When we still lived in our big family home in Austin, Christmas was something of an extravaganza. We’d put up a gigantic cut tree that would be covered in ornaments, lights, and multi-colored garlands. Greens would festoon the living room. Christmas Eve dinner would be a multi-course feast, usually with friends, family, or both in attendance. We’d all put out stockings; Mark’s and mine are about three feet long (a friend once called them “the greediest stockings in the world”) and would be jam-packed. The kids’ stockings would overflow onto the hearth, and everyone had many presents under the tree to unwrap and enjoy.
This Christmas, as you can imagine, was a bit different than that. Mark and I had pre-Christmas in Berlin, and then we flew to the USA. Flying Berlin/Lisbon/Boston/ Cincinnati made for a long travel day (and then some), but it was worth it to spend three fun days with our beloved Jane and JJ. Amazon has delivered scads of boxes to their house, and I admit that we just left our gifts in the delivery boxes instead of wrapping them as I’ve always done. And I managed not to feel guilty about that.
When we’d concluded our Ohio visit, we flew back to Boston, picked up our precious Mary, and drove to New Hampshire to spend Christmas in the White Mountains. There was some snow on the ground, although the only falling snow we saw occurred during our drive back to Boston, which made for fun driving for poor Mark. But in New Hampshire we bought a small artificial tree and duly buckled it up to take back to our condo. There we put on a few decorations, draped a garland over the Franklin stove in the living room, and called it decorated. I did wrap the gifts for Mark and Mary, but since we only got one roll of wrapping paper the color scheme was a bit monotonous. I did liven things up by using some flamingo wrapping paper we had on hand, drawing small Santa hats on the pink birds to add a seasonal touch. But there were no stockings except for the woolly socks everyone received, and we had a simple meal of roast chicken, new potatoes, green beans, and crescent rolls. And all of that was okay, even when it was quickly followed by a low-key New Year’s Eve. Delayed flights meant we got in just in time to watch fireworks from our balcony and drink a glass of champagne with the revellers on German TV, who were gathered to hear The Gypsy Kings play at the Brandenburg Gate. Randomly, the music included Doris Day’s standard, “Que Sera, Sera,” John Denver’s “Country Roads,” and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” And the next day was our first anniversary of coming to Torrevieja, but Mark got sick, so we skipped celebrating. It still was low-key, but it was okay.
What I’m getting at here is that we had less of a white Christmas and more of a light Christmas. Everything from trees to decorations to meals was simpler than in the past, but the holiday was still really lovely. I was hoping that I was finally detaching from needing the trappings in order to be okay. And I think I was. Frederick Beuchner, a contemporary American Christian writer and poet, once said that all good theology is about letting go. I was trying to practice good theology, and it felt great.
That was, it felt great until today. Tomorrow’s my birthday, and we were going to go to Murcia to see some friends and then come back and go to a party at given by some other friends. Well, first Mark got sick, so we canceled the run to Murcia. And then one of the people giving the party got sick, so now the party is canceled. It’s just life – #winterbirthdaysarecomplicated – but I’m disappointed. And I’m disappointed that I’m disappointed. Where is my good theology, my ability to detach from wanting hoopla?
So I’m spending this afternoon making soup, catching up on laundry, and writing this blog post. After that’s all done, I’ll probably finish my library book and take a walk. I’m hopeful that somewhere along the way I’ll remember that I’m lucky to be in a beautiful place, to have all of my physical needs met (and way more), and to be able to claim sweet family and friends as I barrel into age 61. Perhaps along the way I’ll recapture that sense of a light Christmas. I hope so.