When daughter Molly wakes this morning, I will be asking her what she would like me to make for her last supper here in Massachusetts before returning to Peru. I will find a few minutes in the day to go into my studio and gaze at the four unfinished quilts that have been neglected these past few weeks, set aside to make room for wrapping paper, boxes, ribbons, and racks of cooling cookies. Yes I am a tad weary from working through all the endless details that go into setting the stage for another family Christmas. But my otherwise quiet life needed this infusion of focused activity to create context for Christmas. It is my season after all. It is the time I can go down the rabbit hole of spontaneous accomplishment and making magic for a very concentrated and extended period of time. When it is working, when the context created for coming together in all the various combinations of family and friends and loved ones fills the house with good smells, happy sounds, and sparkling light, time stops for a blessed moment and the seed of love gets a good watering for another year of growth.
I read recently that ‘Christmas is a state of mind. It’s not about the food or the presents. it’s about creating a loving and warm atmosphere. To cherish peace and goodwill. That’s the real spirit of Christmas.” (Tara Isis Gerris)
As son Ben would say, “Of course.”
One of Ben’s favorite movies is ‘Christmas with the Kranks’. It is about a couple who, just weeks after their beloved daughter moves to Peru for a year in the Peace Corps, decides to completely skip Christmas and instead spend their money on a Caribbean cruise. But on Christmas eve they get a call from their daughter that she is in Miami with a fiancé and they are on their way to spend Christmas at home with them after all. It is a well played comedy that has the entire neighborhood pitching in at the nth hour to make Christmas for the family as they had done every year prior. It is a predictable plot and ending, there is even a mysterious character who could actually be Santa Claus, all the elements of Christmas magic are there. I sit there smiling at the end every time. Because they’ve managed to convey the warm feeling that the real spirit of Christmas is about peace and goodwill, even amidst the craziness of food and presents and decorating, without being sappy or sentimental.
Ben manages to get us, or at least me, to watch it every year without fail. It has been particularly poignant this year during this two weeks that Molly has been here. After we talk about food, a most important topic in this house, she will settle in with me here by the fire with her knitting and the dogs will follow suit, also settling in for their morning naps.
Precious precious moments spent in quiet and camaraderie with my beloved girl. The pinch of ‘too much’ felt when regarding all the presents under the tree recedes back into my otherwise sustainable sensibility when I remember that most of the presents had been wrapped in the packing paper from my mother’s move, drawn on and decorated to created a dazzling display of creatively wrapped gifts. I feel the weight of the days of wrapping tiny things for the stockings disappear, because my sweet girl’s favorite thing is to open an overflowing stocking filled with an endless variety of tiny presents, and of course, this meant filling everyone else’s stockings too. We’ll sit here this morning anticipating these last days together and revel in how perfect it has all been, around the table, perfect gifts given to each other, nothing unwanted or extraneous, nothing wasted, everything received with exclamations of joy and pleasure.
It was the Christmas that the kid’s father, my ex-husband and friend, spent two nights with us through the festivities, family intact after twelve years of doing it differently, now a different family, but still oh so loving and grateful for who we can always be together.
It was the year that Ben wowed us with not just his memorable mealtime blessings, but with homemade cards filled with extraordinary heart wisdom. After years of obsessing about the Parent Trap, of holding on to a belief that his father and I would be married once again, he has finally let go in love. We affectionately refer to his writing as ‘Benspeak’ because even if not grammatically correct, we can all discern the meaning. This one simple offering is such gift…
Letting go in love has been hard. Letting go of a marriage, letting go of a father, letting go of expectations, letting go of a beloved daughter living so far away. My overflowing heart can finally spill.