Sunday, January 6, 2008

Putting Christmas to bed

Christmas 2007 is officially over. Yesterday, I hauled out the boxes and bags, rubber tubs and containers and put away the decorations and lights that had brought Christmas to life in December. The tree was dismantled, the boughs wrapped up, the strands of glass beads carefully stored in their containers.

I love decorating for Christmas. Tearing it apart is not that fun. I mutter and grumble under my breath. I wonder how in just four years I could have collected so much 'stuff'. I wonder where it all came from and how we have managed to place such meaning in its presence. I think about just throwing everything out and starting all over again -- but the expense and the reality of how important each ornament is to our family holds me back from taking action.

I like to put Christmas away alone. Alone I can put everything in place. Alone I am not distracted from my task, or disrupted by someone asking, "Is there a box for this?" or, my favourite "Where does this go?" Hello. It goes in the big blue tub clearly marked, "Glass Tree Ornaments."

Putting Christmas away does not bring out my sense of humour. In fact, it doesn't even bring out my good cheer!

I had almost completed taking down the tree when my youngest daughter arrived home. There were still lots of glass ornaments, ribbons and her favourite, the Christmas village, to be put away. Without hesitating, and without my asking, which when I'm not revelling in post-Christmas doldrums I would recognize as kind of a miracle in and of itself, she started to help out.

"I think we should leave the village up year round," she informed me after hauling the box up from the basement (another miracle. She found the box without yelling upstairs to ask me where it was) and plopping it down in the middle of the living room floor.

"It's not just a Christmas decoration. We could change the scenery to depict different seasons and keep rotating them throughout the year."

Perched on a chair, unravelling the fir bough from a curtain rod, I balanced myself against the window. Good thing the glass was cool. It calmed me down.

Leave up evidence of Christmas throughout the year? I don't think so. By January 6, my official, never to be violated, never to be extended, take down Christmas date, I am ready for the glitter and glitz and clutter to be put away. I've had enough of maneuvering around the glass snow ball with Santa's workshop nestled beneath its dome and having to continually push aside a brass reindeer pulling a present laden sleigh to get into my china cabinet. By January 6, I'm into full, "Bah. Humbug," mode. Christmas. Schmissmiss. I can give it a miss until same time next year. Thank you very much.

But not my youngest daughter. "I love Christmas," she exclaims every year when the decorations and tree come out and we deck the halls with balls and bows and all things bright.

So do I. But even Christmas has a best before date. And the Epiphany is its maximum expiry.

"The wise men haven't arrived yet," she told me in an effort to slow down my exertions yesterday and pack away the village.

"Did you know that in the first two books of the Bible, there was no star and no wise men?" I asked in an attempt to douse her enthusiasm for 365 days of Christmas with reality.

She pondered that fact for a moment. "I like the last two books. When I have a home of my own, I'm going to have Christmas villages all year round."

"Good for you," I replied. "Now help me get this Church into it's Styrofoam container so we can slide it into the box."

She bent down to help in the task, a smile curling the edges of her mouth. "I love you mum," she said as we sat side by side on the floor, carefully placing each porcelain object into its winter bed.

I paused. Gazed at the porcelain figures of a family dressed in turn of the century fashions who every year stand outside the church and watch the activities of the village. A mother. Father. A son. A daughter. Each child holds a beloved Christmas toy. A nuclear family. Different than ours where a mother and two daughters have managed to overcome the traumas of the past and build a home filled with all that is important. In the aftermath of my close encounter with the man who would have destroyed my family, we have built a foundation of love, hope and joy. Every year when the decorations come out, I am reminded of the past, and the power of the present to create new life. Every year as the lights twinkle on the tree, the pretty ribbons shimmer with gold dust and the village lights up a scene of perfect harmony, I am connected once again to the power of love to heal, to create, to inspire.

"I love you too, honey," I tell my daughter as I tuck the little family into the enclosure that will keep them safe for another year.

Some things have a best before date. A due date. An expiry. Some things grow old, grow out of date, out of fashion, out of style. They fade, or evaporate, or expire or drift away.

And some things never end.

Christmas is put away for another year but the memories, the joy, the laughter, the working side by side, the sharing in the big and small moments, the love, they will never fade away. They will never grow old or out of style.

Yesterday my youngest daughter helped me put away the glitter and bows and decorations and I settled into the joy of her presence. As the memory of that moment was safely tucked away into my heart I felt inspired by the magic of the moment to awaken me to the awesome gift my daughters bring me every moment of every day throughout the year. Love.

The question is: Have you tucked Christmas into your heart and awoken your day in love?

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