And in an instant, it was over.
Weeks of planning and shopping and decorating and wrapping pass in a blur of activity – smiles, carols, faces of friends old and new, laughter and good cheer. And then silence – and a return to ‘life’ as we each define it.
The living room is back to normal – the lighting merely functional and no longer magical, the corner where the little tree so proudly stood now seemingly more barren than it has ever been. The chess set again sits unpresupposingly where the light of a shining ‘star’ once drew the eye to the small tableau of simple people in humbling circumstances celebrating an extraordinary event. Aunt Julia’s decorative clock takes the place where the small plastic church of my youth glowed quietly from within.
Yet, too many times it seems we wrap up the peace of the season along with the decorations – packed away to be joyously unearthed in another 11 months. Is that wonder in a child’s eyes – or the childlike sparkle in the eyes of one who has far fewer Christmases ahead than behind – so precious that it must be reserved for once a year? Is the shining hope and the feeling of peace in our hearts too much to carry with us into daily life? I hope not – for the world will only grow colder as a result.
Bills and stress and jobs and countless problems large and small all make demands upon our time. With great effort, we put them aside for a few days to feel that childlike wonder descend upon us once again – but all too soon they encroach once more.
For that reason, I always try to leave a few lingering reminders of Christmas behind - to permit easy and unexpected flashbacks later in the year. A few pine needles will always find their way under the couch or remain hidden in the curtains – and they always seem to mysteriously appear at a time when a reminder of the shimmering tree and all the memories it evokes are most sorely needed. The wreath remains on the front door at least until April – or until a pair of nesting sparrows or wrens or nuthatches decides it would make a wonderful place to start a family. The tree itself becomes a part of the landscape, grouped with its cousins of Christmases past to provide shelter and warmth to small creatures as they need – and always in view of the windows so that a casual glance can raise a knowing smile.
Keeping the feeling of Christmas alive is difficult work – but always worth the effort. The next time life feels overwhelming to you, I hope you find a pine needle – and allow your heart to experience the sounds and the smells and the light and the hope once again.