One year when Brian was about six years old, a friend gave him an Advent Calendar. Printed on a background of dark blue designed to resemble the moonlit sky, it was a picture of a colorful gingerbread house trimmed with fluffy white frosting and sprinkled with candy canes, festooned with lights and garlands. Behind each window and door, under every candy ornament and festive decoration, was a picture or a saying or a snippet of poem. The idea was that the child could open one door every day in the four weeks leading up to The Big Day, and thus stave off a bit of the excited anticipation that can completely derail small children from their daily routines. It didn’t work that well with my son. Maybe he was too old for it at the time, or it simply wasn’t exciting enough to hold his interest. After the third or fourth day, those tiny cardboard windows weren’t enough diversion from his perseveration about the Hot Wheels cars or Lego playsets that might (or might not) be his on Christmas morning.
This year I found myself more excited than usual about preparations for Christmas. Perhaps in the darkness of grief, I was more eager than usual to shed light on the dark corners of life. As I rummaged through the bags and boxes of beloved Christmas decorations I found myself smiling at each and every one. The paper machie angel my high school students gave me the year they nicknamed me “Angel of the Keys,” stands sentinel in her familiar place on the corner of the piano. A wicker basket trimmed with pine cones, ribbons and bells that my son made in middle school sits on the counter waiting to be filled with bright colored Christmas cards and letters from friends. Large, egg shaped colored lights have been wrapped around the tall pine tree on the corner of our yard, beckoning me home when I’m out after dark as I wend my way down the shadowy street. The huge lighted wreath that hung for many years on the front of our old house on MacArthur Street now shines just as brightly here on Brookwood Court.
It is in these early days of the season, these Advent Days when we’re lying in wait for something wonderful to come, that I find the most pleasure. It’s when my expectations for The Big Event to come haven’t yet been tarnished or shattered by the reality of life in the real world. It’s when every day still holds a surprise, and I still have the kind of excitement about them that the Advent Calendar was supposed to engender for my little boy. Each night when I take Magic and Molly outside for their last potty trip of the day, I stand in the driveway and bask in the reflected glow of those lights, grateful for the blessings of the day gone by, hopeful about the joys tomorrow might bring.
Brian used to ask us “Do you think I’ll get the (Hot Wheels, Lego’s, bicycle, book, video game) I asked for? Do you?"
My reply was always “You’ll have to wait and see."
Of course, the waiting is the hardest part.
But the advantage to waiting is the time in between, the time to rest, reflect, the time to hope and dream. While we still have those hopes, the dreams are still alive and we can nourish them in our imaginations. Perhaps we can even find ways to make them come true.
My wish for you during this Advent season, is that you’ll take the time to enjoy opening all the doors of these days leading up to Christmas and that you’ll find the answers to fulfilling your hopes and dreams behind each one.