Saturday, December 06, 2008

Steam rising from the river

Christmas is only two and a half weeks away, and I'm feeling as though I'm even further behind than my usual "slow to get ready for the holiday" way. The late Thanksgiving, a back-end loaded seminary class, and a few major projects and commitments at work have made this a more compressed time than usual (though in truth, I probably said just the same last year!).

To complicate matters, the Christmas plans aren't exactly nailed down as of yet. We're in the fortunate/unfortunate (glass half full or half empty?) position of having family in opposite corners of the country--Matt's sister and brother and partners/children in Oregon, and my dad in Florida--and it is simply impossible to ever be with everyone for Christmas. Florida has been the more frequent destination of late, with the sweet blessings of spending a few last holidays with my grandparents, but our kids are also now the age where they want to be home. (...or we as parents want them to be home....) Plus, Matt's sister and family have made plans to come east this year to celebrate.

We at one time presumed we would all converge on Matt's parents' home in New York (my sister included), but Matt now works nights for a major shipping firm....there aren't holiday days off when you are the newcomer in an industry that exists primarily because of holiday shopping and shipping. So, back to the drawing board. At this point we will be here in Connecticut with my sister, and Matt's sister and family will be in New York with Matt's parents....and everyone is feeling a bit sour and disappointed about it all.

We long for our kids to be with the Oregon relatives more often....truly, we do. We were gifted to live near our nieces when they were small, and we know how magical those years are, and also how quickly they pass (with those same nieces nearly launched for college). But this morning, as I walked the dog along the river, I realized that I am as disappointed in not being able to share our home and day-to-day life with them as I am about missing this one holiday together.

When they first moved west, we hopped a plane for a few years of Christmas celebrations. They were in retail then, camping out for all of late November/December at the area mall in desperate hopes of strong sales. We had the freedom from work that is more theirs now. I remember walking my nieces to school, and spending days at the mall simply to be near them--drives around the neighborhood to see their favorite Christmas lights, visits with my brother-in-law's family (the draw that moved them from NY back to OR), and even trips to the summer camp directed by my sister-in-law. Those locations weren't the places that frame our lives, but they were meaningful because they were theirs.

Now we share this feeling--this sense that knowing us and knowing our lives is somehow richer if you've stepped foot in it. We want to bring them along on walks by the river, sharing the beauty of the steam rising as the frosty air sneaks up the backs of our jackets. We want to have drinks at the bar down the road. Buy our favorite pizza. Drive them around to say, "Look....look at this place we have come to live in and now love. This is our life, right here, right now." And we're simply not sure if or how this will happen.

For those who can't experience it--who perhaps won't ever take those walks with us by the river, I want to wrap up the gift of our contentment. I want those who love us to know our deep pleasure in this place and this time. As I type, the Christmas lights shine from the tree, the dog rests quietly on the couch after our long morning walk, and the kids are busily creating their own Christmas presents with rocks and markers and magazines and glue....state secrets spilled out over the dining room table from which I have been forbidden to visit. Matt lies sleeping upstairs after another night at work, and we all celebrate that the weekend is here. Happiness....contentment....peace....steam rising from the river. These are all the gifts I would have you all to know.


Anonymous said...

I preached a Sermon 'A TOURIST IN YOUR HOMETOWN" and I thank you for reminding me of the "gifts" of Christmas,
This is a different Christmas for me, but I have plans to visit a couple of Nursing my 'gift' I have such wonderful memories , and YOU and your family and Heather, As we draw nigh to Bethlehem's Manger, I am thankful for many blessings, and YOU, my family, are at the top of my list..."What can I give Him?" I will be with you in spirit...and in love...

Sue said...

This is beautiful, Jen ... I felt as if I was walking right along with you. I hope to open this same gift soon -- I need that peace and contentment again.

2 and a half weeks away??!! What have I been thinking?! I don't know where my head is ... SO unprepared this year. Thankfully my kids are getting hand-me-downs for their gifts (all we can handle) so shopping is at a bare minimum this year. But still ... my prayer is that peace will come ...