The morning was quiet and cloudy as I rose early on this Sunday before Christmas, at the moment when day is breaking and gentle light filters through my neighbor's pine trees. I have not written a blog entry in over a month. I have been so busy that my moments of quiet contemplation have been few. The weeks have flown past, filled with preparations for Christmas, office work, and the tasks of reconfiguring our home to accommodate a new apartment for my daughter. Our plans to sell our home and build an apartment on her house were too expensive, so now she will move back here for a time, leaving her own house and the dreams she envisioned there. We are casualties of this terrible economy, which has taken its toll on so many people; there are usually no pleasant solutions to the individual struggles of its victims. While I am relieved to be staying in my own beloved house, I grieve for my daughter's loss of the home she loves.
In the midst of the chaos of reconfiguring our house to include a separate, private apartment -- the moving and sorting and decisions of what to keep and what to let go -- I have also found the time to savor this most lovely of seasons. The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is one of my favorites. While my time has been limited, and I am ashamed to admit I have baked only one batch of Christmas cookies with my grandchildren, and they were mediocre at best, I have managed to trim my small Christmas tree, place a single candle in each of my front windows, and fill the house with my treasured decorations.
Family time has been frequent, though. We gathered for Thanksgiving at my sister-in-law's lovely home, celebrated my 60th birthday with a delicious dinner at my son's house, celebrated my daughter-in-law's birthday with a take-out meal, and spent a late Sunday afternoon sorting through decorations of long-ago Christmases to divide among my children and grandchildren.
Last Saturday we gathered my husband's father, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin and their families for a glorious evening of good food, conversation and laughter - a memory to cherish. This past Friday night, we joined my cousin, her husband, and my son's mother and father-in-law for dinner at The Century House in Latham. The dining room was warmed by a crackling fire and decorated with exquisite arrangements of greens, ribbons and tiny white lights. The food was scrumptious, and we were shocked when we realized we had lingered for three hours, talking and catching up. How wonderful it is that our in-laws are truly family.
Late this morning, my God-child, her husband, and her parents stopped to pick up an antique sewing machine that I have no room for now. Her mother, one of my best friends, and her grandmother were both wonderful seamstresses, and I hope that this sewing machine will always bring her special memories of the women in her life. What a wonderful few minutes we spent reminiscing.
When I was young, Christmas was all about Santa Claus and gifts. As a young mother, I spent the season making memories for my children -- baking cookies and gingerbread houses, sending lists to Santa, visiting the tree farm for a live tree, setting up the nativity set, attending Christmas Eve services by candlelight, and reading "The Night Before Christmas" before bedtime. The weeks before Christmas were spent in a rush of shopping for just the right gifts, and the anticipation of my own gifts under the tree woke me early in the morning.
Now, however, the focus of Christmas for me has evolved into a calmer, quieter joy. Due to economic necessity, I have cut back seriously on gift exchanges, so my own pile under the tree is very small. Instead, I find my enchantment in the lovely decorations, the candlelight and the music, gentle snowfalls, the gathering together of loved ones, and the wonder of that birth in a little stable which brought the message of love and peace to our troubled world.