Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Few Shimmering Moments

I remember the years when the days before Christmas dragged on for an eternity. At the beginning of every December, I would create a paper chain, and every morning I would rip one off. As the chain shortened, my anticipation heightened. My mom used to buy the chocolate calendars too. I remember the year our dog Chloe ate mine (yes...every one of those 25 chocolates), and my brother Owen had to share his with me. One year I actually realized how gross those chocolates were, and a year or two after that my mom stopped buying them.

The days before Christmas don't drag on anymore. Especially with Thanksgiving being so late this year, it was here and gone before I think either Owen or I really got to appreciate the full essence of Christmas. We both commented that we struggled to get into the Christmas spirit this year, but there were moments this month that shimmered.

One such moment was when we decorated the Christmas tree. Since Owen and I were born, my mom has gotten us a new ornament every year. I like looking through my pile and thinking about the stage I was in when I received the ornament. I have two monkey ornaments--I really loved monkeys for awhile. Another year I got a set of these fantastic purple disco balls, in tribute to Taylor Swift's sparkly dresses. I have one hanging in my room, and sometimes when it's sunny outside it catches the light just right, and my room is cascaded in purple polka dots. One of my favorite ornaments is a wooden Madeline doll clutching a Christmas tree. It reminds me of the mornings I would wake my grandma up at 3am to ask her to read me a Madeline story. The Christmas tree also reminds me of the years when Owen and I were small enough to sleep underneath the tree. We would pull out our sleeping bags and lay beneath the branches, waking up with pine needles on our eyelashes.

Another moment was the eve of Christmas Eve. My family and I joined my uncle and his family for service at Grace Chapel in Lexington, a non-denominational, multicultural church. My seven-year-old cousin Annie, who lately has been resisting the fact that she is no longer four-years-old and therefore cannot get away with what she used to, was insistent on sitting on my lap throughout the service, and then on being lifted up to read the lyrics on the projector screen whenever we sang a song. After realizing that she was too tall to be lifted up on someone's shoulders, I let her stand on my seat. Every song she sang her little heart out, her arms around my and Owen's shoulders. Owen was not in the best of moods that night, yet even he found it hard not to lighten up around her exuberance.

And finally, there was my little cousin Nathan, also seven-years-old, but on my dad's side of the family. On Christmas Day night, he crawled into bed with me at my grandmother's house, still full of Christmas energy.

"Did you have a good Christmas?" I asked him.
"Yeah. Guess what?" he said.
"I saw Santa Clause last night."
I gasped. "You did? What did he look like?"
Nathan held up a stuffed Santa Clause. "Like this."
"Describe to me what he looked like, don't just show me," I said.
He proceeded to describe the red suit and the black belt. "And I even heard his bells. I saw him. Right in the kitchen!"

He had no doubt in his mind that he saw Santa Clause, and it was touching to see someone with such a strong belief.

Reflecting on these shimmering moments, it occurs to me that a lot of them have to do with childhood or children. I've reflected on this subject a lot in the past few months, especially in my English classes. Nearly everything I wrote links backs to some childhood memory or coming of age moment. With college just a year and a half away, I have found myself resisting a lot these past few months. I haven't wanted to think about much. I've procrastinated more than I usually do. Like my cousin Annie, I too am perhaps resisting the fact that I do have to grow up and think about more mature things. How I wish I could be like my cousin Nathan, with such an adamant belief in something. I miss the Christmas Eves when Owen would crawl into bed with me so we could wake up together Christmas Day.

At the Grace Chapel service, one of the speakers emphasized that Christmas isn't about presents, it's about presence and being with those we love. I love seeing all my cousins every year, especially because that is the one time I can usually count on seeing them. But I also love it because for a few weeks, it allows me to be nostalgic and think back on some of my favorite Christmas memories. It allows me to be a kid again.

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