Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas is a Whisper

A Whirlwind.
That's Christmas.

Turmoil and anxiety swirling internally while I rush to and fro trying to accomplish in very little time what's deemed necessary for the holidays.

Tree up. Decorate it, lights first. Not like that, spread the ornaments around; mix up the colors. Try to show helping hands how to do it, but apparently everyone is colorblind. Whatever; determine to fix it later. Where did that blasted star get stored? Check in ten different boxes and then settle on an angel topper. 'But, Mom, we used the angel last year and the year before that!'

Deal with it.

Online shopping--because it's easier.
Have the gifts shipped to your door, right?  
Why is our cursed internet so slow?  
Out of stock--ugh. Only the sizes I don't need, of course. Click, click, click--tick tock, tick tock. Oh, oh, wait a minute--great prices here! Yes, my shopping cart is full at last! Check out with VISA--charge it all and worry about the bill later.

'What the criminy? HOW MUCH IS SHIPPING?!!!'

Search the internet for a free shipping code; find none. Try twenty discount codes--all denied. First-time shopper code--invalid. Invalid? Really? Did our house elf shop at this site when I wasn't looking? Feel a serious headache coming on. So much time wasted surfing the net inserting useless codes. Fine; just forget it. Empty out half of shopping cart and swallow the exorbitant shipping rates. Determine to finish my Christmas shopping in town--later.

Don't forget the baking! Sugar cookies, gingerbread, chocolate want brownies and fudge? Gain 10 pounds just mixing the dough. Bake, clean, bake, clean, bake, clean, clean, clean--I'll clean up the rest later.  

Make up plates to deliver to friends. Run from one side of town to the other--'Merry Christmas! No, sorry, no time to sit and talk. More deliveries to make.' Nearly done! 'Hey, Mom, what about so-and-so? We didn't give them any cookies!' Dang it. I forgot so-and-so. Hurry home. Find a paper plate--extra cookies, but no more red candy kisses (so what). Good enough--deliver--done!

Exhausted. Whirlwind intensifies. Still have shopping to finish--later.

Just smile one time for this photo. Please? Yes, you have to wear the Santa hat. For the Christmas card. 

Because I said so, alright! Now smile!
Good enough--not really (kids look like angry little elves with evil grins) but patience has left the building (mine and theirs) so good enough.

Sign a hundred Christmas cards.  

Lick a hundred stamps.  
Hand cramps up. Tongue numb. Christmas shopping to finish--later.

'Mom, you didn't put up any mistletoe.'  
'I know.'
'Mom, you didn't get out the countdown to Christmas chart.'  
'I know.'
'Mom, you haven't watched Scrooge with me yet.'  
'I know.'
'Mom, you didn't make my hot chocolate yet.'  
'I know.'
'Mom, how many days until Santa comes?'  
'I don't know.'
'Mom, I have a Christmas Concert tomorrow at school.'  
'Eeek! I forgot about that.'
'Yeah, Mom, I have one too for band next week.'  
'Crap. Forgot about that too.'
'Yeah, Mom, and we have to sell Christmas trees to go to camp.'
'Yeah, Mom, and I have to bring brownies to school tomorrow for a party.'
'Yeah, Mom, and I wanted to make that Christmas wreath, remember?'
'Yeah, Mom, and I have to go caroling with our group....'
'Mom, did you find that 'Countdown to Christmas' yet?'
'The company Christmas party is next Friday; don't forget.'

Whirlwind escalates. I still have to finish Christmas shopping---later.

Time stretches thinner to allow for attending Christmas concerts and parties and tree sales and to finally dig through storage boxes for that begged-after, must-have, young-lives-will-be-ruined-otherwise 'Countdown to Christmas' chart. 'Thanks, Mom!'

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock...
'Twelve days to Christmas, Mom!'
'Seven days to Christmas, Mom!'
'Five days to Christmas, Mom!'

The whirlwind picks up internally; anxiety levels spike--I seriously need to finish my shopping!  

Make a list and run to the store between work and piling events.  

Hide away in a room to wrap gifts.  

Wrapping, wrapping, wrapping--'Mom, where are you?'  
Ignore the question; hope it goes away; wrapping, wrapping, wrapping--'Mo~o~om, where are you?'
Sigh and answer, 'I'm in my room. I'm busy.'  
Young mouths press up to the door--'Mom, we need.... Mom, we want....'
Ignore their demands to wrap a little more, a little faster. 'Mom, can we come in?'
Door knob twists and jiggles. Throw blanket over exposed gifts. 'No, no, no! Stay out!'
Return to wrapping--frantically. Whining now begins, traveling through the locked door. 'Mo~o~om, we're starving...'
Might as well give up. This means wrapping all night Christmas Eve, but who needs sleep?

'Two days to Christmas, Mom!'
Grumble under my breath. No time, no fun. The whirlwind inside feels awful.

Dinner, dishes done. Everyone in bed. Lights out. So much left to do but too exhausted. Still have last-minute items to finish shopping for--later.

I plop down on the sofa in the dark, but it's not entirely dark; Christmas lights blink soundlessly, on and off and on again, in repeated patterns on the tree. It's beautiful. I stare at it, mesmerized.  

The silence is astounding--therapeutic even--and internally the whirlwind eases a degree, melting like magic. My breathing slows as colors dance on the tree, consoling me. Sinking into the sofa I wonder at this strange feeling of calmness that seems to invade my being, seeping in from the top of my head to slowly travel in warm tingles throughout my body. It makes me smile.  

How sweet the silence that needs no straining ear to hear. How perfect it is, like a whisper that only my soul can distinguish--'It's alright. It's alright.' This gentle spirit settles into my heart and I wish for it to never leave. This is what I've been missing--too caught up in the whirlwind society declares Christmas to be; my own thoughts too loud to hear this beautiful, small voice that brings such comfort to my soul. The Christmas spirit doesn't rush. It doesn't shout.

I joy in this rare moment of quiet stillness. I hear and believe....

A Whisper.
That's Christmas.

"Christmas is a whisper of peace and a sigh of hope on the lips of love."
 ~ Richelle E. Goodrich

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Being Mrs. Santa Claus

It’s nearly Christmas.
Amid all the festive and traditional runaround, we generally perform a few extra acts of goodwill during this giving season.  So, upon a request this year, my husband and I agreed to dress up and play Santa and Mrs. Claus at a craft bazaar held inside a small-town elementary school.  Children lined up to sit on jolly, old Santa's lap and receive peppermint candy canes from his sweet and cheerful wife, Mrs. Claus.  Our teamwork made a bunch of kids happytwinkling, eager eyes and grinning lips reciting long lists of what-I-want-for-Christmas.  We also made a few wary children cry at their parents' insistence they sit on the old, bearded man's lap for as long as it took to snap a few keepsake pictures.

Overall, it was a merry day.  But it was more than that; it was an eye-opening marvel.

I began noticing something fascinating the moment we walked out our front door all dressed up in red-and-white Claus disguises.  Observers who looked our direction beamed cheerfully, pointing us out to others in their company.  Nudging my husband, (who had also become aware of the fact that his presence was excitedly noted by kids in the car ahead of us) we waved at the smiling onlookers.  They returned eager waves.  It was an interesting drive along the freeway noting brightened expressions on those who glanced our way, traveling the same road.  And by the time we arrived at the little elementary school, a distance from our own home town, I understood that great expectations rest on the shoulders of those who dare garb themselves in the famous 'Claus' uniform.

As  my Santa husband and I walked up the sidewalk to the front doors of the school, we were taken in by a sea of eyes.   It was an illuminating and surreal experience.  People smiled.  People waved.  People offered cordial greetings.  The unanimous assumption was that we were a happy, kind, generous couple with warm hugs to offer and open ears available to hear every last youthful want and wish.  And as we went about our businessvisiting with strangersholding their children, giving them sweet hope and happy hearts and candy canes—it occurred to me I'd never in my lifetime been approached by such an abundance of friendly smiles.  It felt wonderful!  So I had to ask myself, why this collective thrill at Santa's presence?  

Easy enough to answer......because people know that Santa cares.  They expect a jolly character, open arms, and a warm lap.  They trust that this white-bearded man dressed all in red will be attentive to their wants, patient with their reservations, kind in his words and gestures, and generous with his gifts.  A short visit with him grants acceptance and love and affirmation to all.  A moment in his presence lets them know they are indeed precious individuals worthy of his time.  What an honorable thing to assume the role of Santa Claus!  What a treat to have Santa's fixed attention!

Understanding of these facts came to me bit by bit throughout the afternoon as I did my very best to perform as people expected.  My time as Mrs. Claus passed delightfully.  My thoughts, however, continued to mull over the event even days later until I finally understood why this experience had affected me so intensely.

T he truthI want people to look at me the way they looked at Mrs. Santa Claus.  Is that silly?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  All I know is this: when I walk into a room full of individuals who know me presently, the response isn't nearly as delighted and good-spirited as what I experienced from those faces turned on Mrs. Claus.  Not that I don't receive smiles or kind words, but the reception is mild compared to the joyful acceptance of those who greeted Mr. & Mrs. Claus.

I t seems I have my work cut out for me.  For it is one thing to care about people; I do care.  It's an entirely different story to have people know you care and respond to that surety.  And that is where the Claus's have taught me a valuable lesson.  And so this Christmas season I will turn over a new leaf and do more than simply feel for others.  Then perhaps, eventually, people will see in me the heart of dear Mrs. Santa Clause and naturally brighten up in my presence.

"Act like you care.  Pray like you care.  Speak, smile, reach out, and live like you care.  The point is to make sure those in your life know beyond doubt that you do care." ~ Richelle E. Goodrich