Amazing, isn't it~ another Christmas, come and gone. I must admit, I'm always a bit relieved when all the hoopla is over, particularly all the advertising and inane Christmas music. Really, sometimes I think if I hear Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer one more time I'll commit hari kari. The days leading up to Christmas were chock full, and I felt as if I were in the midst of a week long stress test - you know the kind where they have you walking on the treadmill and someone keeps ramping up the speed and the incline so that before long you're huffing and puffing for all you're worth while your heart pounds frantically in your chest.
Yes, that was my last week exactly.
Then came Christmas Eve, and a surprise invitation to have dinner with my cousin-in-law and her family. So we did that- Jim, I, and my mother -three only children suddenly thrust into the midst of a large family Christmas, complete with toddlers running pantless through the dining room and large dogs escaping with muzzles full of ham.
Fun. Really it was~ I'm not being sarcastic. Spending time with a large family reminds me just how accustomed to the quiet, reclusive life I've we've become. There's nothing wrong with small families, but life as an only child is definitely lived on a much smaller, less dramatic scale. There are fewer people to be annoyed with, for one thing, fewer personalities with which to clash, fewer grudges to bear.
But sometimes, and most especially at holidays I think, this very tiny family of ours seems rather forlorn. When my cousin-in-law extended the invitatation, I think she was dumbfounded at the thought of a Christmas celebration consisting of three people gathered round the kitchen table. Sometimes I do feel a bit of a lost soul at the holidays. And it doesn't help that every year our little group seems to diminish in size. So it was good to be included in their boisterous happy family - made me feel a bit like Tiny Tim, actually.
In the aftermath of that dinner, we hurried off to church for the 10:00 candlelight communion service. It's one of my favorite church services of the year, nothwithstanding that I'm up and down like a jack-in-the box between the handbell tables and the choir loft. There is a calm that descends in the moment when the lights go off and we make our way out of the choir loft, lit candles in hand, to stand round the circumference of the church and sing Silent Night. It's a moment out of time, as if the world has stopped spinning on its crazy 21st century axis, and we've all been transported 100 years backwards, when life was simple and there were no beeping cell phones, no upside down mortgages, no terrorists with bombs in their underwear.
That Christmas Eve service is steeped in tradition, and perhaps that's what I love most about it. Not only is the service itself part of a long tradition in the Christian church, but attending this particular one at this particular church is the one tradition my family has maintained for the past 14 years. Our holidays seem so fluid these days - every year, the celebration takes a little bit different shape depending on travel plans and work schedules and musical performances. But the Christmas Eve service - well, that's a given. We're quite firmly rooted to being in that church on December 24, at 10:00 p.m. Though I'm always really tired by that time of day, the music, the crush of warm bodies, the red sea of poinsettia's adorning the chancel -it's all a tonic for my world-weary soul.
Ah me, if only it could last.
But there is always an aftermath - for the past three days we've been traveling by car to our second home here in Naples. It really is a second home, for this is where the rest of our little family resides...our son and daughter in law, as well as my father and his wife.
And so we have another celebration of sorts, in the aftermath of this Christmas just passed.
How about you? What is the aftermath of your Christmas?