Today Ben came home from New York and the kids exchanged presents. As they sat on our bed *delighted* in their one gift from each other, I wished we could give them each one more present and then stop Christmas there. They would be satiated and immensely pleased -- and Christmas would be simple.
But we won't stop it there. It's hard, even, to stop buying presents even when everyone on my list is checked off. Each year, my whole family launches into conversation about how to simplify and change Christmas this year, and each year we celebrate it almost exactly the same. Because we always have. Because it's a moment to indulge. Because we love thinking of each other and hunting for gifts. Because we can.
Maybe one year we will strip it down. Or maybe we'll just always talk about it. I'm not sure.
Today I've been realizing, though, that even if the presents under the tree look exactly the same, we are all different. The year has stripped us down, and Christmas will be covered with shadows, some very dark and some hardly a tint to the light. We haven't ever had a Christmas like that before in our families, and I wonder what it will feel like. I wonder how we will manage to think about each other and not only ourselves, to sit in sadness instead of try to fix it, to make space for absence in the room, and to name each other when we need to be reminded, again, of who (and whose) we are.
This year we'll change our usual Christmas rhythm. I don't know what that will look like yet, but I am learning to hold more loosely to what I've always thought of as in-stone-tradition. Growing up, I tended to be adamant about keeping things the same -- the same food, the same restaurant for Christmas Eve Chinese food, the same Advent celebration, the same people gathered around the living room, the same Christmas party, the same, same same. And, of course, this stubbornness was born out of fear, the fear of change, which is really the fear of loss. We are still in the in between years of sharing the traditions we grew up with and establishing our own -- a dance of loss and gain. And this year, we also knead utter newness into the dough.
In a week we fly to Washington for togetherness -- to walk and eat, watch movies and celebrate birthdays. And I'm guessing over the two weeks there, we'll feel just about everything from misunderstood to sweetly connected, but more than anything, I hope we feel near. That's what we're traveling for, the nearness, for the moments of lying on the floor and hearing family talk in the other room, or watching each other move around a party. The nearness. That's what I'm waiting for.