Mission Impossible

Once upon a time in the land of make-believe, guts and grit saved the day.  Odds against  accomplishing  the mission  stacked high enough to abolish any thoughts of success.   Not to worry.  Fiction writers yanked those boot straps, reducing  the negative to dust.  Mighty Mouse saved the day.

Christmas can be like that Mission Impossible.  We play the music.  We serve up the sentiments, act our role, play our part.  Deck the halls, make the food, arrange the beds, think the perfect gift scenario for about 11 months a year.

This time the odds against are the reality of baggage borne through years of silence, festered anger, magnified slights, painful memories.  This time there is the look and feel of grungy reality TV , every one lives but no one wins.

That expression about ‘limp with resignation’ is on the menu board today.  Remember that prayer line I like so much…”forgiveness…for what I have done and what I have failed to do”…?  I have that thought every day and November 29 marks the day that I accept that forgiveness will never happen. Won’t?  Can’t?  Does not matter.  The result is the same.  A plastic pink Christmas tree trumps boughs of green and growing holly.

If you are a Gentle Reader visiting this blog regularly, you know that death visited five weeks ago.  You know that grief  invades with zero tolerance for hopes or dreams or myths.  Death cuts that swath so well described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.  Death makes us impotent and raging with anger at that impotence.  Death vomits up the mass that has choked and been swallowed.

No new beginnings.  No phony fits and starts towards understanding or acceptance.  No forgiveness.   The year that Christmas did not happen?  Feels that way…a deep and empty hollow place suffocating under the weight of that  ugly pink plastic.





Twas, With Apologies to Clement Moore

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house      Every creature was cooking, even my spouse.

Too much food wrapped and frozen with care    In hopes that the family soon will be there.

Grandchildren not nestled nor snug in a bed,  Still running and jumping–constant games instead.

Papa  and Nana with child on each lap   Sat longing and hoping for a quick little nap.

When out in the drive there arose such commotion that I  knew that the storm set new elements in motion.

Enough?  Okay.  No more.  But I love the original Moore Christmas poem.  I memorized it when my kids were young and now my grandchildren can give me the quizzical looks as I try to convince them that it is just the right length to memorize.  Am I the only one who believes that this poem is a most excellent tradition?

Gentle Woman

Christmas is the birthday celebration of a child, Jesus.  Mary is the name given to Jesus’ mother.  A greeting card depicts Mary kissing the face of the baby.  The caption reads, “Kissing the face of God.”

Our closing hymn this weekend was Gentle Woman.

Gentle woman, quiet light, morning star, so strong and bright, gentle Mother, peaceful dove, teach us wisdom, teach us love. Carey Landry

I don’t know this ‘Mary’.  I only know what the scholars of time, artistic renderings  and literature, including the Bible, tell me about her. Did this woman raise her child to become the man speaking the words of Christianity?  Or did living with a Jesus person create the Mary of Gentle Woman?

The song gives Mary the being of flesh and blood  that can bend her love to the face of God with the gentleness of a mother’s kiss.   It takes me back to the gasp of wonder at seeing each of my children born.  Teach us wisdom, teach us love are words describing my daughters-in-law as they kiss the faces of their children.   It remembers my mother and, in a very real way, the best parts of all humans.

Teach us wisdom, teach us love.

Isn’t that enough?

Sweet and Sour

For days, I have thought about this blog.  Words appear in the box, and quickly delete for one of two reasons…too much syrup or rock hard cynicism.  Admittedly, I love the syrup— the Norman Rockwell/ Currier & Ives ride to Grandma’s house.  Teaching years spent with children taught me that delight is the key.  Paper bag turkeys and  cotton ball Santa beards stayed as fresh as anticipation on a five-year old face.

Despite our differences, the family gathered to celebrate our common history.  We learned to avoid the topics that pushed away from conversation to the brink of argument.    The adage about religion and politics in this era of anger and entitlement is usually honored.   At times, the joy might seem forced a bit but the effort was there.   Civility and the hope of a connecting (or reconnecting) were part of our thankfulness.

Cynicism has come  late in life and I still balk when the evidence is there.

Before Halloween, stores were decorating for Christmas supposedly celebrating an important holiday.  Thanksgiving doesn’t get much in the way of public decoration or retail acknowledgement.  Wonder if that could be that we don’t  really honor gratitude?  Could it be that money spent on gifts isn’t part of the Thanksgiving deal?  And if the so-called Christmas spirit of giving comes early enough, we spend more.

I know.  The economy needs our money.  If we spend, we circulate the dollar so recovery happens.  Stimulus, right?  Bonus time.  Fine, if the money stays low—down where the job seekers, the hungry and the employed but uninsured live.  Down where homes and cars and businesses are foreclosed because we bought the bubble.  Trickle down?  The pool at the bottom looks dry.

Cynicism?  Maybe.  Reality check?  I hope so.   Once upon a time, Christmas was one of the world’s religious celebrations honoring a particular tradition of beliefs.  Once upon a time, Christmas had to do with a celebration of the connections in a community of believers.  Once upon a time, the symbol of the stable held some sway over mounds of gifts under the tree.

All that being said, I love Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas—most of all Christmas.   I love being part of a faith community that shares tradition.  I love the twinkle of a single string of porch lights, a Charlie Brown tree in the living room, cinnamon in the air, the delight in grandchildren, the gentle civility and graciousness of adult children.  Syrup trumps again.




Christmas Will Come

All but two members of the family have voted on the gifting part of Christmas, 2009.  Not quite total agreement, but eight of ten  have voted that we will draw names.  Each of us will purchase one adult gift limiting spending to $50.00.   Five grandchildren are not part of the drawing.  Kids gifts remain individual decisions.

This is a most excellent idea and I appreciate the wisdom of my children and their spouses.  Gift giving can become a burden and a danger if credit cards cover the costs.  Far too many gifts go either under-used or unused.

We might gain far more than could be considered lost as we limit the number of packages under the tree.   Rediscovering the reasons that we gather on holidays is certainly a plus…conversation, shared food, laughter,  the joy of a being together.

Eliminating the stress of gift decisions, shopping,  and wrapping a room full of gifts is definitely a good idea.

Just might be the best Christmas in a very long time.