This year I am celebrating my first Christmas as a married woman, and I’ve got to be honest – I was a little stressed out about it. Not in your typical everything-must-be-perfect-for-family-coming-to-town stress. I mean “stressed” in the sense that I sounded like a broken record telling my husband about the necessity of creating our own Christmas traditions this year, as if it is the only moment we have to set the precedent for the rest of our lives. Annual flannel sheets and Life Saver Storybooks, a box of wrapped Queen Anne cordials, the Carpenters’ Christmas Portrait, shrimp dip, A Christmas Story on TBS for 24 hours straight – surely we could craft some sort of solid itinerary to follow every Christmas?
Disappointed at the lack of resolution to my plea (and remembering that traditions shouldn’t be forced, but are best when they organically occur), I e-mailed my friend, Paige, for my weekly update, filling her in on the void of “doing anything Christmasy” in my life yet again another year. I told her about my refugee rib and the weeks of doctor visits I’ve been on, and how that seemed to have affected everything. I felt so useless not being able to help much with daily chores, let alone bigger, important things, like shoveling a foot of snow from the driveway on our first snow of the winter year. And while I don’t come from a household where presents are exchanged very often, I felt disappointed that I had nothing to give. (I joked at work that I gave him the gift of me and spent the little cash we had on the wedding on October – not a joke, actual truth.) While I had looked forward to feeling the deep magic of Christmas again, I had failed miserably and it would feel like any other day.
Sweet Paige wisely corrected me, and her response was inspired:
What do you mean you haven’t done anything Christmasy yet? Nonsense. You’ve experienced sweet, tender, heavenly feelings so akin to the season (I saw your FB post about the snow shoveling), you’ve adorned a beautiful evergreen tree with lights, all symbols and reminders of the season. You’ve experience physical pain…definitely akin to the spirit of the season. Nothing Christmasy? Seems to me that you are learning and understanding the meaning of such a special season more than most—and you’re doing it in the way that we like: your own way.
Paige always crafts the most thoughtful and observant responses.
And she was right.
I’m only child from a humble home, so our Christmases were always small but meaningful. This year, I white-knuckled our few family traditions as I slid into the Christmas season and just as quickly slid out of it. Amidst the frantic attempts to make a mental list of all movies, foods, gifts, nostalgia, and traditions from Christmas with my parents, a deeper layer of me sought out the moving feeling of a relationship with the divine baby boy whose birth we celebrate in this season. I desperately searched for that magic feeling that we all feel not only aboard the Polar Express, but in the sweet moments, like a hug from a prodigal friend, an infant taking a nap, or a joke and erupting laughter among a family.
As usual, the answer was right under my nose, quietly unfolding, but buried beneath the expectations of what Christmas could be in our new life together.
Paige’s gentle corrections were absolutely true. I had my tenth rib pop out of place a couple weeks earlier and had gone through a gamut of appointments, prescription pain killers (I despise taking any sort of pills), physical therapy appointments, shots, foggy nights, and sick days. I saw it as a hindrance instead of a sweet teaching moment. But Paige pointed out that I was already experiencing a trial of pain – though in no way comparable – much akin to what was experienced by the Savior, and perhaps even the pain and shame experienced by Mary.
I’m feeling all sorts of teary this morning…its so silly.
I love my husband. We are still getting to know each other and learning how we communicate, but love is shown in many ways. I have a dislocated rib and have for five days. Not only that, but my muscles are spasming all around it and simple daily things are hard to accomplish. I felt like a complete jerk standing there watching him shovel himself into our driveway, and sure passersby thought the same. I wanted to try to help shovel with my right arm but he won’t let me. He worked grave last night and a normally 20 minute ride home took him 2.5 hours. He wants to take me to my appointment and skip the sleep. As he was shoveling, the neighbors came over with their friends and started helping shovel our driveway. I stood there crying like a baby at the sight of them, feeling so thankful for such a simple act of service, especially as I cannot help us right now. That’s what this season – and every day, really – should be all about.
(Facebook post, December 14)
And while our Charlie Brown tree was simply adorned by myself, I had the chance to spend a couple hours with my own thoughts and memories of Christmas as I untangled six strings of lights from our wedding reception and laced them around the drooping branches of our tree. It was an opportunity to feel nostalgic for the memories of Christmas as a child, but also on the union my husband and I sealed two months ago in the presence of God and angels and ancestors and family and friends. How could I wish for a bigger piece of heaven than that?
Thinking on all of this, I’ve remembered that making our own Christmas traditions together as husband and wife (and future family) are a progression, just like growing from a child to an adult, and mirroring the natural progression of a relationship from meeting to friendship to dating to engagement and marriage. Just like Jesus Christ, in his perfect nature, has to still be born and progress from an infant to an adult.
I will always hold fondly to my memories of Christmas as a child in my parents’ home, and one day hope to adapt some of those memories for my own family. Christmas wasn’t what I anticipated it would turn into this year – like marriage would magically inject the season with excitement of the celebration of the arrival of the Christchild. I didn’t share many experiences or feelings of the season with my husband. But I was blessed with the chance to be presented with many beautiful learning moments and some time for reflection, should I have accepted it as opportunity to do so.
I did keep one of my favorite traditions. On Christmas morning, I found Mr. Krueger’s Christmas and played it for my husband. While I’m not sure he totally appreciated the wondrous 80’s vibe of the short 25-minute movie (and also didn’t know who Jimmy Stewart was), I relished in the sweet reflection as Mr. Krueger talked to the baby Jesus in the stable. His humility starts the waterworks every time as I feel a strong spirit of love rush over me.
In the end, I made the shrimp dip and I saw a few Christmas lights, but nothing can fill the space of the heart like the remembrance of the real theme of the season – love. The love of a Heavenly Father, the love of an earthly mother and father, and the love of a divine Savior.