I have little interest in being cryogenically frozen upon my death, but I’d be lying if I said I weren’t sympathetic to the Larry Kings of the world who might one day push pause on their very bodies, to suspend themselves in time while everything else must keep on moving and ticking.
If I should be frozen for a day, I’d give up Christmas Day.
I’ve always preferred presents wrapped to presents unwrapped—the waiting to the reality. The 72 hours of Christmas Eve, Day, and the day after were absolutely the most disappointing days of the year during my childhood. My last-minute mother would spend much of Christmas Eve still in stores, practically pushed out of them when they closed, and would spend hours after the candlelight service holed away in her bedroom wrapping presents while the rest of us waited in the living room for Christmas to happen. On Christmas morning, my brother and I would awake to a sea of unwrapped Santa things, dump the stockings filled with oranges, walnuts, and Kisses onto the floor, and sort the loot until my parents would whisk us off to Alabama to go from grandparents to grandparents. We’d arrive home late and wake up the next morning to the sound of my father’s annual vacuuming, the tree already stripped and lying on the curb for trash pickup. He loved ordinary days better, too.
My father, wrecked with cancer, didn’t want to die on Christmas morning, but we’re worlds within worlds, aren’t we? We don’t get to decide it all. Some things just happen. Some things just are. And so he died on Christmas morning, and I said goodbye to him with the sound of Ralphie still pining for a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB gun coming from the TV ever-on in the background.
The moving and ticking continues despite our absence. It’s a comfort to know this will happen one day when we ourselves stop moving and ticking, but it’s a curse to have to carry on like nothing when others do. But rest assured, traffic and rain and radio and breakfasts will find their way into the big world no matter the weather in your own smaller one. They are part of the system, that comfort and curse.
I take comfort in self-imposed bustle, but the bustle of the holidays overwhelms me. They fall into the category of the days that just happen, the days that just are. The expectations are just too much for me. I want to wake next to my husband and breathe in my children and think/read/write and drink a dirty chai if I’m feeling frisky. That’s my short and skinny.
Tacky sweater, dirty elephant, white Santa whateverness is just no. And anything involving those mischievous elven spies is just not happening. What surely started as an action figure with book is now the emotional equivalent of adopting a puppy.
Anyone who willingly raises the bar that high had better make it an open one.
Listen to me, all bitter and whatnot. I would love to love the holidays. I would. Christ-loving people especially are supposed to love Christmas. It’s his freaking birthday.
(I do know he was a spring baby. I’ve read books.)
What frustrates me the most is how puffed up and plastic some of us make this season when Christ is my jam precisely because he was so ordinary: a Middle-Eastern kid born to a scared teen mom in a place that was not their home.
I feel out of place most days, too. Sometimes while driving in the car, I’ll realize I have three children in it and that, by some fortunate twist of the universe, I am their mother—and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and fear of inadequacy all at once.
I should not be their mother. They deserve endlessly more than I can offer. I cannot be enough.
I wonder whether Mary thought these things sometimes:
I should not be his mother.
He deserves endlessly more than I can offer.
I cannot be enough.
It’s universal, isn’t it: the wonder in the waiting? Again, we are worlds within worlds. We don’t get to decide it all. Some things just happen. Some things just are.
And so we wait.
Emmanuel, God with us, sums up my hope for the advent season this year—that I notice the bits of the divine around me despite the hectic sparkle of the season and that I find the sacred—because it’s here already, in the middle of our moving and ticking, in the middle of our keeping time.by