Bright lights and warm tones. I travel across time as my fingers wrap around the tightly woven, illuminated green strands. Inspecting each ornament hanging lightly from artificial branches, I savor the moment. Stopping to re-visit the past, I carefully step into my memories. I don’t linger here often. It’s rarely quiet enough to conjure it all. I am so far removed from that life now. Some of it was removed from me. Nevertheless, my recollections are always warm, carefree and happy. These days, I only remember snatches of Christmas past. Short sequences like the frames of old reel to reel movies. My mother’s love. Warm blankets. Shiny tinsel. Christmas dresses. My father’s guitar. My grandfather picking up wrapping paper and bows before they settle on the floor. Smiles and giggles. Sour cream pound cakes and five cup salad. It’s funny how gratitude sits, always on the edges of my memories, like a lamp post guiding me home. What a wonderful life this was . . . is.
No matter how joyfully you receive those reminiscent moments, Christmas is tinged by melancholy. Even the strains of its music can evoke sadness. Its life blood is infused by both memories and dreams. We grapple with the reminders of those long lost loved ones and confront those dreams silently buried in the fallow fields of our lives. Some of those unrealized aspirations may even still haunt us. Trying to push that grief aside is as futile as attempting to sweep the tide from the shore. No, that pain is real, visceral and necessary.
However, always nearby, sometimes too far in the periphery, is the manger. A silent tableau of memory. Mary and Joseph lean in, welcoming their infant son, the one who was born to shoulder death and defeat it. Jesus, the dream that never dies. The sadness of the season is simply our souls yearning for that permanence. Expectantly, we hope for that instant when our lives are no longer framed by goodbyes. When our poets find no compulsion to compose the sums of all we have lost. Persistently, our hearts pine for those sweet, endless days ahead, and for lives forever freed from the tyranny of time. Christmas come eternally.