Christmas is nearly here, bringing with it not only the utter chaos of all of us wanting to do everything perfectly and on time–but the real reason for the season–hope, joy, love, wonderful memories and peace.
What does “peace” mean? For me, it’s pretty basic–showing and giving love, but also receiving love–to allow ourselves to be enveloped in love is sheer joy and magic. Peace of mind and in the heart is knowing that we have striven to be as good as we can, and forgiving ourselves if we just can’t. It is also a state of mind. We can decide to take a day or two or three off and let the sweetness of the season take us over.
Whatever is wrong in our lives, or painful, or trying, or weighs heavily upon us–we can only try our best to work these things out as well as we can. If we can put those worries aside, even for just five minutes, and concentrate on our own peace, it will start a positive flow of energy in us. This energy is the engine that can turn our fears, doubts, worries, and cares off for however long we want. Of course, the problems and issues don’t go away on their own, but a short vacation of peace does wonders for our ability to solve them.
Take a quick inventory right now (I started my own day with this, too)–what is undone that you feel should be done? How important is it? Does it make the people who matter happy or not? Is a perfect wreath on the door or lights on the tree more important than those who will walk over our thresholds? We have our little tree up in the bay window (where the cats like to sleep–with the tree there, they look like furry little presents), a tiny one in the kitchen and all the angels I’ve collected over the years are up all year long. That’s it.
I won’t go into how much I used to do for Christmas and nearly killed myself each year to accomplish it all. And did doing all that make my Christmas better? Not really. What made Christmases so wonderful was being with my family. An only child, I celebrated all holidays with my grandparents and my mom and dad. Christmases when I was a child were beyond magical. I spent nearly every Christmas Eve staying overnight with my grandparents, whom I called Ba (grandmother) and Bumpa (grandfather).
Ba decorated a big, sweet-smelling fir tree in the bay window in the parlor, covered with precious old glass ornaments and many beautiful ones she had made herself. The tree twinkled with dozens of colored lights, and golden doves with red ribbons around their necks rested upon fresh pine boughs over the mantle. Bumpa always decorated the little pine tree outside the porch with colored lights for me as well, calling it “Janie’s tree.” He also made sure that, on Christmas morning, there were bootprints in the ashes in the fireplace so I could see that Santa had indeed been there.
All of Ba’s beloved Hummel figures, freshly polished for Christmas, were in pride of place in the lovely old carved whatnot in the corner. My Christmas stocking was already hung on the Franklin stove in the kitchen, and Santa’s plate of Ba’s cookies waited for him on the table near the tree.
Christmas Eve supper was a tradition we all loved. Ba made her famous *Christmas chowder full of seafood, and served it with her own watermelon pickles and Mom’s wonderful Parker House rolls. Dessert was usually an ice cream concoction or best of all, Christmas pudding with brandy sauce (I didn’t fully appreciate that sauce until I was a teenager!). Afterwards, while Mom and Dad and Ba and Bumpa relaxed at the table, talking and drinking coffee (and, at that long-ago time, smoking), I would lie under the Christmas tree. As I stared up at all those lights and twinkly ornaments, I felt like the luckiest, happiest person in the world.
It wasn’t so much the anticipation of the presents to come; although Ba had a knack for always presenting me with the one thing I just couldn’t live without. One year it was a bride doll with tiny pearl earrings. Another time it was electric rollers–the latest thing at the time that all girls wanted. Once it was a Singer sewing machine–Ba had taught me how to sew my own dresses that year, and I badly wanted one (I still use it to this day). One year it was a gold-tone watch necklace that was popular, and so on. But what made that time under the tree so magical was the feeling that all was well in my world, that all the people I loved were around me, and my cat was waiting at home for me. Staying with my grandparents made me feel special, too. Ba had a habit of coming up behind me at odd moments, pulling me into her arms and murmuring, “You are my own, you are my OWN.”
Later, upstairs in what we all called “The Pink Room” (everything–walls, woodwork, sheets, blankets, and curtains were shell-pink, Ba’s favorite color), I settled in with my book and a plate of Ba’s cookies. This was the best night of the year for me–the house, an old farmhouse, was drafty and usually cold upstairs, but there were plenty of blankets. I kept the window open a crack for the cold air and to hear Santa’s sleigh bells. Closing my book and brushing the crumbs off the blankets, I turned off the light and stared at the window, sleepy and looking forward to Christmas Day. As I dozed off, warm and safe, I swear I heard those bells, faintly jingling, far, far way up high in the winter sky.
These are some of the memories I often revisit. So many years have passed, and Ba and Bumpa are long gone, but their influence, generosity, kindness and love remain strong for me. I feel them close by during these times, and I firmly believe that those who have gone on before us aren’t far away at all.
So, peace this Christmas? It CAN be done, and it just may be the best present we can give ourselves and to everyone around us. I wish you all joy, love, health, happiness, wonder, and most of all, peace.
*Watch for the recipe!