Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas, Heavy on the Advent

Perhaps there's such thing as too much time to prepare for guests, I thought as I scraped three-year-old Halloween stickers from the window with an exacto knife.

The house was so clean I imagined that if it spoke, its voice would sound like a squeaky rubber ducky. The guest room closet, the storage room, the piles of construction paper, glue, ribbon, and yarn from the art room...we cleaned it all, creating a huge mound of "household goods" to donate to the first curb-side pick-up-for-charity-van that comes down our street. The fridge was full of food; the daily menu neatly printed and magneted to the front. We had three new board games, three new liquors, and a list of potential outings that read like a "Christmas in Seattle" brochure.

But the snow. That beautiful, peaceful, quiet-making snow, shaking resolutely from the sky as if intending to entomb us within our homes, the whiteness and volume reminding me of my blind Nonnie gently shaking salt into her hand and then dumping it out on her food. It persisted day after day, thwarting pre-holiday school schedules, closing down government, and demanding that everyone stay home to think and prepare.

So I organized our CDs, cleaned out medicine cabinets, sorted and purged toys. I prepared six pie crusts, wrapped them in swaddling, um, foil, and lay them gently in the freezer to wait.

Then the first call came: Tobin's parents could not come. There was too much snow, for goodness sake. They couldn't drive out of their half-mile long driveway to get into their little Eastern Oregon town much less drive to Seattle. Still, Tobin's sister and her family would come, so there remained hope of cousins playing cheerfully and adults sipping wine.

Then the second call came: Tobin's sister would not come. She took her 5-year-old daughter to the doctor because of a lingering cough and found out she had pneumonia. Thus, there would be no grandparents, no cousins, no sisters and in-laws; only our little nuclear family, a phrase which, at this point-- after too many days home-from-school, home-from-work, home-home-home-- only brought to mind images of Chernobyl.

I'd like to say that, with the grace of Mary herself, I serenely uttered heavenward, "let it be as you have said." That I didn't, for example, sulk around the house for a day or so, questioning whether the in-law's driveway was really unpassable, or whether pneumonia was even contagious, or why I am part of this family that can't problem-solve its way out of a simple little snowstorm. But frankly, I've never related to Mary very well. She is perplexed when the angel visits her, whereas I would be scared stupid. She accepts the news of her impending pregnancy right away, whereas I would, well, negotiate a little. ("Hold on there, Gabriel/Michael... can I call you Gabe/Mike? Do you think there might another option? Let's not be hasty. Would you mind just talking me through God's thought process here...")

Still, I did spend some time thinking about the little ironies in our predicament: whereas there was no room in the inn for Christ to be born, necessitating his manger-birth, we had many rooms, all clean and ready, and just lacked guests to fill them with. While I'm sure that a creative pastor could turn this into a sermon, I personally don't understand its significance, or whether it means anything at all, other than perhaps I have an overdeveloped literary sense.

We tried to invite the Christs among us to come on over and share in our bounty. But friends were busy with plans already made, and we didn't extend the invitation to the Other Christs, you know, the hungry and cold living a few miles away at Tent City, or the bag lady outside our neighborhood QFC.

So perhaps it is right and well that I felt a little lonely this Christmas, that it was more "Silent Night" than "Joy to the World." Evidently you don't need clean windows to welcome a baby.

Come, long-expected Jesus.
Ignite in me
a flame of joy that cannot be snuffed out by personal disappointment.

Come, long-expected Jesus.
Create in me
a yearning for peace that permeates my family, my community, this country, and the world.

Come, long-expected Jesus.
Kindle in me
the ability to love each person as you love them.



Little Monkies said...

Wishing I could walk 1/2 a block down the street, sit on your couch, drink wine and hug your gorgeous children.

Missing you so!

And, you look SO hot in that pic with T on your site. MEOW!

Hoping to see you in the new year. Love you, Merry Christmas, my friend.

Amy said...

Well at least you used your down time wisely and have a super-clean house...I can only get things done when I'm in a crunch so all of these hours upon hours of down time and cancelled work have added up to watching movies I've already seen...
Did you have any fights during the board game playing?? We played Cranium and I never knew some of my family members were so got vicious...
Hope you had a good holiday w/ the immediate fam.

Amy said...

P.S. I had to google Cherbonyl.

slouching mom said...

It was just our little nuclear family this year as well.

And you know what?

I really, really enjoyed it.

It's different, but not worse, I think.

Happy holidays, A.

Anonymous said...

Amy had to google Chernobyl? I wish I were that young :)

Kendra Joy said...

I just want to say, I did not have to google Chernobyl (or "Cherbonyl" as Amy put it)... and I'm pretty young. So, wheelsonthe bus, don't lose heart! ;)

Secondly, I felt like the picture of your family around the Christmas Dinner table was inviting each of us to partake with you. Was that place at the end of the table set for us? Was that yummy looking salad there in the photo just for me? I wanted to jump through my computer screen into that vacant chair and eat the yummy food you'd prepared. Thanks for encouraging my Zerba Family Christmas fantasy world. ;)

Alicia said...

I'm laughing and crying both...

jen said...

this is lovely, sister. all of it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Allyson. You pulled me right into the whole scene at your house... I envy you your super clean closet & guest room. (We managed 8 bags of "get it outta here!" for The Truck, as we call it... and then stalled). You seem to handle the Major Change in Plans with such grace!! I hope your extended families can visit when things calm down a little - maybe for spring break? xo kathy