For a holiday filled with so many traditions, each year’s celebration of Christmas is different. Some years the celebration revolves around visits with family. In fact, so much of what I remember about Christmas from my childhood involves “visiting Mamaw and Papaw’s house” with a passel full of cousins and the accompanying aunts and uncles.
But there are also years where other considerations over-shadow the holiday. In 1997, mom was one week away from dying (she passed away on New Year’s day in 1998), while Candice’s father passed away on December 26, 2008. In both instances we were able to be with our parents over the holiday season, but the focus was understandably elsewhere.
This has been a quiet Christmas. And that’s been fine.
The quiet holiday can have its own special joys. Some of the things I’ll recall from Christmas 2011 include:
The joy of early gifts. About 10 days ago, we visited the neurologist for a four-month check-up after Candice’s fall and the resulting seizures and severe concussion in late August. To hear that the EEG was clear and that the MRI “looked like a different brain” from the one the neurologist had seen in the August MRI was music to our ears. Candice still has eight months left for a complete recovery, but this was the best gift of the season.
The joy of seeing children grow into adults before your eyes. In August, we dropped Andrew and Claire off at college. We’ve seen them briefly in the ensuing four months, but we’re now a week into the winter break and the changes – and independence – that come with the college experience are on full display. As empty nesters, we’ve had more than one conversation about how best to respond to these new adults in our midst.
The joy of listening to Andrew’s music. Since he was a young Cathedral Chorister, Andrew has worked hard to develop his musical talent. This season we’ve enjoyed his singing – in a 12-person ensemble at the beautiful Strathmore Music Hall with the Cathedral Choral Society’s A Dickens’ Christmas and on Christmas Eve at our parish, where he sang solos and joined with the choir during the choral prelude for the Christmas Eve service.
The joy of seeing Claire’s passions grow and mature. We’ve always called Claire our “outdoors girl.” She’s loved nature, science, swimming, and people in equal measure. California, with the opportunities for exploring a new environment, has been a great choice for her to learn more about the world in which we live. She’s taking a couple of wonderful classes to explore where she may want to focus her scientific bent. I loved our father/daughter lunch at the Tabard Inn where we talked about the different fields that piqued her interest. In her first semester she’s taken on a new commitment to swimming that has moved her fitness to new levels. And she continues to teach us all lessons about ways to make and nurture friendships.
The joy of a well-crafted Christmas sermon. We’re still getting to know our new rector at St. Alban’s, but Deborah’s sermon on Christmas Eve – where she spoke as if giving a remembrance by one of the shepherds – was one more in a series of well crafted, challenging, and meaningful sermons that she seems to produce every time she steps into the pulpit. When Andrew and Claire announced that they were “fans” of the sermon, and Candice and I agreed, it was clear Deborah’s made a big impression. Christmas sermons can be dreadful. This was anything but.
The joy of good food. Following her fall and recovery, Candice is back in charge of our kitchen. And that’s a VERY good thing. It doesn’t matter if we are eating a simple soup at lunch or a lavish holiday dinner – I am one lucky man.
The joy of reflection. Taking time off to be with family and friends allows time for reflection. I was fortunate enough this year to have two weeks off, and the change of pace has been welcomed. (Candice would say necessary.)
The joy of friends. At holiday parties, Lessons & Carols, dinner with another family that has been battling brain injuries of their own, lunch in an Irish pub, at the back of church…all of these places and more are where we’ve connected with friends old and new and fed our spirits.
The joy of giving. Finally, the old saying that it is more blessed to give than to receive is easier to recognize during a quiet Christmas season. I’ve found that true this year time and again.
I know there will be Christmas holidays in the future full of cousins, babies, aunts and uncles…and they will be great fun. But I’m thankful for our quiet 2011 Christmas. In whatever way you have celebrated Christmas – or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or the Winter Solstice – I hope it has fed your soul. From our family to yours, Merry Christmas.
More to come…