Season of Joy and Mourning

Unwrapping Christmas ornaments is beginning to develop its own heavy weight of nostalgia in our house. After seven and a half years of marriage and two children, every quirky figurine we hang on the tree is intrinsically attached to a memory. My fingers outline tiny handprints on paper—hands that will never be that small again. My eyes sting, looking at the once much rounder face of my son pictured in a little frame from two years ago. I watch my two year old marvel at the Christmas tree lights and it hurts just a little, remembering how my six year old once did that, standing before the glittering giant in his footy pajamas.

This season is most dear to me of all seasons. As soon as the wind chills and the leaves are falling on the lawn, my heart warms up. I free my boots from their dark prison in the closet and begin to choose outfits based on scarves. I wait with anticipation for my favorite foods to pop up at the stores. The holidays bring so much joy, but they are tinged with a kind of mourning.

More than the Christmases that have come and gone, I’ve found myself marveling more this year. We have snuggled up to watch a movie instead of meeting up with friends. We have made pancakes in the shape of animals instead of cleaning the house. I have kissed my husband more, and we have laughed, holding the blankets up for our little boys to crawl into our bed, breaking the rules and letting them sleep with us again and again. Joel and I look at each other over their sleeping heads between us and say in our heads what both of us are thinking: tonight will never come again.

There is a bustling and busyness that comes with this season, but it didn’t quite come through our door this year. We are still busy, and our schedules are still full, but somehow we have managed to savor the smell of cedar in our house and the little cold, red noses on the faces of our boys. I have become so aware of how time slips away from us. No matter how tightly I hold onto it, no matter how much I try to make things stay the same, change is waiting for our family around every bend. Beyond every wonderful memory, our path changes direction ever so slightly and takes us from that single moment to the place of “remembering”.

Although I am enjoying the revelation here and now, I will need reminding as that path winds. I will need reminding when I have a paper due or laundry to wash and Ethan asks me to play chess with him or Josiah stands at the back door, longing to go out and play in the dirt with me. I will have to call back this truth as it sneaks away, knowing that next year, my son will be taller, standing at that door.

This year I want to look out the window while I sit at the dining table and drink my coffee in the mornings, instead of check my email. I want to take a rare free afternoon and drive up to the mountains with my family and watch the snow fall. I want to teach myself to breathe again, to marvel, and give myself the chance to remember the way my husband looks when he is cooking or the way Ethan’s smile gets crooked when he is embarrassed.

In a few days, when we are packing up the garlands and banners, we will try not to lose this peace. I will get that same lump in my throat, carefully wrapping each ornament in tissue paper and closing up the box. And I will say thank you again for the gentle and loving reminder to live in this life that God has given me.

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