We love Christmas.
BrightSide hangs wreaths on the front of the house every year. We light them with spotlights in the evening, washing the whole house in a Christmas glow, and it’s quite a sight when we return after dark to a home bathed in the spirit of the season.
Pretty white lights are tucked into our Christmas tree, spiraling upward toward the ceiling. Bright red bows add splashes of color while years of ornaments pepper the branches high and low. Ones I’ve hung since my own childhood, ones from my teaching years, ones for T-man and Bear. Our tree is one long memory walk…my eyes flit from branch to branch, remembering family celebrations and mom’s crafts and the small gold angel my own grandma gave me years ago.
BrightSide has the honor of adding our angel to the top. (Translation: no one’s crazy enough to think me tottering at the top of a ladder to balance the angel is a good idea.) She’s serene and seems to emanate kindness with her gaze, and our tree never quite seems complete until she’s looking down over our family.
As much as I love the season, though, it’s interesting how many different ways it can make my stomach clench.
We hear the story of the virgin Mary at church: a young woman, the promise of a baby, an incredible commitment to carry and raise the child of God. I’ve heard this every December for roughly 44 years. But now I hear the story and hold my breath – will the kids wonder why their birthmothers didn’t answer a call to raise them? Why they didn’t get to stay in those families? Why the baby Jesus was a blessing but they weren’t wanted?
And then there’s Joseph’s story. When he learned that Mary was pregnant his first reaction was to leave her quietly since it wasn’t his child, until the angel convinced him that Mary had not been unfaithful and God wanted Joseph to help raise Jesus. It would be wonderful if the kids listened to this story and heard that Joseph stepped forward to love a child he hadn’t sired. But do they focus on the fact that men don’t stay? That their dads didn’t insist on keeping them?
Mine can be a bit tender hearted at times, and this is an emotional time of year. There are the highs of counting down days and opening presents, but there are also the quiet moments. Those spaces when T-man and Bear might be wondering where their birth families are, or what sort of traditions they enjoy year to year.
What do my kids see when they look at our beautiful tree? Our family’s history, or something they’ve been folded into through circumstance?
For such a joyous season, December can feel a little like walking a high wire.