Oh we are so very busy, so fraught, so flapdoodle about Christmas. I remember being all of the above back in the last century when my five feral kidlings wreaked havoc in as many ways as they knew, and they knew many ways. Their excitement was loud and fraucous, high pitched and very fast. What happens to legs, I ask myself, as I cautiously descend the stairs and never jump anything over 12 inches high, remembering the blur of Child as it tore through a room causing even the wine glasses to fall over in the afterwrath of such a cosmic blast? When I was ‘busy’ and responsible for everything Christmas, the presents, the wrapping, the dressing up of the 20 foot tree with its point pointing to the floor because the ceiling just wouldn’t lift to accommodate, the star hanging down land twinkling like the drip from an ancient and cold nose, my legs were right beneath me and as fast as any cosmic child. I was lucky to have legs at all and so was my family. Had I been legless, the whole lot of them would have effortlessly escaped the rule book; probably burned it along with the logs that were more like tree trunks. At least my fully functioning and agile body could prevent disasters, catch the ferals to spin from room to room averting disasters such as the 20 foot tree falling on the sleeping dogs, cats and pet lambs and who let them in btw? Don’t give me ‘Aw, they’re cold’ or I’ll just cook them.
Now in my pensioner days, I rush not, nor am I busy. That chaotic life is in my past and thank the holy crunch for that. No more must I panic about stocking gifts, other gifts, in-law gifts, writing a zillion cards to a zillion people and the annual freak out about serving up a Griswold turkey; the making sure that the in-laws, who invariably arrived in an argocat with a bumper laundry basket filled with well wrapped gifts settled into chairs aligned just right, candles at the ready, lambs definitely out and who brought that crow in? Atop the tree, well, not actually at the top because we all know where the top is, but in the tree nonetheless and shrieking worse than any child. I had to blow out all candles at that point. The thought of feathers alight gave me indigestion in my imagination and that is not a comfortable feeling. Ah, such a past. So many adventures. Such a lucky woman. My life, our life, would kick the Griswolds into second touch, for certain.
When I write that I am not busy, let me explain. My days are always engaging and active. I stack wood, I walk, I clean, I write, I sing and I dance, but the have to, that pushy crow-shout in my ears is quiet now. I can do what I like when I like. Sometimes I don’t like either of those but I can still perform the tasks and there’s another word I like. Perform. Thinks me of my non-existent stage life. Did I tell you I was offered theatre work and turned it down to marry himself? Well, I did, and I regret it not. In fact, my agility and ability, both physical and mental as a stage performer, storyteller and activist (a good one) has supported my life as wife, mother and now grandmother. Lucky me. When I take a wee wander back through time there is a lot I forget until out of nowhere a memory lifts like a swan from the water and I watch it fly up, up into the vast blue sky and I smile. I was there. I was her, that woman, that wife, that mother, those times are mine to treasure. I also recall the stomps and stamps and slammed doors, one of which fell off its hinges with the force of me. I am proud of that even though, at the time, it was of great inconvenience.
This morning I tootled into the harbour town for fuel and fish. I really don’t know why anyone ever bothers with going off island as everything anyone could ever need for feed is grown right here. As I lifted into the mist, the mist flashed with sunlight, the frost sparkling on the grass and on my little mini, along the empty switchback road, I passed the grave, the new headstone. I stopped the car and watched it for a few moments. There it is. There you are, facing the rising sun and with a view you always loved. T’is right and rightful. T’is your landing place and it will be mine too, one day. There’s a new grave. I knew that man, that quiet, gentle man. He is gone too. I wonder if you and he have encountered each other yet. I like to think so.
The town was quiet. The shops alight, their windows dressed in baubles and gifts and mostly empty; the town lights all a’twinkle, few cars parked and only a few islanders on the street. Not like the old days, in the last century when the pavements would be buckling beneath the feet of those with gift lists, stocking lists, in-law lists; those collecting food and fish and turkeys and chocolates, when ‘on’ and ‘line’ were two words that never went together. Well, now they do and we are lucky to have that option at this time. Now let’s go otherworldly. Beyond our fuss and fret, beyond our rush and our busy, what is the voice of Christmas? Is it love, is it giving, is it peace, is it sharing what we have? When the packaging is burned, the toys broken, the meal devoured, even a Griswold meal, what are we left with, the something that will succour us through the Big Cold Months yet to come?
The moments. The pictures, we remember, the affection and the warmth, the rebirth, even if I raise the busy and the frantic. I remember it and them. They had their place in my remembering and they are so much a part of it all. However, they are just part of the structure of just one day, and just one day can create ripples. We know this. What we need to learn is the wholeness of everything, including Christmas Day. There will be ups and there will be downs, and in that intricacy, there is a landscape. Rest in the whole. Look at the bumps and the awkwards, the imperfections and the exploding turkey and smile. We are who we are and we are just perfect just as we are. Just as we are. Lucky us.