Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The hopes and fears of all the Years

How many poignant, here's-a-new-twist on Christmas, reason-for-the-season stories can we read  this year without throwing up our fruit cake? So, I won't even try.  Well maybe. 
All I know is that Christmas---growing up in my large family, was not that magical.  I wonder---really and truly wonder--what the formula is (logarithm?) for how many Christmases a person can go through with unreal expectations---that somehow sort of fizzle and plummet right before his/her eyes---and yet, still, the very next year---cement those same expectations into place? Is that the definition of eternal hope or something else?
     My father was a forestry professor.  We did the whole going out into the woods to chop down our own tree thing.   Of course we never went to a tree farm; we just clomped around in the woods off the side of a highway.   Invariably we ended up cutting down (chopping would indicate a thick trunk) two little trees which we would tie together with rope once we got home so it would look like one tree.  Keep in mind that my  father was  a tree expert. More was expected of him.  Mama always always cried.  The tree---the kickoff to the season--was already a disappointment:  two scraggly trees tied together with some twine brought up from the basement.   Christmas spiraled down when mama's big Christmas from our father was a huge, yellow, plastic trash can for the kitchen.  Daddy had lived through the depression, had fought in WWII and put himself through school.  He didn't need many "things."  He gave us (his eight children) purses we already had, old dolls with different dresses, toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper, soap from Holiday Inns in which he had stayed.  What threw off the curve or perhaps kept the hope alive, was that every now and then they would throw in a clock radio or one bicycle for us all to share.  Yes, indeed, next year would be different---be better.  Maybe next year we'd get  the stuff we thought would make us happy.   Stuff.  So we hoped.
   When Taylor was born, my parents were old.  They had been on the road for hours when I called them to tell them that Taylor had been born.  Daddy said, "We'll be right there." And they drove four hours in the night to see us. Into my room walked these parents who seemed to have ruined Christmas for me, year-after-year---parents who reached out to take this sweet baby out of my arms--and into their own arms--to hold and keep and honor.  Daddy said, "You are so lucky, Marianne.  Not many people can have a baby like this."  
    I look at that picture of Taylor up there with Santa----Taylor who asked to go see Santa.  Taylor this "child" of 26.  This is not the Christmas card I had planned to send you guys when I was 13 while  unwrapping pajamas that were the wrong color and too small.  This is not the Christmas child I thought I would be raising when I was 14, sitting next to a Christmas tree (s) on its last leg. 
 But this is my child---my gift-----the baby I was given in the hospital manger.
And, oh, I look around me and man do I see wise men and women and Lord knows I hear the angels singing.  I heard her just today. And, yes, there are shepherds. You are probably one of them for me.
   I look at my not-so-perfect-Christmas -child picture -----and the hopes and fears of all the years come up and clog up around my throat.  What were my expectations?
What are my hopes?  What are my fears?
"What child is this?" I wonder.
How do we honor the gifts in our lives?
Whatever form they come in---these, our gifts---how do we honor them?