I can remember asking my dad if it was truly awful to be an adult. I was oddly aware of the magic of childhood and it filled me with such regret that someday, someday it would dissipate. I could see it on the faces of all the grown ups around me when they could only pretend for so long, or drag their feet on a walk to see a fort or a play for sometimes (only sometimes mind you) they had better, more important things to do. He would pause with a little smirk and a faraway look, and say something like, “Oh no, it isn’t awful at all. It is different. You will change. Love will feel like a whole new emotion. But awful? No, it isn’t that.” I hardly believed him. In fact, what he told me never resonated with me at all until just yesterday.
I sometimes watch my kids tumble like puppies around the yard with such joy. Me, sitting on the steps, hair ragged, teeth needing a brush still at noon, same outfit as yesterday (not unlike the boys in front of me I now realize!), and I stare at them in amazement at the unprecedented joy they find at the simplest things. Through fuzzy, weary eyes I do long for the easy days of childhood. I really do.
In the early dark of the afternoon yesterday, while in the middle of hollering at Rowan to watch his step! watch his step! for my precious coffee was underfoot atop a brand new carpet, the mail carrier dropped of a few packages on our doorstep. Oh, the timing. A small parcel wrapped in criss-cross twine was amongst the Amazonian deliveries. I opened it right away, instead of doing the proper thing and waiting for the assigned date this time of year. Inside was a gift so great and cherished it sparked a whole new thought inside me.
As soon as I unwrapped the brown paper, a stack of old photographs fell out; My mothers face as child under decorated trees, looking precisely like my sweet Miles would if we gave him a Shirley Temple do, my grandparents whom now have moved on from this form with ear to ear grins, matching plaid and polka-dotted outfits, ribboned trees, and then a letter. No, a story. A story about my grandma whom I only knew as a little girl, whom I only knew as a sugar cereal, bug juice delivering woman. A woman who had a collection of dolls any little girl would pine after. Who had a bowl full of jelly candies to share at all times. Who doted over me like I was the most precious thing that ever was. But also, as a very sick woman, who sometimes smelled of medicine and pure exhaustion. A sweet woman who suffered for a very, long time.
Underneath all these words was a small box, stuffed with tissue and the most beautiful, sparkling blown ornament I can imagine. It was a red and white mushroom home atop a mountain of bright green glitter; very fitting for our family. The boys and I hung it on a bough (a very, very high up sturdy bough) and marveled at the sparkles, those age-old sparkles in the light of our freshly plucked tree.
It is our first holiday season in our first house with our little growing family. It feels like the snow falling into the hollows of a tree the way traditions are just coming into place. These memories are truly what this time of year is all about. When I read the letter to Lee last night, while finishing up some of our holiday crafting, I realized this feeling of joy was exactly what my father was talking about all those years ago. A childs magic of the season is amazing. It is overflowing, in-containable excitement. It is a beautiful thing all on its own. But now, now that I have felt a mama’s pleasure at pulling out a box of fragile, old ornaments, heard the sweet,tender ideas of hand-made treasure to create for other family members whispered out of the mouths of my sweet children, been given the love of the past, sat with my husband by our warm wood stove while the snow falls around our cozy, temporarily quiet house I see exactly what he means. It is different. It isn’t masked by santa or an excitement too big to hold inside. It is not even about obligation, the rush, or requirements. (Though those absolutely take an effort to let go.) It is a sit back and notice the joy kind of feeling. It is a process. It is a full body knowing that this is life. The very life of life.
Thank you Aunt Bette, you without a doubt made my holiday season so very special. I am grateful for you and all of my history.