December 23, 2009
Hardly anyone is here today;
just empty cubicles and dark offices.
The few of us remaining finish up in
the quiet, ready our desks for the new year.
We’re happy for the holiday, can go home
now and be merry, except for this:
a young colleague gave birth last night,
but things went wrong, the tiny son rushed
to another hospital; she hasn’t even seen him.
They will send updates through office e-mail.
We shut down early, this last day,
tell one another Merry Christmas and
leave into the cold and quiet afternoon.
December 24, 2009
As usual, this penultimate day has become bloated with preparation,
unfinished tasks, anxiety over money, and the build-up
of serial disappointments. How ironic, how fitting,
that the days leading up to God’s arrival prove with sharp intensity
how life simply is not enough—of anything—that our trying is
exceeded only by its ineffectiveness, that our desires succeed mainly
in carving out a greater emptiness. You might say that we dress up
and fashion a grand parade, which leaves us marching in place
while across a dark gorge the lights twinkle and the most
astounding music whispers over the distance.
Yet we are here, toes on the crumbling edge.
December 25, 2009
I woke up this morning when twinges in one side needled me to consciousness. My legs were trapped between two dogs and a cat, all nuzzling close and sound asleep. I noticed, too, the ominous headache. On this Christmas morning I tended all the pets, brought in the paper, then took a hot bath, hoping to woo knotted muscles. At least there was no hurry, no to-do list. The morning proceeded and, yes, I made him the apple pancake, which turned out perfectly. We opened gifts; it wasn’t terribly cold; the tree shone.
But I have to say, on this Christmas morning I wept. When you get to be a certain age, every holiday is bittersweet. Today I lay upon a heating pad, gazed at the lighted tree through a medicated haze, and missed my dad, my grandparents, and the warm years of habit that, due to generations changing, must halt and switch. We stop, too, to remember, regain our bearings, and concentrate on new loves. We play and play the music, allowing it to touch the tender grooves of memory. We lavish today’s children with gifts, the way they were lavished upon us. New babies help us embrace the holiday and make it possible not to mourn too deeply the people we miss. Yet it hurt me to think of how Dad and the grandmas would enjoy these babies, the ones they never laid eyes on. See, there is something fundamentally wrong with this.
In a way, celebration of any kind is rebellion against our losses and fears. No matter that the aunt is battling breast cancer; she’ll bring her famous cranberry salad. The brother may be out of work, but he will arrive with wife and our nieces and nephews, accept our gifts even though no one expects gifts from them. We buried Grandmother a month ago, but she would have a fit if we neglected to put up a Christmas tree just because of that.
Yes, we practice faith this way. It is no small thing that in the church’s liturgy we are instructed to lift up our hearts, and we answer that we lift our hearts to the Lord. We look upward, think forward, and continue to celebrate the stories that do not change, ever.
This is why, even with aching head and a low bank balance, I loved Christmas Day. And will always love it.