and then back again.
I’ve been feeling like I’m walking around wearing one of those huge Russian fur hats, but instead of luxurious warm mink, it’s made of vague, heavy worries. Part of it is reading Hot, Flat and Crowded, part of it is that you’d have to live under a rock not to appreciate just how tenuous and awful everything seems right now.
On the other hand, it’s Christmas, and while I know that this is a really tough time of year for a lot of people, I feel really blessed. I have three healthy children who still believe in Santa, so it is hard not to be swept along in the magic. Along with the trappings and stress, there are also some things that are truly simple pleasures – like gingerbread houses and Christmas lights. Today I opened my front door to get the mail (which I love this time of year) and the afternoon sun shining through the glass door had so warmed our wreath that I was enveloped in the smells of a virgin pine forest. Proustian Christmas synapses were firing every where.
And so with the heavy fur shapka on my head, I sometimes feel like I’m getting whiplash from the happy and the sad - the lovely and the dreadful. Think of the poor Walmart employee who was trampled by overzealous holiday shoppers – that singular event, which I try not to think about, typifies the dark and horrible edges of this time of year – the base, careless and deeply selfish contours of the human soul.
This morning was the dress rehearsal for Saint James’ and Supergirl’s Christmas concert. I kept waffling back and forth as to whether I would go. Maybe I should try to exercise or run some errands instead. Maybe my kids don’t need their stalker/mother beaming at them from the pews every time they turn their heads. I’ll be seeing the whole thing tonight anyway and I certainly have a shitload to do. But in the end, I went. I went because it’s Christmas. I went because, in the grand scheme of things, how many more of these concerts do I really have? I went because life is short and you never know what lies around the corner. I went because I heard the kindergartners were going to be wearing angels’ wings. I went because I needed to be still in a pew more than I needed yet another trip to Target. I went and I’m so glad I did.
Say what you will about Catholic schools, but they sure do know how to put on a Christmas concert. The children sing in high silvery voices, their chins raised to catch those slippery upper register notes . . . and it is nothing short of lovely. They sing of mangers and wisemen, drummer boys and angels . . . the boy child bringing hope, love, peace and JOY! They sing in German and Spanish . . . there are recorders, french horns, bells and violins . . . and not a mention of presents or toys or Santa Claus with all the price tags sticking out of his back pocket. Crackerjack and Renaissance Man’s son played a beautiful violin solo with so much more soul than I thought possible from a smiley nine year old. And I swear there was a part where the third graders started humming and it sounded just like Charlie Brown’s Christmas.
I sat, and I listened. I beamed and waved at my kids. I let the dear sweet voices of the children wash over me. And for a few glowing moments, I felt that all was right in the world.