This is the second Christmas in a row we’ve spent in Texas, when we actually live in New York. This is our second Christmas setting up a tree at a house that isn’t ours. Hanging stockings on a mantel above a hearth that’s not our home. This is the second year of feeling transplanted, up rooted, and disjointed at the Holiday season.
It’s our sons third year of life. His fourth Christmas. My son doesn’t remember the first Christmas he was on earth. He doesn’t remember the snow, or our little house with the white fireplace and the tinsel strung throughout. He can’t remember that for his second Christmas I didn’t want to set up a tree, so I bought a little silver one already twined with lights and plugged it in. He doesn’t know that last year, I hated Christmas. I had no spirit for it. Right now, my son sees a mom determined to be jolly. I’m the mom who took him to the shed behind her uncles house in the darkness, the light from Sam’s flashlight illuminating the path, to haul in a box of Christmas decorations she’d packed away when we moved. He watched me arrange tinsel strung garland across the mantel of a house that isn’t mine. He helped me hang ornaments, some deeply sentimental, in the glow of a lighted tree I didn’t pick out from the store.
We are living a divided life. Our family in Texas, our work in New York. We fly back and forth in airplanes as if we were driving across town in a car. Setting up a tree for Christmas, hanging a stocking, lighting a Hanukkah candle, these things become more important when your life is so confusing.
The Mayans may have been wrong about the world ending today, but it is not wrong to live as if it still could. Because it still could everyday. Mayan foolishness aside, our individual worlds, and the world as a whole, is not guaranteed tomorrow. Life is a complicated game we play, it’s a battlefield you can strategize but never fully control. I played the game of RISK once when I was babysitting a friends son. He was a master strategist at six years old. When we were setting up our campaigns, he explained I had gotten lucky. I got continents that work easily together. My battlefront would be more united because I wasn’t operating from a disadvantage created by previous misunderstanding or skirmish.
This was a pretty layered examination of the RISK world, six year old or not, and something I still think about many years later.
We are in a strange time. A time where we lose things and where we find new things. A time where we hold close those we love, and where we have to be willing to hand them off as well. The Holidays tend to make reflection difficult. It’s more common to be caught up, to be hustled and bustled into a credit card meltdown or a gift giving coma, but a gentle easing on of glasses over eyes for examination may be the prescription for the ailment of this peculiar season.
On Tuesday I took my son shopping in Denton. We went to the Square, which is filled with locally owned shops stocked with simple and personal presents. My son was wide eyed as we walked through the stores. He was picking out gifts for cousins and grandmas and Daddy. And I let him. And it was amazing to observe his choices. With every gift we bought, he reminded me why it mattered to buy in the first place. Why, when life is a hodgepodge of wonder and ruin, we keep walking on, holding hands, connected even as the world falls apart.
I won’t pretend to understand anything, or to always do good, or to always have faith. I won’t lie to you, many days I fall short. I just know that from the mouth of babes wisdom flows, and I believe, wisdom changes us. Division, bitterness, resentment will make you lose the battle. Link hands this Christmas. Pray together. Dance together. Play Patty Cake together. Whatever. Even if tomorrow you want to create a fist. Tomorrow may surprise you still.