Monday, December 19, 2016

Reclaiming Advent

Hudson River from Holy Cross Monastery
Advent is one of my favorite seasons of the year. But without careful attention it can get lost in the drive to Christmas.
Over the years my practice has been to let go  more and more of what I thought was necessary to prepare for Christmas as I experienced it growing up.
My mother was a hard act to follow.  Even when we didn't have much money, she still made the holiday special. There was at least one toy each year that I can still remember opening that absolutely thrilled me. Four years old, my doll house.  Five years old, my little record player ( I still have a couple of those 45 rpm records). Six years old, my Mary Martin doll that had real pierced ears. Seven years old, it was another doll with braids that looked a little like me.  and at eight years, my mother had spent any spare moments she had when I was at school or after I'd gone to bed making clothes for two of my dolls, complete with a blue metal steamer trunk.  I still have it.

She baked for weeks (and when we got a freezer, for months), putting cookies and goodies aside.  We didn't always get a lot of new clothes for school - usually we still fit in the things we'd had when school let out in the summer.  But by midwinter, we'd need underwear, pajamas, a new sweater - so those would be bought and wrapped. That way there were always plenty of presents under the tree.  Our stockings would have a tangerine in the toe, a few nuts and chocolates, maybe a little bottle of bubble bath, or something fun but practical.
We accumulated more and more decorations.  The tree would be fresh.  The ornaments carefully stored from year to year would be hauled out.  Daddy would test the lights and painstakingly search for the burned out bulb so the string would light up again.  And Mom would put the tinsel on one strand at a time till the tree looked like it was covered in sheets of ice.
My dad's birthday is Christmas eve so we would have friends over for a party before we went to church late in the evening.
Mom would knock herself out cleaning, cooking, getting us to look presentable. Christmas morning we opened gifts, had a wonderful breakfast with homemade cinnamon rolls or other treats - and then we crashed.
We arrived at Christmas in an excited, frantically joyful, sometimes tearful state from fatigue and too many expectations.  And, of course, when I got married and had my own children, I tried to follow what I knew. And I failed.  I worked full time outside the home. I'm not as organized and disciplined as my mother. I got grumpy.  I snapped at people when things weren't working out well. And then I began to let go.
And I discovered Advent.  It is a whole season to enter into, instead of one day to aim toward.  And there's nothing in it that demands all the craziness.  It has taken 30 plus years to reach a place where it is a joy in itself.  I no longer do all the baking, the decorating, the buying.  Some of this luxury is a result of getting to a stage in life where I don't have to balance kids, job, house, and Christmas.  Over the next few posts, I'll share some of what we're doing this year to be nourished by these days. And I'd love to hear what you might be doing.  What have you learned over the years?  How do you protect yourself so that you don't find your self exclaiming, "I can't wait till it's over!"

No comments:

Post a Comment