Friday, December 21, 2007

on how christmas haunts me

I am often haunted by Christmas.

I don’t mean that it’s evil or that it carries negative connotations, or even that this ‘haunting’ is something bad. But Christmas for me is something that year after year continues to defy what I think it is, and what I think it will be. It’s daunting. I think I have my definition all packaged and under my sleeve, and then it slips between my fingers again. It’s much like the word ‘home’ in that it is relative, and you could stop ten people on the street and ask what it means, and come up with ten different responses. It’s also like the word ‘home’ in the sense that it’s constantly changing.
Our whole lives will be spent redefining what it means.

Growing up in a Christian home, Christmas it has obviously always meant the birth of the One that came to save me. That came to wear the skin of all of us. This definition hasn’t really escaped me, it’s just that more and more I’m realizing how deep and profound this season of the year really is. I’m beginning to think that the older we get, the more complex our perception of it will be.

During and shortly following the divorce it was redefined as ‘the switch.’ Christmas Eve with one parent, Christmas Day with another. We would be bundled up in the snow of Eastern Washington, our bags packed, parents exchanging cold greetings, and then the awkward silence of the car ride home. I might envy people whose parents are still married just for not having ‘the switch.’ It hardly felt like the season to be jolly when all you could think about was the other parent driving back home alone.

When I was in my first serious relationship, it became the time to share our families, our traditions, and our first gift exchange, all smiles and good memories that I still have today. To me, nothing compares to sharing those things because they are so inherently a part of who you are. Even if you try to escape your history, it will always find you.

As of this week, with the birth of my new little brother Paul, it has come to mean new life. New little eyes that squint open and look at you fascinated. It means new tiny hands and feet to be fawned over by the family women, a new heart beating in a chubby little chest. A whole, tiny, complete little person that can fit in the nook of my elbow, who will have his own dreams and hopes and wishes, and family memories. It doesn’t matter that he is only half my blood. He is entirely my brother. And I will punch anyone who tries to tell me otherwise.

And now that I have arrived to celebrate Christmas on the west side of the mountains, it means reconnecting with the sister I love and miss living with. Reconnecting with old friends and catching up with more recent ones. Visiting places I used to work and know so well, and being happy that my life hasn’t taken me farther down that same road.

I get stressed out and frustrated sometimes about stupid things, especially during the holidays. There are things I spend my time worrying about that will matter no more in a year than what the weather was this afternoon. I worry that I’m not where I’m supposed to be, geographically and spiritually, and I wonder if I will ever be content with where I am. I suppose if you asked me though, I would say I never want to be content where I am. I hope I never am. It’s when people get comfortable in only living where they live, in only seeing things they’ve seen before, and in only reading about the rest of the world in books and magazines that we become stagnant. And I’m guilty of that too sometimes.

I’m happy to relay to you that this Christmas I have come to realize how blessed I am. I have not one, but two halves of my family that love and adore me. Where there once was one sibling, there is now four. Where relationships have ended, new people have come to fill my life with laughter. There are gifts downstairs enough for a small country, underneath a beautiful Christmas tree, it’s white lights glowing like smoldering embers in a dying fire. I have a couple bucks in my bank account, a roof over my head, and a job to go home to.

I might not ever be able to define ‘Christmas,’ or ‘home.’ They may always haunt me, continuing to change with every year that passes. And although that used to bother me, I’m starting to be okay with it. Maybe defining words like those is what life is about. Finding new meaning to add to tradition. Finding new ways to count blessings.

I know that I have already found many.

No comments: