Monday, November 15, 2010
I see it coming. That nutty season that’s packed full of holidays. It’s flipping calendar pages like crazy and will be here in the blink of an eye. I think every person feels it at a different time. Some start the holiday shopping in August. I could never dig up enough holiday spirit to do that. Plus I’m not organized enough to find the gifts, six months later, when it’s time to put them under a tree.
Some feel it in mid October, when the red and green merchandise starts nudging at the Halloween decorations. I do my best to ignore the retail push and pretend I don’t see the inflatable snowmen and Santas dancing on the sidewalk outside our local Kmart. Let me buy my discount candy first, then we can move on to those winter time celebrations.
So once November hits, I feel like it’s time. Time to get my act together and start making some plans. Or at least time to move into pre-panic mode. I send out the postcards to family members, letting everyone know who drew whose name in our long distance gift giving ritual. I start cruising through and bookmarking pages of gift ideas online so when I finally get around to ordering the gifts I’ll have all my ideas in one place.
We start talking about travel plans. Will we go to New Hampshire again this year, or will grandma and grandpa come here? What about that December holiday just three weeks later? If we don’t go there, we don’t see the handfuls of cousins, but if we don’t stay here, we miss seeing high school friends who graduated last year and disappeared off to college in August. In a house full of six people, there are a lot of needs and opinions to weigh in the decisions.
I start to wonder how in the world I’m going to find time to dig the holiday decorations out of the storage area in the basement, much less put them up, in the midst of keeping the regular household chaos afloat. This year we’re sending two of our teens to Brazil to visit family friends. At some point I need to dig out their summer clothes (Brazil spends their Christmas holiday in the middle of summer, a hard concept for me to process). Then possibly find a place to buy the items that are missing (swim trunks? flip flops?), in my local store that is stocked with snow suits and scarves.
It’s only the second week of November and I already feel a bit behind. It can be enough to keep me up at nights, scrolling through lists in my head…until I come back to reality and remind myself about what’s important.
One week ago one of our favorite families in Utah got that dreaded call. Their seventeen year old son had been in a bike accident and was in critical condition with a severe brain injury. His older brother posted on his facebook page, “waiting for Ryan to wake up.” Now if that’s not enough to make your frantic holiday list seem insignificant, nothing will.
Just writing those words brings tears to my eyes. I race around each day, trying to keep all the balls juggled - the dirty dishes loaded, the clean dishes unloaded, the dirty clothes washed, the clean clothes folded, the chicken thawed, the hamburger browned….all while a precious family in Utah, good people who have raised really good kids, waits for Ryan to wake up. It’s so much more than humbling.
That’s not to say my daily tasks don’t matter. It’s important for my family to have a routine of activity, a few healthy meals in a day, a scolding or two along the way. But I am reminded where it all fits and why it all counts. I begin to see the interruption of my son as I’m trying to get writing deadlines done as a blessing, not an annoyance. He’s a healthy, strong boy who actually cares what his mom thinks about his latest Lego creation. I choose to be honored by the disruption to my busy day.
We end up on the couch one night, surrounded by three of our four children, who all happened to ‘be in’ that night, and instead of rushing off to make a list or fold a basket of clothes, I stay put. I snuggle in, under a blanket that envelopes three of our bodies, and willingly watch the movie we’ve all miraculously agreed on. And I think of Ryan, who has finally woken up, and am thankful that we are now crowded on a couch instead of in a hospital room.
So my prayers and wishes for this holiday season have been readjusted by my friend Ryan and his family. On the top of my list is the wish for a full recovery and the return of that mischievous boy with the bright smile. If I get nothing else on my wish list, I pray I get that one.
Next up is a peaceful season, that my children will remember in a good way. No frantic mom with a pointless agenda. Instead, a mom who finds joy in the process - the hanging of stockings that will, by golly, be unearthed in the basement, the buying of meaningful gifts for people who will appreciate them, the chance to catch up with a neighbor as I stand in line at the post office. That’s the mom I pray I can be in the six weeks that are racing my way.
There’s still time. Time to get done all that really and truly needs to be done. I just need to make sure my list is relevant and truly reflects what I want to see out of another upcoming holiday season. And take the time to treasure the steps along the way.
It is with great joy that I post an update to this essay. Ryan indeed woke up. He slowly healed and miraculously, he graduated with his high school class that next May. Last weekend I got to hug Ryan for the first time since his injury. His silly, bright smile was so familiar and I fought back tears as I stood in the shadow of that tall, healthy boy. Here is a picture of him, with two of my boys and my hubby: