Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Little "c" Christmas

I think I finally have it right - have me right. I am celebrating christmas this year, but it is a low case, little "c" christmas.

And that's all right.

The typical trappings and trimming are a bit absent. Christmas cards? In a box in the closet, where they've sat since last December. They probably won't make it out the door. Baking? Yes for the Legal Clinic last night, and yes for some friends and family both far and near, but otherwise not really. Presents? I don't really want anything.

I just want a little "c"  - not a big "C" - christmas.

Warren drew the line at my suggestion to skip a tree this year, and I'm glad he did. We bought one last Thursday after work, and only Sunday evening did we start to hang a few ornaments on it. Until last night, the ornaments were in the percussion room, scattered on the floor by the timpani. I found it peaceful to hang only a few at a time. I have ornaments dating back to the early 1900s, ornaments that mark my children's lives, ornaments that Warren and I have purchased together to mark our years, and carrying from one room to the next one or two at a time gives me a chance to reflect on what they mean to me.

There is a hand-blown glass icicle, with the original hook, made by a cousin of my grandmother's back in the early 1900s. He was a glassblower who died young as a result of his trade and my grandma Skatzes, then in her teens, nursed him in his final days of his life. As a little girl, I had several "special" ornaments that I always wanted to hang (The sparkly bluebird! The pink angel!), but this was the most special of all. (I also still have the sparkly bluebird and the pink angel, considerably worse for wear than the icicle, but beloved all the same.)

Pluto is one of Ben's ornaments.  

That is because when he was a little boy and we would go to Disneyland, he loved Pluto and didn't want to leave his side.

Sam, on the other hand, felt that way about Bert and Ernie, which is why those two ornaments belong to Sam.

And Warren and I will never, ever forget our trip to Montana this summer, including stopping at the incredible Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.

One of these days, my sons will get "their" ornaments, and they can start their own holiday traditions. For at least this year, though, they still hang on my tree.

Warren and I talked about Christmas this past weekend and again this morning. He said he isn't "feeling" it. Things are just too rushed and too crammed up against each other. There are family members who are struggling due to the Great Recession and finances are tight at the Symphony as well as at home.

I think Warren could use a little "c" christmas.

I recently wrote my friend Katrina, "Well, I know ''tis the season,' but I am not very seasonal this year." But the more I think about it, I don't think that is true at all. I think I am very seasonal, just not in the ways our consumer culture recognizes. I want to take the malls and the dollar signs out of my christmas and turn it instead to reflection and quiet celebration.

I am not feeling "Bah, humbug!" at all. Instead, the hope - the prayer - I seem to be uttering this year is "let christmas come quietly, please."

A little "c" christmas.

 Warren played his last holiday concert Saturday night in Mansfield, an hour's drive from here. The concert included excerpts from Handel's "Messiah," sung by the chorus. The part that moved me the most was not the "Hallelujah" chorus," which I most definitely do not enjoy when sitting in the front row of the balcony, but the "For Unto Us" chorus. Listening to the cascade of voices, I felt my spirits soar. The next afternoon we went to a concert given by our local community chorus. I liked sitting there in the packed church and having a sense of it truly being this community come together to listen and share.

After the concert and after we ran some errands, Warren's children, David and Elizabeth, came over and helped him make Hyer peanut brittle. They spent several hours, working alongside their dad and sharing the evening with us.

That was a little "c" christmas moment too. I saw the lines in Warren's face relax and his smile reappear.

Packages went out yesterday to Montana and Oregon, Utah and Virginia. Some deliveries I'll make right here in person. Mostly it is baked goods and Hyer brittle, made and given with love.

It feels right. It fits right. 

Let christmas come quietly, please.

I am realizing that what I like best this season - and what is so hard to hold onto - is indeed the thought of christmas with a small "c." It is making it happen that takes thought and effort. It is reminding myself that More and Bigger and Expensive will not make my holidays any brighter or more meaningful. It is reminding myself that it is family, and support, and love that will carry us through this season.

It is keeping my eyes on the events - the miracle of birth, the promise of hope - that bring us together in these dark, bleaks days of the dying year.


Arlene said...

Within your small 'c' lies the true big 'C' with your celebration, reflection, and love. Once again, April, your wisdom takes us where our thoughts ought to be.

Ashley said...

One of my aunts gave me and my brother a Christmas ornament every year - from the year we were born until we were married. They are labeled with the year they were given and my parents kept them in their own boxes until we moved away from home. Those boxes are a gift that still gives!

Sharon said...


I'm so glad that you decided to put up the tree. Memories of Christmas past are what keeps me motivated to continue with the traditions. I loved the pics of your boys and their ornaments.

I liked the idea of Christmas with a small "c". When the kids are not living with us anymore, I'm sure we'll be able to tone down our holidays even more. But for right now, we are counting down the days, hours and minutes until Christmas morning...

Thanks for your friendship this year. It's meant more than you know! :)!


Joni said...

Amen!! Your blogs are insightful and so often floods my mind with memories that have been pushed to the back by the every day happenings of my busy life. Thanks for opening those flood gates.

Anonymous said...

Stop whining. Your pal Katrina