Mom and me, way back when.
When she passed on, my mother left me very big shoes to fill when it comes to Christmas (btw, we wore the same shoe size). Mom was a big believer in family and tradition; she devoted her entire life to making her husband, children, and grandchildren happy, sometimes, I fear, at the expense of her personal happiness. However, I never saw a wider smile on my mother’s face than on Christmas. She reveled in being surrounded by family, and it was her joy and honor to care for us.
So! Not being my mother, I sometimes tend to get a little cranky around Christmastime. Cleaning, for one thing, is my least favorite activity. I enjoy cooking, but there’s a difference between roasting a pan of Brussels sprouts for my husband and me, and putting on an entire Christmas Eve and Christmas Day spread for 13 people. Shopping…well, let’s just say I’d prefer to order everything online, but because I waited until the last moment that wasn’t possible. The mall, much to my horror, simply could not be avoided.
That said, I am not only looking forward to the holidays this year, I am enjoying the preparations as well. The reason? I’ve finally figured out that it really is about the journey, not just the arrival, as my Iyengar yoga teacher firmly pointed out (once again!) in class last week when we were all in a hurry to get into a pose.
In many Christmases past, I’ve felt a sense of loss and sadness when the holiday ended. That was probably because I placed so much focus on its arrival, so much focus on the actual events of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But “The Season of Light” isn’t just about the moment the lights go on; it’s also about the darkness before, and the warmth that stays with us after the lights are lit.
There’s an afterglow to Christmas, that’s for sure, that lasts long after the presents are opened, the pies are devoured, the tree is trimmed and everyone has finally arrived home from places far and wide. But there’s also a pre-glow that can be lost in the hurry and worry of it all. There’s a pre-glow as you sort and wrap presents, bake cookies (personally I hate baking cookies, but whatever floats your boat), as you write out your holiday cards (or send your holiday emails!).
That pre-glow is something I’m sure my mother knew about as well, for even though she did tend to “pre-worry,” she didn’t lose sight of the joy of preparation. It’s not just about one day; it’s also about the anticipation of waking up in the morning and knowing that your son who’s moved far away is coming home tomorrow or the next day, the pleasure of picking out just the right cranberries to make your cranberry sauce, the happiness of knowing all your grown children will be joking and sleeping again under the same roof (or if you have little children, the joy of knowing that just for this brief period, it doesn’t matter if they’re too excited to fall asleep).
There’s a reason why my mother always said she was looking forward to “Christmastime.” Religiously, it’s about the birth of Christ, of course. But it’s also about the gift of savoring the season, the season of family, friends, and the light we feel in our hearts when we’re together.
And for me, it’s also about the joy of discovering that my mother’s “shoes” still fit.