Archive for Wednesday, December 15, 1999

Moments in the harbor of shining holiday lights

December 15, 1999

The Christmas season brings to mind memories of standing on the top step and tossing tinsel on the spindly Douglas fir below ... wearing pajamas that the tinsel clung to as we scampered around the tree ... decorations where the fake snow came from rolls of cotton grown and harvested each year by my grandfather in southeast Missouri ... eggnog frothy in the crockery Tom and Jerry bowl, made with raw eggs, but cooked, my grandfather would say, by the spirits he added to it.

Christmas was the red vinyl 33 album of holiday bells ringing from the hi-fi. Christmas was my father's voice accompanying me as I ever-so-awkwardly played carols on the piano. Christmas was the homemade fudge and divinity my mother used to make and (keep my fingers crossed) will make this year.

Later when I had children of my own and lived in central Kansas, Christmas was the helter-skelter time of year that melded all the holiday traditions with a weeklong safari across the state complete with playpen, stroller, diaper bags and holiday gifts. Once here, we bounced back and forth between grandparents' houses in Tonganoxie and Topeka. Almost with regret, I must admit, it was during those years that, at least for me, the luster of Christmas faded. When did the most meaningful time of year turn into such a busy, hectic time when we tend to do anything but stop and think about the reason we are celebrating?

Sunday morning, someone referred to the song, "Oh Holy Night," and said it doesn't have to be that single night or that single day to be meaningful.

"Any minute, any second, any hour, you can find those holy moments," he said.

This year is particularly busy for me, as I'm not afforded the extravagance of a month off for Christmas, as in the past two years when attending graduate school full-time. The newspaper deadlines continue. There are stories to write ... pictures to take ... people to meet ... and, as the poet Robert Frost so aptly said, miles to go before I sleep.

Where would the moments come for decorating, I wondered. Youngest son selected a Christmas tree the other day, then left the rest to me.

As I dragged the boxes of holiday decorations from the attic, begrudgingly, I thought, the whole scheme of holiday decorating seemed a little bit ridiculous.

But, bit by bit, ornament by ornament, twinkling light by light and memory by memory, the luster began to return.

Baby's first Christmas ornament gleams from the tree. The toothpick manger made in a grade school classroom dangles from a branch. School pictures of boys who asked Santa for their two front teeth (and got them), wooden puppets I bought in Switzerland years ago and angels crocheted by a former neighbor who lived in a little house on the prairie ...

When the scattered tinsel stars and icicles were vacuumed up, the empty boxes put back in the attic and the lights twinkling from the tree in the bay window, the room began to take on a new light.

I stood there, alone, admiring my handiwork, or rather the handiwork of time, of creation, and thankful in this moment of moments for a world that in the best of times is full of love and that sets aside time each year to celebrate the night oh so holy.

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