Christmas was coming and Darcy the Dragon was thinking…

I love Christmas. This is probably not a shocking admission. Heck, you probably love Christmas too. There are people who, for various reasons, do not like Christmas. They are a minority.

Grey did not scream at Santa
Grey did not scream at Santa

My very absolute favorite part of Christmas is the Christmas music. Music is intensely evocative to me and holds the flavor of a moment even if I listen to it often. In this case, Roger Whittaker’s Christmas Album (specifically Darcy the Dragon) transports me magically back to a golden stage of childhood when the trees were 12 feet tall (no really), the packages under the tree held unutterable delights, we made Christmas cookies, and the weather cooperated and provided snow. There’s a flurry of light and darkness, sweet scents and spicy, excitement and peace all wrapped up into a gift of memory.

When I turn on the Christmas music, it transports my daily passage of life into a memory to be created, and reminds me that we are in the special time, the time apart.

Tonight I will bring out the Advent calendar that I bought last year to help Grey count down the days. In the past twelve months he’s learned about seasons, months, holidays and repetitions. Of course, he still doesn’t QUITE understand how it all works, but I think the count-down will be very meaningful to him.

This weekend, we will go get our tree and decorate. (I would have done it this weekend, but I was completely exhausted from keeping Thane out of trouble in our normal, reasonably childproofed house. Add in a Christmas tree, and he might never get out of his high chair again.) Grey will be feverish with delight, and with the candy canes, hot cocoa and Christmas cookies I plan to ply him with. The UPS guy will renew his “nightly stop” status. I’ve already begun my Christmas cards, and if all goes really well they might get mailed out as early as next week. (Really, really well. OK, probably the week after.) I love the Christmas cards because I sit and I really think about the person I know and love at the other end. It’s like a prayer, or meditation of love to write the cards. (By the way, Grey has started noticing that he doesn’t get any mail. If any of you are planning on sending us a card, Grey would LOVE it if the card was addressed to him!)

I also save up my “sick time” each year — usually nearly a week. If no one gets sick (and we’re disgustingly healthy) then I take a day a week off for the month of December. So tomorrow I am taking off. No real plans, but to enjoy myself and the season.

And of course the Christmas tableau! I won’t be playing the part of Mary this year, and I do not have a baby to offer up as the Christ child (both my sons — October babies — served in that role). But I’ll play my trumpet and there will be light and darkness and children and songs.

The older I get, the less the stuff of Christmas matters. I get so much joy out of buying presents for the small people in my life, I really don’t covet much for myself anymore. (In fact, for Christmas this year I’m requesting donations to Path International.) I’m sure my 4 year old son doesn’t feel that way. I didn’t at four, or fourteen for that matter.

Perhaps the greatest gift of Christmas with children is wondering how this will all play out in their minds and memories. I remember the cardboard fireplace my parents put up the year I was four. I remember the cabbage patch play set I got the year my brother was born. There are so many glimmering, golden memories of anticipation and delight. I can only hope that my sons’ memories are as full of Christmas goodness when they set about celebrating with their own children some day.

Thanks be

I’ve been reading a lot about happiness lately, and one theme that emerges is that stopping to take stock of what you are thankful for makes you happier. It makes sense — when you take the good things in your life for granted, you stop noticing them and their impact on your life. My own life is rich with blessing, and I try to stop regularly and notice it, appreciate it, and rejoice in my good fortune. So, without further ado, here are some of the things I’m grateful for in this season of reflection:

*My husband Adam, who is just getting better (and even better-looking — so unfair!) with age. He thinks of me with generosity and love. He’s funny and patient. He is active and engaged, and is always glad to be home with us. He is the love of my life, my solid partner in life’s serious challenges, and my goofy partner is life’s less-serious moments.
*My sons, who bring me not only joy and delight but a new vision into the world. I think perhaps the greatest reason to have children is to see the world anew and delightful through unjaded eyes. Grey is full of fun, affection, and terrible knock-knock jokes. He catches my breath with his perception of the life we share. Thane is my happy little curly-haired bopper. He wanders through life at knee-height talking to himself and shaking a toy. When he sees me, he comes running and lays his head against my shoulder in a gesture of trust and joy.
*The older I get, the more I realize that one family that doesn’t drive you nuts and whose company you enjoy is a blessing. TWO families (my own family and the one I married into) that do that is lightening in a bottle. I try never to take either one for granted.
*Some days it is hard to see and remember the grace of God. Happily, it remains present whether we engage with the almighty or not.
*I am profoundly aware that the things I take for granted are not givens — a home to live in, food to eat, a car to drive, my health. Even things like clean water and medical care are unavailable to far too many. I’m also so grateful for all those who are working to bring these most basic things to all God’s children, such as Path International.

Thus for the big serious underpinnings of my life. Now for the smaller things I’m grateful for.
*Coffee. Without coffee, my life would be a sadder, sleepier place. Mmmmm coffeee…..
*This blog. I really enjoy writing, but I would never do it so regularly if it weren’t for the feedback loop of having readers. On a weekday, I average between 50 – 100 readers. I suspect I personally know many of you, but I’m grateful you give me the opportunity to engage with you. (And hey, lurkers, feel free to comment! I don’t bite!)
*The view out the back windows of our house. It fills me with joy Every. Single. Time.
*A church where I feel needed and loved, whose halls I have come to walk as familiarly as my own home.
*Incredibly generous friends who invite us and our two small, destructive children to Thanksgiving dinner. (And who it’s just been so much fun to get to know better this year!)
*NPR “vacation” weeks, when there’s 50% less doom, gloom, destruction and health-care overhauls, and significantly more stories about ants wearing stilts.
*Audiobooks.
*Christmas. I love Christmas. I love it more every year.
*Those Carl Sagan remixes: http://symphonyofscience.com/. They make me tear up.

There are, I’m sure, a bajillion more blessings in my life. But those are some.

What about you? What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving eve?