It is very early on this Christmas morning. The dogs got me up early to go outside and so I am sitting here with my coffee enjoying the quiet time once again. It’s not as quiet this morning as it normally is. Jeremy fell asleep on the sofa watching A Christmas Story, which is on a continuous loop as is the custom, and it is still playing on the TV, Ralphie having just stuck his tongue to the metal flagpole. I’ll let it play this morning, a nostalgic background sound, along with the pipes in the basement softly clicking as the heat kicks on. Together they make a good soundtrack for this day.
In a few hours we will start the day with family and breakfast, the first moments of a long day bound to feel longer for me thanks to my early wake-up call. We will eat and travel across many counties, open gifts and delight in the joy of children, share the day with people we love, and eventually relax into the afterglow of a day of new memories. This day, too, will wind down into winter’s early darkness, and we will slow down, pausing eventually to exhale and soften. The journey will be over, the shopping and cooking and rushing and preparation complete and, if we are lucky and we allow it, we will find peace.
Peace can be a challenge in the run-up to the holiday. Tasks, “must get dones” become priorities, and there is no harm in that unless one allows them to consume the beauty of the season. Eventually, though, I find myself craving peaceful moments of stillness. I found one last night, visiting with Jeremy’s grandfather, when Jeremy’s tired five-year-old nephew climbed into my lap and snuggled in for a few minutes of calm. As we rocked slowly in the chair, we had a whispered conversation about the events of the upcoming night and Santa’s visit, and I found a lovely peace in those moments of quiet and serenity and love. A gift, for sure, when my arms and lap held a child softly.
My school has a tradition of assisting some of our families over the holidays with gifts and food, a need that never seems to lessen. I delivered those packages this week and was humbled by the experience. It does not matter in the least how or why these families have found themselves in difficult times. What matters is that they are a part of our family. I will never forget the graciousness with which I was welcomed into their homes and the pure gratitude that those parents and grandparents extended to me. I’m the richer for it, their gift to me. This morning I think of those children, our children, and I hope we’ve been able to leave moments of joy for them under their trees and around their Christmas tables.
As this day starts up and then eventually winds down, my wish for us all is peace. As frenetic as the preparations can be, I hope we all experience moments of stillness and tranquility, beauty and calm. Let love be the most important gift of the day, let serenity be our gift to ourselves and to everyone we meet. Winter will remind us of it if we notice, the beauty of a softened, tonal world that soothes the soul and rests the eyes. Tradition will remind us of it if we notice, the recipes and decorations taking us back to simpler times of our own childhoods, memories waiting to be remembered. Children will remind us of it if we notice, a soft gentle cuddle of tired contentment. It’s all there for us, waiting to be noticed, the offering of peace, the joy of exhaling, the quiet assurance of love, as soon as we stop long enough and open our hearts. Today, pause and breathe and listen. Peace is ours. It always has been.