My son checks the gifts around the tree each morning to see if they’re ripe for the opening. I ask him how he can tell and he said the wrapped gifts are the ones he checks because they’re more of a mystery than the bagged ones. One is almost ripe, he says. The rest aren’t ready yet.
Despite being battered with the knowledge that we not only will we be missing our big family Christmas this year, and that I have to work for the first time since I’ve been a mom, my little guy is holding on to the joyful parts of this season. His eyes, despite some blurry days, are usually fixed on the things he hopes for.
As for me? I’m still reeling from the Monsters of 2020 that have barged inside January’s door and have kept filing in ever since. COVID. The politics, the hate, the name-calling from every side, and the decision on whether or not to get the vaccine accompanied by the criticism we all will get no matter what decision we make. Not to mention the personal challenges we’ve encountered this year.
Because of all these things, I wanted Christmas to be more meaningful this time around. Every year actually, because it seems like commercialism has become the babe born in a manger rather than the Savior of the world. There have been so many things on the to-do list since adulthood arrived that Christmas has seemed like something to briefly enjoy but also to move past so I can depressurize.
There’s no ripeness there, so little flavor. What have we neglected?
When I first learned that I had to work on Christmas disappointment clothed me. The kids hate it. Their faces crumpled when I told them, and the long-held seniority I’ve enjoyed from being at the same workplace for twenty years is no longer a thing, just like bare faces and civil conversations.
So many normal things have become dust under Monsters feet.
But then a light started to awaken in me. I work at a retirement place where people are lonely, quarantined and surrounded by COVID. The outside world throws words at them like retirees and at-risk people are in such a small percentage that they aren’t worth our covered faces. The O.W. says many callous things (although not nearly as many as before). Maybe because they’re on the safer side of the oxygen tanks and…worse. Our retirees are jailed, yet protected: Alone together—two meaningful words that have grown into Monsters themselves.
But here lies the mystery–the loss of my great seniority benefit has turned into my meaningful Christmas. It’s not about my to-do list this year (thank God), or the pressure of all the holiday stuff. I get the morning and early afternoon with my family, and the evening and half the night with my friends at the retirement place. I’ll get to watch my family open their gifts. We’ll have bacon. And then at work, I’ll probably deliver groceries or packages to those who are ordered inside their apartments for the holidays.
Monsters beware. Your giant, bitter feet are no match for the those that follow the Bethlehem Star. Christmas is about loving on all kinds of people this year, and my face –tired as it will be—may be the only one some of them see on this Holy Day. May more hearts ripen, may kindness blanket our nation. You better believe the smile underneath my mask will be visible all around those masked borders.
Merry Christmas, friends.