Heading into the week of Christmas used to be full of making – garlands for the tree, sweet treats as gifts, special food requests, home crafted goodies for family and friends, cards from every possible bib and bob. This year there is no tinsel, no treats and most notably no music making an appearance. It has a long held tradition that my favourite Christmas Carol tape (yes so old that a tape recorder had to be maintained to enable it to be played each year) would be hidden so I would have to go hunting for it. But this year hasn’t been recovered from the archives to be played and there is no cat and mouse game for the music to be played. Although this is the second Christmas, for the first one I was still in shock and yet I did manage tinsel and even a few cards, this one is different, it is unencumbered by the shock and just has the sadness in its place. No one to cook for here and only one of the brood actually even in the same state this year. It feels like I am visiting a foreign land – I can see all the lights and hear all the songs, I recognise the greetings and know what they mean – yet I am a visitor. It is not where I live. I live in another land, a place where Christmas is absent, probably on holidays and it will come back one day but just not making an appearance this year.
I am working out how to be a visitor in this land and I do have a pass to get in because I once lived there. This land is familiar, but I am a voyeur not a participant; I can look in but I can’t stay.
Looking through the windows and seeing silhouettes of parents wrapping parcels, I remember the joy of Christmas Eve and each gift, even down to each battery, was wrapped individually with love and hilarity under the cover of darkness while the little ones slept. The ache of children not getting up early, such was their confidence of a future world of gifts, they didn’t have anxiety about what may or may not be left under a tree. This was an annoying disappointment for their father who couldn’t wait to see their faces. Turkey cooking would start in the very early hours and I loved the quiet to potter in the kitchen to get all the trimmings together and over the years perfected the bird and it was welcomed with whoops by the non-vegetarians. Over the years I also learnt how to devise a menu fit for vegans, lactose intolerant, gluten free diners as well. The table was a feature and everyone enjoyed the bad jokes of the crackers and usually the elder challenged everyone to a Catholic Quiz – an exercise designed to separate heathens from holy and generally divided the generations. There was regularly a Christmas concert that had variations of well known carols and games – usually hilarious. One of my personal favourites was my grandfather with some serious disabilities acting out the 12 days of Christmas with his son and my two brothers – and only one of those four is still here today so there is no likelihood of a repeat performance – lost in time and saved in memory. Another favourite was a re-enactment of the nativity which melded together current social issues and although this happened about twenty years ago is still current – refugees being turned away and the inn-keeper on this occasion with resplendent in a giant Mexican sombrero. I also remember the first Christmas with a new generation and the joy of a child being born under the star of Bethlehem, inviting me in again to the wonder of new life and the eternal experience of being gathered around a child. The Christ Child is said to have really been born in July and all the evidence from astronomy points to probably the star appearing on July 4 which ironically was the day my first grandchild was born. I wrote this poem at the time:
Blessed be the child who is born under the star of Bethlehem.
May he be at one with the Universe
Skipping his way through life
On the energy of the Sun
And in the light of the moon.
May he be at one with his species
Understanding all the while he is the only one of his kind.
May he grow in the knowledge he is loved;
And with all that love comes responsibility to love others.
May he be like Micah:
And live justly, love tenderly and walk humbly.
For the past few years I have written a Christmas blessing, here is the one I did in 2017, knowing full well I was going to be exiled from Christmas for a while.
May you find joy in perfect and imperfect harmonies.
May angels witness your silence between sounds.
And may you look to the heavens for a star to guide you to a home full of love and promise.
And one I did last year for the summer solstice too.
May the longest of days
Bring your labours to the labyrinth
May the shortest of nights
Begin new dreams and visions
May the harvest of summer fruits
Yield sweetness and stickiness
May the cool sea waters
Soothe the sears of sun soaked skin
May the quickening of grain and grape ripening
Confirm the successful completion of a season.
So much prophecy in each of these for what the following 12 months brought and I have so much more to unwrap in the gifts I have received this year, even though I don’t yet see them under my invisible seasonal tree.
My act of self-compassion is to give thanks to my past self for seeing into the future, and knowing that today will one day be the past self I can also thank for remembering, count my blessings. hold the space for sadness and not be in a rush to move on. I know one day in the future I will no longer be a visitor to the land of Christmas and it will be waiting for me when I get there as a citizen again.