Thursday, January 05, 2006

great expectations

It is only when we’re in love
or when we’re little
that Christmas really comes true
… In between
it can break our hearts
Merrit Malloy

“Well, what did you expect?”

The tree is gone—returned to its summer home in the corner of our damp Clintonville basement. The living room has been re-reconfigured—pictures and tables and lamps and the like all back in their pre-Christmas places. All that is green and red is now stored, once again, in embarrassingly huge plastic tubs of the same color, awaiting next Christmas and sharing my melancholy over the end of the season.

I sit in my post-holiday funk in a living room that now seems stark and I replay scenes that tickle my memory. The romantic glow of the zoo’s light display set against the freshly fallen snow, especially heart-warming when replayed on mute so as to forget that the toddler fussed and cried for the entire last leg of our tour. Missing my husband’s final Christmas concert—the one I was finally going to brave my way through without tears. Making the gingerbread house with my six-and-a-half year old and chastising myself later for trying to control too much of the process, down to when it was okay or not okay to lick the knife. More stellar scenes—biting my husband’s head off as we wrapped gifts for our children, snapping at my children as attempting to get out the door for Christmas Eve service, spending Christmas day in a smoke-filled house with a head cold. Moments of disappointment that beg the question—what did I expect?

Somewhere not-so-deep within I cling to a not-so-secret belief that life should play like a Hallmark movie complete with soundtrack and obligatory happy ending. The script includes lots of “pleases” and “thank yous” and even more “you were rights” and “I was wrongs.” Family times are harmonious and husbands never snap back, childhood memories are recreated flawlessly, and I am at the center of it all—Mother of the Year surrounded by her adoring, smiling, perfect family. And I wonder where my disappointment stems from…

Believe it or not, I truly went into this holiday trying to curb my expectations. I worked to keep my focus where it belonged and tried to convey to our children the meaning of our celebration while hoping feel its impact myself along the way. Sometimes, I actually succeeded, despite myself. In between the hustling and bustling and grinching and grouching, there were some beautiful, tender, precious moments. One day, I will learn to enjoy them more fully.

A final scene flashes through my mind—we sit in a candle and tree-lit room, snuggled up in our pajamas before the Christmas tree, reading The Night Before Christmas with full dramatic flair. My daughter then reads us the Story of Stories in her sweet, innocent six-and-a-half year old voice and my heart is moved once again by the faith and wonder of my child. Prayers are offered by each as we consider with grateful hearts all that we have been blessed with, culminating in the Greatest Gift of All. There is lots of giggling, lots of wiggling, and the occasional “shhhhhh” to one child or the other. It is not a Hallmark Moment, but it is a Holy Moment.

It is the one I will choose to remember as the Christmas soundtrack fades.


moshpitmarsha said...

I did not know what to expect even though I had my wishes. Christmas was wonderful this year, in that I got to enjoy the Christmas lights and the heat that that lovely ice storm knocked out. I was able to make it to Christmas Eve Services. I made up for not going to church last year thanks to the storm. I went to church with my parents the next day. It was a wonderful season even if I did not get the thing I wanted the most. It was a great season.

Julie Morrison said...

For the first time since I became a member 10 years ago, I rearranged the holiday visiting schedule with my parents, and was able to attend the Christmas evening service(3pm). I was barely able to fend off tears thinking that finally, FINALLY, I was attending the service with my real family. Thank you all my brothers and sisters in Christ.You are my gift.