like one of the kids. I mulled that over, inwardly smiling. Before I would chirp how many more days until Christmas, imagining the gifts to open, the feast to eat and the family to greet. But this year, I was excited to celebrate the Nativity scene. The day of coming was drawing near. I wanted to light the center candle; the one that brought light in the darkness.
I’ve come a long way.
I look forward to the family gatherings. The sharing of the meal. No longer do I look expectantly for others to tell me I found, “the perfect gift” or made the most delicious cookie. I won’t find fault in wrinkles and saggy areas; the physical markers of getting older. I will celebrate the passage of time; the traditions tried and true of people coming together. I will listen past the superficial chatter and really try to see; to hear who these people are and why they are important to me. I will remember those who have passed through our lives and the gifts they’ve left behind. The day of coming is in the coming together. In re-affirming the ties that bind. In finding our lineage; our line. It all comes back to a child in a manger.
The gift that keeps on giving. Relationship. Family.
Instead of imagining how so-and-so will irritate me; I will breathe deep and try to see who they are. Forgive.
Instead of being quick to criticize or judge I will place myself in their shoes. If someone is quick to judge or criticize me I will envision my screensaver and smile. Grant Grace.
If I see someone who is tired or disappointed and lost in the pretense of perfection, I will give them a hug and affirm them. You matter.
For the mess and the stress; the extra calories, full stomachs and laden tables of food. I will be grateful that I have family. Give Thanks.
In the coming days I will be all of the above. I will enjoy the holidays guilt-free and let go of the hoopla and expectations of an empty Rockwell painting Christmas. All the gifts in the world don’t compare in value to time spent with loved ones.
We have to make the most of it; the good, the bad and the ugly. The time has come.