it’s the whispered moments that speak to me…
the shoes of the boys i love, the shoes i’ve always filled before dawn on the sixth of december, the feast of st. nick, those shoes are hundreds of miles away this dawn. likely lined up like straight-back soldiers in one’s law school apartment, and in a dorm room half as far away, i’m guessing they’re jumbled, strewn under a desk or a bed, or a sweatshirt and socks heaped on the floor.
to grow up in this old house was to wake up to foil-wrapped chocolates and oranges and surely a candy cane stuffed in the wide-open maw of your boot or your slipper or sneakers, a pair that grew by the year (all the more room for more chocolates), and always was left by the bedroom door on the night of the fifth.
i’ve always made as much of a folderol over this “little christmas” as i have over the one that’s gotten so noisy.
it’s the quiet moments of christmas, the unexpected kindnesses, the silence on a star-stitched night that stir the holy in me. i enter into the season in whispers. find myself pulled into tide pools of unspoken wonder. thrill like a kid with her nose pressed to the windowpane when i find myself face-to-face with the modern-day version of an elf. if you keep watch, and i’d advise that you do, there are elves all around.
this time of year i do make a list. a list of the out-of-the-blue elves and dollops of kindness that have plopped into my lap:
*the gas station owner who piled his tools into a cardboard box and drove me the three blocks to where my own car wouldn’t start, where he proceeded to ping and tap-tap-tap to try to get the key in the ignition to turn (it would not). he charged not a penny, and did the whole thing with a serious smile and multiple insistences that this was not at all out of his way. (on a sunday morning no less.)
*the college roommate from long, long ago who sent me a shoebox bursting with the itty-bittiest gingerbread babies, each one iced and strewn with cinnamon hearts, each one dangling from a skinny red thread she’d take the time to tie in a loop.
*my brother who’s driving almost two hours (each way) to the snow-covered storybook village where our freshman in college is just about to start his first round of finals. the plan (hatched in the spontaneous joy of the moment) is to fetch the kid after his last exam, bring him back to cleveland for a friday night’s feast and a snooze on an airbed, then tuck him onto a greyhound bus for the long ride home, where he’ll finish his papers in the cozy quiet of home.
*the extraordinarily kind fellow from the birdseed store who’s offered to swing by my house to reconfigure the bird feeders that have suddenly been taken hostage by one wily (and insatiable) squirrel.
my list isn’t done; it’s just getting started. but i know from years and years of paying attention that those catch-you-by-surprise, take-your-breath-away moments are the ones when the christmas seeps in.
it’s something like watching water whirl down a drain; it’s a force you can’t stop, it’s a force you can’t really see. but you feel it. you know it. the moment pulls you right in, a sinkhole of joy, of wonder, of can-you-believe-such-kindness-exists? and suddenly, deep down inside, you’re inside a snow globe of heaven on earth.
christmas comes in certain spoonfuls, best swallowed all along the way, through the quiet you carve out of the noise. by the time the day itself arrives, you’ll already have savored its coming.
merry christmas-is-coming, st. nick is here.
who are the elves on your list? what dollops of kindness have crept up and tapped you gently, certainly, at the core of your heart?
I love these stories of Christmas joys…. Thank you for the reminder that it is in moments of stillness and unexpected kindness that the true gorgeousness of the season is revealed. Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! x o x o
thank you, sweetheart. and as i type this a red bird (papa cardinal) seems to cozying into the boughs of the bush right outside my picture window. he is literally pressing his feathers against the panes. i’ll take that as another hushed christmasy moment. sending hugs to your house. xox
Thank you for celebrating this forgotten holiday of old. I asked everyone at work today if they celebrated this when they were little and no one knew of it. I texted my wishes to my boys, one who has his law final today, but there are no shoes to fill……enjoy the magic and the ‘official’ start of the Christmas season!
i’m SURE you filled those legal shoes long distance, with the abundance of your pure heart! great good luck on his final exam! two weeks to go for my soon-to-be lawyer. or legal scholar, anyway. sending giant hugs to you and yours. xoxox
Oh, bam, I was going to wish you a happy St. Nicholas’ Day, perhaps as an aside, but, of course, you are a long-time celebrant and have it covered–beautifully. I love the old observances and old carols at Christmas, whether by Anonymous 4 or Joan Baez. They seem closer to the spirit of the holiday. Have you ever baked Tasha’s Dundee cake? Every year I mark it as a to-do, and every year it does not get done. The red shawl and red tights today will have to do for my observance, along with beginning the Tudor Advent calendar that begins with Dec. 6.
We have an office elf who leaves Reese’s candies on our desks. She is much loved.
ohhhhh!!!! you are wearing red tights and wrapped in a red shawl?!?!? be still my heart! i want to run upstairs and change into the same!!! i am going to blare Anonymous 4 while i putter about the kitchen. and, no, i’ve not made tasha’s cake, but now i want to! i have it in one of her cookery books. i think i will make it for my boys’ arrival home from school. a few days before Christmas, should be perfect.
bless your beautiful blessed heart. xoxox