Monday, January 12, 2015

"Behind from where we came*..."

The saying "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened" may or may not have originated with Dr. Seuss, but he definitely made it popular.  It certainly fits well with my family's annual deconstruction of Christmas. Weeks ago, presents were taken from under the tree and opened to Oohs and Aahs. The house spent even more weeks full of the aroma of a fraser fir forest. Now, Christmas cards have been discarded, return address labels removed and filed for next year. Decorations removed, the tree is down and out, needles vacuumed up. The dining table is temporarily covered with ornaments to be wrapped in tissue and put away until next year. The deconstruction of Christmas 2014 is well underway.

presents under the tree
presents under the tree
Photo by J. Harrington

As we were undecorating (dedecorating?) the tree this year, I spent more time than usual thinking about some of the ornaments, those that have become part of our Christmas traditions over the years. There are a couple of dozen angel ornaments, the first of which arrived when the Daughter Person was a child. For decades since, one has been given to her annually as a December birthday present from the Father Person. Then there are the handmade presents children made in preschool or kindergarten or the early grades. Mixed in are birds and animals because we are a family of nature lovers and traditional icicles and round glass balls because they are what we grew up with. Every time I see a stylized, professionally decorated, uncluttered Christmas tree, I fear it may lack a heart as much as it lacks memories.

a tableful of memories
a tableful of memories
Photo by J. Harrington

Although I've received some wonderful presents over the years, I don't remember them nearly as well nor as fondly as many of the ornaments we hang each year. And, though my waistline and blood sugar will benefit from the disappearance of Christmas cookies, they've become embedded as a Christmas tradition, more so in our family than the "Christmas letter." The decorations and traditions we enjoy now are different than those I experienced as a child, but not all that different. The spirit of Christmas is about love and togetherness and family, not about how much money was saved at a Black Friday -- Thanksgiving night sale. I just wish more of us would walk the talk of Christmas year 'round, of course, but especially at Christmas time.

1 January 1965

By Joseph Brodsky 

The Wise Men will unlearn your name.
Above your head no star will flame.
One weary sound will be the same—
the hoarse roar of the gale.
The shadows fall from your tired eyes
as your lone bedside candle dies,
for here the calendar breeds nights
till stores of candles fail.

What prompts this melancholy key?
A long familiar melody.
It sounds again. So let it be.
Let it sound from this night.
Let it sound in my hour of  death—
as gratefulness of eyes and lips
for that which sometimes makes us lift
our gaze to the far sky.

You glare in silence at the wall.
Your stocking gapes: no gifts at all.
It's clear that you are now too old
to trust in good Saint Nick;
that it's too late for miracles.
—But suddenly, lifting your eyes
to heaven's light, you realize:
your life is a sheer gift.

*The Circle Game ~ Joni Mitchell
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