Christmas Day has come and gone, and today we find ourselves in the quiet exhalation between the celebration of our Lord’s birth and the festivities of the coming New Year.
I sit in a comfortable chair by the lights of the tree and the warm fire place writing this with my loved ones close by. Somehow it feels as if Christmas lingers in our company, hesitant to leave us like a dear one visiting from far away who knows it won’t be until next December that he’ll get to enjoy this sweet time together again. His spirit is meek and mild, slow to wear out its welcome.
They say Christmas is about recollecting memories and making new ones. Over the years my Christmases have been spent in different homes with different families and almost-families, some merrier than others. After parents divorce, holidays are inevitably split between Mom, Dad, and whatever family to whom their current significant other belongs. I remember becoming adept at blending in at Christmastime. Thankfully I also remember accepting a lot of love and warmth from the many friendly strangers that make up those memories.
My favorite Christmas as a child was the one my mom and I spent together, just the two of us in our two bedroom apartment. The year we splurged on a big, round tree that reached up to the ceiling, replacing a tiny tree which had sat on our television set in years past. We exchanged a few special gifts that waited elegantly wrapped for us under the evergreen: Chanel No. 5 for mom and chocolate and treasured movies on DVD for me. It was before our big move to rural Nebraska when I left behind my life and everything I knew. A beautiful calm before an extravagant storm, not unlike this peaceful night by the fire before the snow comes swirling down in the morning like the weather forecasters say it’s going to.
As an adult, I spend my Christmases with my spouse and enjoy the predictability of our visiting schedule – his parents one year, my mom and stepfamily the next. Each year new memories build on the old. These days, I find myself surrounded by people who have chosen to remain a part of my life at the holidays. Fewer strangers, more familiar hugs. It’s like God has finally thrown a family at me that stuck. And I very much like these people who stick – or stick around, rather.
I deeply enjoy being with family and am thankful for the breaks when I get to be with them. The line from the classic song comes to mind, “Faithful friends who are dear to us gather near to us once more.” I always get that line mixed up in my head and have to correct myself.
‘Near’ comes second, ‘dear’ comes first, I think to myself.
I like that the simple rhyme reminds me to sort the words and consider how my loved ones aren’t always near throughout the year, but they remain dear in my heart nevertheless. When visits and Christmases can feel few and far between, I remember that the bonds of love always draw us near in spirit like my grandma likes to remind me:
We’re close where it counts.
“Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on, our troubles will be miles away
Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
So hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now”