All is calm, all is bright.
It is the morning after Christmas, and these words couldn’t be more true. As I started my day early this morning, my home was blanketed in the beautiful silence and stillness of the morning that I have grown to love. My family was sound asleep, hopefully still dreaming of sugarplums and Christmas memories. The light of the sun was just beginning to glow, slowly bringing to life another day. The traffic was slow and quiet, as it is on a holiday…no commuters rushing to the train…no school children headed to classes. I started a little laundry, picked up a few dishes that mysteriously appeared after I drifted off last night, took care of my mama chores. I stepped out into the chilly morning to bring in the milk and yogurt and bread dropped off by the milkman, impressed that he had already stopped by and a little disappointed that I didn’t get my empty bottle out for him. And then I poured a fresh, warm cup of coffee and sat in the living room, with the tree lights twinkling in the corner and the remnants of yesterday tucked into tidy little piles of boxes and surprises on the floor.
The piles are a bit smaller than years past…and that’s ok. In fact, it’s more than ok. Perhaps it’s because the boys are getting older, and gone are the days of large, brightly colored plastic playthings. Those were great days, and magical mornings, but now they are older and their gifts of choice come in much smaller packages. Perhaps though, it’s because they had much smaller lists this year…more modest, more thoughtful, more practical. Maybe it was all the talk of the economy and it’s downturn this past year. Or maybe it’s that with every passing year, they look more and more toward our family traditions of Christmas and less and less at what’s under the tree. Don’t misunderstand…the surprises under the tree, in their beautiful wrapping and fancy bows, are still a huge part of the anticipation of Christmas morning; but, I’m finding that they are becoming more appreciative of the gifts that we give that speak to who they are…less so with the idea of stuff for the sake of getting stuff.
They would probably say, just about now, that Mom is sappy…just being Mom…and that none of this is true. That they would want to find iPads and laptops and flat screens and whatever is the latest and greatest under the tree attached to a gift tag with their name on it. But from what I saw yesterday, and from the thank you hugs and conversations about what an awesome Christmas it was and what cool stuff they got, I would say that they are more grateful and more grounded than they would want anyone to believe.
It has been a roller coaster ride of a year for our family, both good and bad. We’ve watched those we love struggle with illness and tough times. We’ve felt the beginnings of a shift in our own lives, as one son moved to the other side of a neighboring state, and another got a letter of acceptance that will soon take him north. We’ve been blessed with work, but it has kept us very, very busy…and apart…as Rick travels a great deal for business. We’ve seen my little business grow, but not without the growing pains and time commitment that come along with that. We’ve seen our other sons work hard and find success in the activities that make them so happy, and their willingness and devotion to doing what they do. We’ve experienced an earthquake (slight), a hurricane and an autumn snowstorm that left us with damages we didn’t expect. We have cried and we have worried and we have prayed…and we have lived and we have laughed and we have loved.
One of my favorite images of this holiday season happened this past Friday, as we took our annual train ride into the City to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, the windows at Macy’s, and the crèche at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We were walking down the street, and I was in the back of our little crowd. And I watched them together, brother to brother and father to sons. They were laughing and talking and enjoying their time together. My heart was so full I thought it would burst.
A little later, the very next night, we attended Christmas Eve services together. We sang the words to “Silent Night.” That hymn, sung at that time, in that setting has always made me well up just a little. I become flooded with memories of Christmases past…my grandparents, my parents, my husband and our children as babies…those that are with us still and those that have moved on. And I was reminded that things change. That time does not stand still. But for that one moment, as I looked to my right and saw them all standing there together, singing together and creating a memory that they may share together in a Christmas yet to come, I felt truly happy and truly blessed. And all was calm…and all was bright.