Right after Thanksgiving, I found myself driving alone in the giant van. I can't tell you why, because it so rarely happens, but I know I was making the most of it. I was flipping around my satellite radio (the one shining luxury in our family workhorse), and I counted at least 5 round-the-clock Christmas song stations.
One of them was playing this:
I have loved this song since I was a little girl, even though it always made me a little sad. And no one sings it like Judy.
(But the version with John Denver and Rowlf is a close second).
I recognized the first few notes and turned it up to sing along. I was feeling pretty happy, so imagine my surprise when, after the first lines, I started crying.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light,
Next year all our troubles
Will be out of sight.
Last year, my Advent was terrible. I can't even say that I observed Advent, except that in my heavily pregnant state every movement was a sort of penance. But Advent isn't just penance. It's also preparation and I was not preparing. I was surviving.
Of course, I was unaware that my Advent days were numbered and I would spend Christmas in the hospital, under the heavy influence of intravenous narcotics. I didn't know that I would miss every single one of the traditions I love so much; the little joys with the children that make Christmas so special each year.
I don't mean to make it sound like a healthy new baby is nothing, because it's not. It's everything, really. Isn't that what we are celebrating at Christmas? The arrival of Christ, the baby. But now, with a year's perspective, I can see how non-present I was.
The new year came, and with it I lost my grandmother in March and a college friend in July. Granny lived a full life, but her decline was sudden. Tara lived a shorter life, but her decline was a slow and intense battle against the cancer that took her. Both of them are still sorely missed.
I usually like to observe a contemplative, quiet Advent (or at least that's what I try for every year!), but this year, I am doing everything. Every tradition, every song, every cookie, every gift, every card, every Mass, every school pageant, all of it.
I know for a fact that I'm doing it all imperfectly, but that is not driving me crazy. I know for a fact that I won't get everything done that I hope to do, but I am calm about that.
Because I am just so damn glad to be here this year. Thank you, God, for letting me be here.
|St. Nick left a gift for everyone. Even Septimus, who has no shoes.|
|Fun plastic plates and some candy in the shoe - jackpot!|
|A giant bag of generic cereal and some curling ribbon will keep little hands busy on a snowy afternoon.|
|Mopsy is intent on stringing her garland for the tree. She lasted longer than anyone else, except me.|
|Bun started out strong, but the arts and crafts are no match for playing Star Wars with your brother.|
|Sally was a great worker, too.|
|Bun kept eating his work.|
|Mopsy was so proud of her work!|
|This is our Tree-on-a-table technique for keeping|
Septimus from destroying the whole set-up.
|The kids' handiwork looks very festive on the tree.|
|Snowy lights on the holly bush.|
"Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown."
|"O, Christmas Tree, O, Christmas Tree|
How lovely are thy branches . . ."