The Advent of Wisdom

The key sits loosely in its lock, unturned, unnecessary.  In a neighborhood where children drift from one house to the next with the freedom of wind-tossed leaves and women freely borrow milk or sugar from unattended kitchens, no one locks a closet.

In this neighborhood, closets hold no treasure – no jewels, no gold, no banded stacks of bills.  They overflow with life’s necessities: shoes tidied into original boxes, purses and shirts, a wardrobe of ties. Now and then, two closets nestle side by side. Hers is obvious, all ajumble with boxes of quilting scraps, extra pillows, photographs and report cards. His, more intentional, arranged with more precision, is a purposeful array of hunting vests, stamp paraphernalia, drafting tools and gun cases. It’s a perfect marriage of closets.

Dimly lit and cave-like, the closets are mysterious, compelling and sancrosanct.  Few children dare enter them without permission, but in these weeks before Christmas a child might be tempted to cross the bounds of caution by the merest whisper of possibility: “There might be presents…”  

It’s a special kind of hide-and-seek, this business of children seeking out what parents have hidden  -  under the bed, in the basement, on those out-of-the-way shelves behind the washer.  And always, the list of potential gift caches is crowned by the best hiding-place of all -  a parent’s bedroom closet.

If you decided to invade the closet, you’d find its lock a lesser impediment than the bottom hinge, the one that’s needed oiling for months. It protests with a rising, audible scritch when the door’s eased open, but only if you hesitate. Pull it firmly, resolutely, and it remains silent.   More dangerous is the oak floorboard lying halfway between the bedroom threshold and the closet.  However firmly or lightly you step, it creaks beneath your weight with a sound sharper than branches scraping down the second-story windows. Counting from the threshold it’s the twenty-eighth board that complains, and any careless or inattentive child who doesn’t watch, count and count again before stepping across the offending board may hear a voice from the living room below: “Get out of that closet!”

I know this, of course, because I lived for years obsessed with that twenty-eighth board, plotting and planning my way across the broad expanse of bedroom like a veritable Lewis or Clark of childhood.  Even today, faint beneath the roar of  holiday football and the pandemonium of half-crazed shoppers, I can hear the murmuring hinge and the floorboard’s muffled creak. But there is more to remember about that board and those closets than amusing sorties and nostalgic sounds. There is the sting of regret, the bitter taste of deception and the chagrin of learning what life can demand of a child who refuses to wait for Christmas.  

 
The year impatience overcame me, the tree already was in the house and strung with lights, ready for my cranberry garlands and tinfoil bells. The first of the Christmas cookies had been baked and decorated, and the menu planned for Christmas dinner. Still the house felt empty, bereft of the excitement and anticipation stirred by the sight of gifts.  

Looking around, I found no bits of wrapping paper in the trash, saw no ribbon or out-of-place scissors. Listening, I heard no tell-tale shutting of car doors after I’d been sent to bed. I wasn’t precisely worried, but a recent exposure to some hard truths about Santa had left me cautious, nervous about my best friend’s contention that kids who don’t believe in Santa don’t get any gifts at all.  Eventually, I thought, I’d need to check things out.

A week later, when our family was invited to a neighbor’s open house, my parents allowed me the choice of coming along or staying home. Sensing opportunity, I choose to stay at home, muttering vague justifications about needing to work on school projects.  From an upstairs window I watched them leave, cross the yard and disappear into our neighbor’s home.

Once they were safely out of sight, I sprinted out of my bedroom and toward my parents’ room. Heedless of the squeaking floor and hinges, I pulled open the door to my dad’s closet. In the thin, lambent sunlight of late afternoon, its contents were difficult to see. I pulled the chain hanging from the single overhead bulb and the sudden explosion of light revealed what I had feared: nothing was out of place. Half-heartedly, I pushed back some shirts, unstacked a box or two.  There were no packages, no paper or ribbon – not a hint of Christmas lay hidden in his closet.

Irrationally convinced that any hidden gifts had to have been piled into my father’s closet, I barely glanced into my mother’s. Even when I stepped inside the already opened door and turned on the light, I almost missed the bit of red-and-white striped paper that caught my eye. Lifting up what appeared to be a hastily tossed heap of mending, I gasped. A pile of boxes was waiting, neatly wrapped and ready for bows. No doubt each had a tag. Of the few that I could see, most carried my name.   

It would be years before the phrase “crime of opportunity” entered my vocabulary, but that day I had opportunity, and I plunged into crime. Carefully, cautiously, neither moving the fabric nor unstacking the boxes, I lifted the clear tape from the neat, vee’d fold of paper on one end of a package bearing my name. The wrapping paper, heavy, smooth and slick to the touch, remained intact. The tape peeled up perfectly, the sharp, crisp folds of paper popped open easily, and I discovered the contents by reading the end of the box.

Today, I have no memory of the box’s contents.  I remember only my sudden sense of guilt, my dread of being discovered and the disappointment I experienced while unwrapping the package under the tree. Guilt, disappointment and dread would have been punishment enough for such a slight “crime”, but worse by far was my first, unhappy taste of the consequences of dishonesty – having to pretend everything was right when, in fact, everything was wrong.

My unwillingness to wait - born of a child’s overwhelming desire for immediate gratification and an inability to trust that there would, indeed, be gifts -had left me unable to celebrate, wishing only for Christmas to end. It was a terrible day, and a mistake I never repeated.

 

Today, the Christian season of Advent begins anew. While media and merchandisers focus on the shopping season, the party season, the season of excess and the silly, generic-happy-holidays season, Advent arrives with a gracious invitation to delay gratification and learn a deeper patience.

A season of silence and shadows, Advent whispers an uncomfortable truth: waiting is the condition of our lives. From birth to death, from our coming in to our going out of this amazing, implausible world, we live our lives in a state of perpetual waiting. We wait for arguments to be resolved and peace to be restored, for bitterness to ebb and pain to flow away. Season after season we await the budding of the spring and the gathering of the harvest, the coming of the storm and the clearing of the sky. Sleepless after midnight, we wait for time itself to pass and for the coming of the dawn.  In the exhaustion of the day, we wait for the blessing of darkness, and the restorative powers of sleep. Always, we wait for laughter, for love, and for the simple, unexpected gifts of life. 

We have a choice, of course. Perfectly free to force the bud and destroy the flower, we are equally free to demand obedience while we lose respect.  We are free to leave the hills but miss the sunset, to grow impatient and lose the stars. Like over-eager children before a pile of gifts, we are free to rush the season and demand our satisfactions now, though our willingness to slip off a ribbon, lift a bit of tape and unfold some sheets of love-creased paper may destroy our joy in the process. 

To put it simply, knowing how to wait nurtures and deepens our humanity. From a certain perspective, waiting itself is the gift of Advent, the mysterious and compelling experience that comes accompanied by the merest whisper of possibility: “There might be presents…”

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So shall the darkness shall be light, and the stillness the dancing.
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, East Coker

 

 
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21 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Linda, You know I LOVE a good story. Especially a true one. And here it is. The tension, the truth, the universality and the point.

    You have mastered the memoir/essay/real-life-now piece.

    If I continue to comment on this, I will sound all sentimental and over-the-top. So I will, for now, just say, “lovely.”
    And as Dickens might put it: “Please, mum, can I have some more?”

    Applause.

    oh,

    There are a few words you’ve used here that make me happy: “story”, “tension”, “truth”. I suspect you’re sensing, as have I, that my writing’s been evolving of late. This one didn’t quite turn into pure story, but when I wrote the first line – “The key sits loosely in its lock, unturned, unnecessary” – I had to walk around and look at it for a bit. Clearly, it’s a perfect first line for a piece of fiction. That’s not quite where I went, but I thought about it.

    So thank you for your applause. Can you see me curtsy? No?
    It’s just as well – I don’t have it down like a Royal. ;-)

    And of course you can have some more!

    Linda

  2. Ah, I can just imagine the guilt of you as a child. How quickly our joy can turn into such.

    I am especially moved by this phrase:Advent whispers an uncomfortable truth: waiting is the condition of our lives. The older I get, the more I need to wait. Not rush the outcome, find out what happens Now.

    I find that with waiting, it’s necessary for me to pair trust. If I wait with trust, in His almighty care, it makes the time more bearable.

    God bless you, Linda, this Advent season and beyond. You bless us richly with your insight and wisdom, your willingness to look behind the paper into what “the box” truly contains.

    Bellezza,

    How true it is – paired with trust, waiting at least loses a bit of that stolid, teeth-gritting quality that can make it such a hard experience.
    And paradoxically, coming to understand that we’re both more in control of our lives than we realize and less in control than we’ve hoped allows the rhythms of waiting to emerge.

    And isn’t it amazing – we live in a society that often seems set not only on confusing the paper and the box, but accepting the paper as a substitute for the gift. Thank goodness we still have a choice!

    A blessed Advent to you.

    Linda

  3. Oh my, that’s good!

    Please type it again. I don’t think it would be fair for me to re-read it until others get a chance to run through it, as I shouldn’t get seconds before others get their first chance to run under the summertime-like sprinkler of your words. That’s how they feel, giving the reader even the warmth of summer when it’s winter and the story is set leading up to Christmas.

    Type it again so I can read it again but without any guilt. That would take your perfect words and give them the power to award a place called heaven to a reader.

    :)

    who,

    No need for retyping – I make sure my words come with unlimited readings attached. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece, but please be assured my words aren’t perfect. I’m just happy when I think them good enough. ;-)

    Thanks for stopping by, and for the kind words.

    Linda

  4. Ahhhh waiting…something I get better at each and every year. First – the message I garner from this delightful story (and I could feel your guilt – why? because I have experienced it myself!) is the way I look at traveling. It’s not the destination- it’s the journey – hurry it along and all you get is THERE.

    I am also getting better with my planning at school. It might sound strange to others, but when I plan a lesson I can’t wait to implement it. Then I look forward to the end too quickly – anxious to see if my lessons prepared the students enough to create great projects. But now that I’m in my 8th year, I take more time, dwell in the ‘here and now’, make sure that the lesson is understood, listening to hear feedback from students that tell me – aha – they got it! The end result is what it is, the student’s work – but the journey – once again, is far better traveled slowly.

    I know – a bit off topic, but I heard this message too!

    Karen,

    I am grinning big, like the Cheshire Cat. That last photo? Of the road through the woods? At one point in the writing of this, there was a line lurking around that photo about Advent being “door, destination and pathway…” I’ve never had someone who could read my drafts before ;-)

    But if I’d gone in that direction, there would have been a little Eliot for that, too – especially “Little Gidding”, and especially this:

    We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.

    It’s not hard for me to imagine your classroom being a bit like that – not a line out into infinity, but a spiral, coming back again and again to the same place, but always with more knowledge and deeper appreciation.

    There’s so much to appreciate on the journey!

    Linda

  5. Charles Paolino and I have been having a little discussion about magic — the allure of the mystery and the sad disappointment that often comes with discovering the secret. It’s so much more enjoyable to remain mystified, isn’t it? You can watch the bubble float by and appreciate its beauty, or you can try to capture it and see it destroyed in a blink. It’s a choice, and a lesson.

    Your version of the story, as always, is laden with texture and nuance and layers of insight. And how wise you were to feel the guilt and use that emotion as it was intended: to avoid repeating the mistake. This is a wonderfully-written story, Linda. I felt as though I were right there in those closets. I guess we’ve all been there.

    Charles,

    Magic and mystery – so closely related, and yet so different. I wasn’t raised in a family given to parlor magic tricks – or even bar tricks, for that matter – so it took a while for me to run into the guy on the lower West Side with his card table, dried bean and three walnut shells. “Transfixed” doesn’t come close to describing the state I was in when I asked the ages-old question: “How’d he DO that?” At the time, I was smart enough to stay a watcher, but I still didn’t pick the right shell a single time. After all these years, I’d love to give it another go. It would be fun to see if I could do a better job.

    As for that bubble floating by – it’s a perfect analogy for my little sneak into the closet. Innocence is where we start – not knowing the bubble will break, not knowing the joy of a season can break. But once we’ve broken a bubble, opened the package, it’s our knowledge of what happens that moves us into the realm of choice – that is, into freedom and responsibility.

    I’m sure I didn’t think things through after that experience. I didn’t “reason” a response. As best I can remember, it was more like putting my hand on a hot stove burner. Even thought I didn’t understand a thing about the science of it all, I knew I wasn’t going to do THAT again! Fire burns, over-eagerness stings. Lessons learned. ;-)

    Linda

  6. I, too, felt your childhood’s guilt, because I, too, undermined my own Christmas by peeking (though I can’t remember where, or at what, only the deep and surprising disappointment that you capture so well here). And then you expand that feeling brilliantly into our contemporary race for instant gratification as opposed to slowing down. Wait. Patience. Faith…

    A rich slice of life, indeed, Linda. Thank you so much for it.

    ds,

    I recently discovered a musical setting by Eric Whitacre of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods”. The video editing’s a little awkward, but the combination of words and music is ethereal.

    I’ve always thought of the poem as a perfect description of the “Advent pause”, that time of silence and reflection before Christmas. Unfortunately, as you point out, there are those who would have us spend our time in the woods chopping down trees and hauling them off to the village Christmas Market to make a few bucks – not to mention those who’d say, “We’d better not stop. There are cookies to bake and we don’t have the tree yet and you’ve got to get those lights up now and by the way – WHO deleted the Christmas card list from the hard drive!?”

    Ah, the holidays. Eliot had it exactly right about waiting, but St. Henry David of Walden has a word for us, too: simplify, simplify…

    Linda

  7. Always amazed at how you compose such smooth flowing pieces that flow into the cracks of today, swirl around evoking memories then whoosh! top it with a philosophical bow.

    Once again you bring gifts. Brava!

    Nanette,

    To paraphrase River Rat in “The Wind in the Willows”, there’s nothing in the world half-so-much worth doing as messing around with words!
    To be frank, I’m not sure how some of these emerge, myself, but I can guarantee you there’s a lot of “messing around” that goes on.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed unwrapping it. From me to you – Happy Advent! (We’ll get to the Solstice later…)

    Linda

  8. Hi Linda:

    I hear you. I got your message “loud and clear”, like a bright clear summer morning.

    I will wait patiently for your next post. I will not peek into your drafts to see what’s coming, for I know that in the waiting is the secret of life.

    Thank you for enriching my life.

    Regards,

    Omar.-

    Today, you could peek without any danger at all, for even I don’t know what will come next! We’ll both be surprised, yes?

    Thank you so much for coming to read, and for your gracious words. I still can’t quite get over the amazements of the internet (or “interwebs” – I think a new term has gained favor while my back was turned). In any event, I love that I can share my words, and that you enjoy them.

    A happy week to you!

    Linda

  9. This is reminding me of something that doesn’t take me back to my childhood, Linda, (because I have no memories of any of this…peeking, expectation or actual gifts received!) but of my daughter’s.

    She loved surprises! But…she was so good at figuring out what we tried to do behind the scenes that she was almost never surprised. She totally worked against herself and us. Maybe that’s part of what you’re saying here? The element of surprise really does mean trusting in the benefit of delayed gratification. As always, thanks for sharing your truth, your story.

    Ginnie,

    I always was a great gift-shaker, lifter and tipper, but I was terrible at figuring out what was in boxes. It’s been reported to me that one of my dad’s best Christmas seasons ever was the year he filled a box with some rocks, wrapped it up and put it under the tree. It kept me entertained and guessing for a couple of weeks, while he sat around and watched. When Christmas day arrived, another present had been substituted, and they told me Santa replaced what was in the box because it was broken!

    I think I’m glad I wasn’t as good as your daughter at “figuring out”. I love to be surprised, and if there’s anything I hate about holiday gift giving, it’s someone who says, “Tell me what you want” and then gets it – precisely. Even worse is the “just circle it in the catalogue” sort, but I’ve mostly been spared that. ;)

    Wishing you a holiday season filled with delightful surprises – perhaps some not even in boxes!

    Linda

  10. Your childhood tale conjures up all sorts of vague shadows from the distant past for me, Linda, although nothing specific that I can put my finger on.

    Then there’s the question of waiting in general, and now that I think about it, I guess you could say that the two basic alternating elements of life are simply doing and waiting…

    Andrew,

    And of course, there’s always the combination of doing while waiting! I don’t remember where or when I discovered the concept, but I’ve always drawn a distinction between active waiting and passive waiting. When I think of passive waiting, I think of hospital waiting rooms, lines at the motor vehicles department, depression, resentment or “out-waiting” someone we think owes us an apology. Active waiting, on the other hand, can be filled with life and activity – more like anticipation, which is what these weeks before Christmas are all about.

    When I read your comment the first thing I thought of was the metro there in Santiago. It seemed strange, but then I realized that it pulls together several strands: both passive and active waiting, but also beauty and utility. Yes, it’s a public transportation system and probably should be judged first of all by its efficiency and ease of access, but it’s also a beautiful public space that surrounds people with engaging art that surely makes waiting a pleasure!

    So nice to have you stop by – best wishes for a happy holiday season.

    Linda

  11. Oh, I have missed checking in on you — but the waiting, the anticipation — knowing something beautiful, intriguing, gloriously written and wrapped in such a way as to complete the circle — well, it did not disappoint!

    Waiting — my sneaky Christmas gift story was when my cousin David came for the holidays. We weren’t really LOOKING for presents under my mother’s bed. But when we found the Lie Detector game, well, we knew it was paydirt time! I always wonder if we “faked surprise” well enough to fool them!

    You are right — we are always waiting — and sometimes what we’ve anticipated wasn’t worth the wait. More often, oh, yes!

    jeanie,

    Of course we never “really” were looking – but as my Mom says, it did help to have a retired couple with no kids and a lot of closet space living on the block. I wondered for years where they stashed the big stuff, like my table and chairs and the best-ever kitchen. Now I know!

    As for the waiting that’s not part of a season but simply part of life, Carly Simon has it right – we’re not prophets, and we don’t know what the future will bring. But still, Anticipation itself is a wonderful thing!

    Don’t get so overwhelmed with the tasks of the season you don’t have room for a little anticipation yourself!

    Linda

  12. Linda,
    I spent the night with my best friend. Her parents went out with friends, and we unwrapped all her presents. She was not to be denied. I remember thinking that Christmas morning would be such a let down for her.

    You’ve offered another wonderful tale and lesson with this one. There is much impatience in the world now. Sometimes I feel like telling the world to take a breath. Breathe…

    Thanks, Linda.
    Bella

    Bella,

    She unwrapped them all? My goodness. That’s a serious lack of patience. Maybe she was counting on Santa to provide the surprises on Christmas morning, but I don’t think I would have been willing to risk it.

    I just went back and looked – I didn’t use the phrase “getting and spending” here, but I surely did think about it. Wordsworth used it first, of course:

    The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
    Little we see in Nature that is ours;
    We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

    It would be just as true to say that exhausting ourselves “getting ready” for Christmas and spending ourselves into oblivion, we lose the power of true celebration. It’s probably one reason I remember my three Christmas seasons in England and Germany so fondly. I was living in Liberia at the time, and had a month for travel each holiday season. There was a great deal of empty time, a great deal of space, and opportunity to just breathe….

    Sometimes just being able to breathe is gift enough.

    Linda

  13. I really do like your blog. Found it through Omar and his blog and his response to your visit to him.

    I am something of a writer but lots shorter and a more “primitive” style of writing. Not down home up the holler but down home on the neighborhood of Dayton and Cincinnati, Ohio. On I-70 in Brookville. Some of us talk like it too. Anyway—I enjoyed your writing style.

    oldmanlincoln,

    My first airplane trip ever made a stopover in Dayton – it was a prop plane, of course, heading from Des Moines to DC. I can’t remember if I had to change planes anywhere, but I remember there were military brass aplenty on the flight. Hard to imagine the military flying commercial these days!
    I didn’t get airsick, but one of the fellows with lots of ribbons did. It was a point of pride with me for some time.

    Great to have you stop by. This blog business is a little like the “begats” in the Old Testament. You found me through Omar, Omar and I found each other through Richard in Bouqueron (whom I always think of as Sir Richard of Bouqueron – or wherever he is) and Richard and I got connected through Bayou Woman, whom I’ve met and traveled with in Louisiana. One of these days I’m going to bump into a second cousin or something through these blogs.

    Glad you enjoyed the read. I’ve already peeked at your photos and they’re just splendid. I’m looking forward to having another peek or two!
    Thanks for stopping by – you’re welcome any time.

    Linda

  14. Linda, this time you’ve outdone yourself! I was hooked from the opening line.

    There is universality. We all begin as children. We all share the experience of starting out small and unsuspecting. Childhood conduces to mischief, so we identify with the eternal conspiratorial game of little Us versus giant Them.

    There is the imagery of the dark closet, the tension of the squeaky floorboard. Then comes the disappointment of fantasy fulfilled, the sodden crunch of imagination impacting implacable reality.

    My breezy progress was retarded by the growing seriousness of your subject, then virtually stymied by the sheer density of your penultimate paragraph. Sometimes, when I encounter such a jam-packed parcel of prose, I must crawl forward on my belly like a sapper with his bayonet in hand, ever so carefully probing each square inch of ground for booby traps and land mines. In this case my fixation was more akin to a kid in a candy shop with visions of sugarplums dancing, for, as per Bellezza’s commentary above, I am content to abide with you in trust.

    Bogon,

    Perhaps that kid-in-a-candy shop experience you had is part of the reason I feel like saying, “Well, aren’t you sweet?” There’s no way any of us can get it “right” every time, but this little story really did please me, and I’m glad it pleased you.

    I smiled at your reference to the “conspiratorial games” children play. As an only child, I’ve sometimes wondered if that isn’t one of the things I missed – the whispers and giggles of siblings pitting themselves against The Parents. Every adult “only child” I know sentimentalizes siblings at least a bit, but as a friend with nine brothers and sisters once said, “You can learn things running with a pack you can’t learn any other way”. ;-)

    Other things we learn alone, I suppose – including writing. But inspiration can come from anywhere – including our recent exchange about Eliot. Now that I think about it, that’s probably where this one started, since it sent me back to the “Quartets” again. Much obliged, sir!

    Linda

  15. Thanks Linda, for visiting my blog. I’m encouraged that you came back, too (but how did you find me in the first place?). And I’ve enjoyed imagining life where it’s sunny and warm this time of year. All the splashing in Vancouver is in puddles, and the dominant colour is grey.

    You’ve brought back a Christmas memory:
    I remember being in the Dominion grocery store on Main Street with my mom. I must have been about seven or eight, maybe nine. In amongst the tantalizing pile of toys on display for Christmas shoppers, was a doll that I clamoured for. I never wanted dolls, so I can’t explain this incident. Just it was lovely, all frothy and ribbony and lovely.

    But then on another trip, it had turned back into just a doll, and so I told my mom that I didn’t really want it. She just looked at me, and so I knew. She’d already bought it. I suppose I’d been picking up emotional cues for awhile, as my parents had already divorced and we were now living in a different house. I knew that money was a problem, and I knew that doll wasn’t cheap.

    That Christmas I opened my present and made a suitable fuss, a charade for everyone else. I kept the doll in its box under my bed, and pulled it out occasionally to scrape off a layer of dust, and to poke it. It made me very careful about wanting things.

    My mother kept it for years and years, though I think she finally found some other, sweeter, little girl to give it to. We never, ever, talked about it, but that moment, that feeling. It doesn’t go away.

    Shirley,

    You know, I really can’t remember how I came to your blog. I think it must have been through someone’s blogroll. In any event, I felt at home immediately, and enjoyed both your writing and the blog design itself. I’m looking forward to coming back.

    I suspect many of us have had the experience you describe – wanting and not receiving is one kind of pain, but wanting, not wanting and still receiving can be another. Do you know, to this day I’ve never told my own mother about the little incident in the closet. I haven’t refrained from guilt, precisely, but from a vague fear that it might cloud some bit of joy she still feels about those childhood Christmasses. If I were completely sure she’d laugh I’d tell her in a minute – but I don’t have that kind of certainty.

    It’s such a delight to have you stop by. All good wishes for the rest of the week!

    Linda

  16. First day of December and I just opened up my special digital Advent Calendar ;)

    Waiting is a virtue and a lost art indeed. All the more important is the object of our wait. Not just the festive jollity or even family love, but something of cosmic consequence, the ultimate Gift. Of all the lyrics in our Christmas carols I love these lines the most: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.” For some, the waiting had been for ages.

    Arti,

    I do love that carol, nearly as much as “Joy to the World” and “Adeste Fidelis”. For Advent, my choice still is Eleanor Farjeon’s “People Look East”. I love this verse:

    Make your house fair as you are able,
    Trim the hearth and set the table.
    People, look east and sing today:
    Love, the guest, is on the way.

    It’s a wonderful antidote to our frenzied season, that lovely qualifier: “as you are able”. No matter how little time, money or energy we have, it’s enough. A single candle placed in a window with love beats the “let’s outdo the neightbors” gazillion-watt wonder set to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra every time.

    And you know I’m really, truly laughing out loud. Of course we “slow bloggers” would love “slow celebrating”, too!

    Linda

  17. Hi Linda,
    I am so late getting here but at least I made it. Like many others, you did something all of us have done at least once; some maybe more.
    My Mother finally gave up and wrapped the boxes and put them under the tree and said “Santa will come and fill them with your presents on Christmas Eve” LOL like we believed that. My younger brother and sister were experts at finding their gifts and sneaking a look. Like you I felt so guilty when I did it it ruined the present later.

    I was so glad when my children were old enough to “stop believing in Santa” and we could just put them all nicely wrapped under the tree as they were purchased!

    Great story behind the story also of the magic of just having the patience to wait for things.

    Thank you for another great story.
    Patti

    Hi, Patti,

    I’m pretty late getting here, too, but at least I made it! You of all people understand how “real life” can get in the way of blogging!

    Your mother’s explanation was pretty creative, actually. My folks always put presents from relative and “from mom and dad” under the tree – it was the Santa presents that got tucked away. Even after I’d grown suspicious about Santa, he still came to our house every Christmas Eve, up to the Christmas of my first year in college. – literally! The first year I remember his visit, he brought me a floating rubber duck soap dish. His last visit, he brought me Chanel #5. Good Santa!

    I love waiting for Christmas now, and love celebrating the twelve days of Christmas. In fact, for years I went to a “Sixth Day of Christmas” party – New Year’s eve to the rest of the world!

    I hope you’ve got things under control at home now, and can enjoy the experience of waiting!

    Linda

  18. Linda –

    I’ve read this several times now, with different memories flooding back. I can still smell the wax on the wood floor, and the sharp dryness of the light layer of dust under Mother’s bed. And my absolute terror when I realized I’d made an ‘alligator” trail right through it in my efforts to wriggle under the bed and see if there were any presents there. (And yes, my lovely little Winchester cap rifle was, indeed visible!!) At 6, I had no idea how to remove the evidence – either from the floor or from my dress – and the resulting worry and guilt ended my snooping for many, many years. Mother never said a word… and that was much worse than getting scolded!

    I must say that Patti’s comment made me laugh. We used to put all the presents out, already wrapped and tagged. Santa’s gifts were delivered on Christmas Eve after everyone went to bed. He filled our stockings with fruit and chocolates and a small present or two, and left a large present (unwrapped, but with a tag) for each child under the tree. That way my folks only had to conceal a very few gifts. I followed the same routine with my kids – presents from family and friends went under the tree as they arrived, and the “Santa present” made it’s appearance at the very end. Of course, now they still want a Santa present, just so the tradition continues, LOL

    Lee,

    I’ll never watch “A Christmas Story” again without thinking of you! I can see the wriggle, and I just love that you wanted a Winchester. My toys are gone now, but I’ve kept two favorites – my Raggedy Ann, and my plastic building blocks. They actually look like bricks, and have little white doors and windows that open. There’s a garage door, too, and some of those classic 1950s jalousie windows. I just saw them while dragging out the Christmas decorations, and nearly gave in to the temptation to building me a house.

    Your family’s routine with presents was exactly like our own, only Santa’s presents were wrapped, too. And by golly – he NEVER used the same wrapping paper as my folks. Amazing. As I mentioned to Patti, “Santa” physically came to our house every Christmas eve for nearly twenty years.
    The denoument of that particular saga left me absolutely convinced of the existence of Santa, but that’s a story for another time!

    As for your kids and the maintaining of tradition – there’s a certain 92-year-old I know who happened to mention recently that she’d been a pretty good girl this year, and that maybe Santa would come by. I suspect he probably will. ;-)

    Linda

  19. I know a bit about waiting. Having no internet connection at home the last six days and having to come to the Infoplaza at the Boqueron Town Hall to get on line I can’t read everything I want to and make comments immediately. I copy stories from the blogs I follow, paste them into a Word document and read them later. Yours always tickle the memory bone, and it’s terrible having to wait to comment.

    I don’t remember ever sneaking in to peak at what might be coming my way on Christmas morning. Too frightened of getting caught. We didn’t have “corporal” punishment in our home. More like “Major General” punishment meaning it stopped just short of having to be admitted to the emergency room for treatment. Of course, being the first of seven sons I was the one they practiced on. The others got off light by comparison.

    I always knew one present I were going to get each year through high school. My mom was a knitter. A loom. A veritable Madame duFarge sans guillotine. I got two sleeveless sweaters and a brown and a blue long sleeve. The blue long sleeve I wore and had patched up over the years and mourned when it could be patched no longer and had to be dispatched. The brown one and the two sleeveless stayed with me for nearly 40 years until my beloved Nancy Dawson sank at the dock one morning and destroyed them. You can’t beat home made.

    Richard,

    Good to see you “back” again. We do take our easy connectivity for granted here. I’ve just suspended service for my USB broadband modem for a few months. I keep it activated during hurricane season, and it’s come in very handy during evacuations – but now I don’t have any backup for the day Comcast cuts their next cable. Well, other than the neighborhood wifi hot spots – like your basketball court. ;) But we survive.

    As the eldest, you had the joy and pain of only-childhood for a while, but I’ve heard others make exactly your point – by the time number two, three or four shows up, either the parents have relaxed or attention gets divided. In either case, the younger ones do benefit.

    My mom was quite a knitter in her time, too. I had a knitted dress, for heavens’ sake, and more knitted doll clothes than you can imagine. And I’ve two sweaters she knit I don’t even wear any more, except for special occasions. I swear those hand-knits have love entwined with the yarn – they’re definitely warmer. Of course, the other thing about mom’s knitting is her “stash”. I’ve hauled her big, plastic tubs of yarn from Iowa to Missouri to Texas – and if you think she doesn’t know what’s in those things, you’d be wrong.

    It always makes me sad when you mention Nancy Dawson. Losing a boat’s bad enough. Losing one you’ve lived aboard and cruised is a different order of sad. On the other hand, your current “cruise” is awfully enjoyable to follow.

    Linda

  20. As usual, very, very well done. I want to be you when I grow up.
    Wendy

    Wendy,

    Thanks, lady. But we need to think about this. If you’re me, who’ll take me fishing????????

    :-)

    Linda

  21. How I love to settle into these stories – a soft voice narrating a distant, treasured memory.

    I recall investigating mother’s closet, just to assess the number of packages…I always lacked the boldness to actually open them. How long ago? How old was I? Did it snow for six days and six nights when I was twelve…or did it snow for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six?

    All right…it doesn’t snow where I am; but I had to add that last bit.

    Aubrey,

    Well, now. It “doesn’t snow” where I live, either. But a few years ago, on Christmas eve, it started to snow and within an hour it was snowing like it used to in Iowa. They still talk about the South Texas Christmas Miracle, and it was. There was so much snow they were building snowmen on the beach in Galveston, Corpus and points south. It was truly amazing.

    Besides, I have a friend who says snow is a state of mind. As Christmas nears, she’s quite capable of turning down the air conditioning, building a fire, making some hot chocolate and settling down to tell stories of Christmas past.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharng in this story!

    Linda


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