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Category: advent

the gift that is my counting-down boy

“it’s advent,” he said with a twinkle.

“24 days,” he said two seconds later, not sure that i’d netted his drift.

finally, i found my way along his breadcrumb trail of hints.

“it’ll be up when you get home,” i shot right back, suddenly relieved that we’d awakened to a chandelier dangling by a mere two wires, a heavy chandelier, mind you. an antique of brass and blue-and-white porcelain, one you wouldn’t want crashing to the floor. but because the darn thing was dangling in such a dangerous way, and because there was no contraption we could contrapt to girdle it in place while we waited for the handy shock-and-wires man, i had to stay home all day, typing from my writing room.

which is a long and winding way to say: while he was off at school, and i was home cobbling stories amid chandelier-crash patrol, i tiptoed to the basement, to the box marked “early christmas,” and grabbed the string of red-plaid pockets, the one that every year since he remembers i’ve filled with little chocolates, peppermints and hints of the christmastide to come.

it’s the counting-down string, and he is not too old to count the days to christmas. nor to not want the house the way it’s always been.

and as i tiptoed up the stairs, i filled my heart and lungs with the deepest, purest knowing of just how much i’m blessed, soaked through and through, with the gift of a child who is still little boy enough to want to have that bit of magic dangling at the window. who wants to reach his little hand in there and pull out a surprise.

in these days and months since he’s been home alone, the one little someone among the trees of taller people, he has reminded me again and again just how deep a miracle he is.

oh, not simply that he’s here among us, long after the doctors told me “never.” not that i am nearly 55, and he is merely 10.

no, the real gift of my little bundle of purely answered prayer is that he is rare in the most delicious way.
“pure butter,” i just wrote of him to my beloved portland sister.

he’s a kid who halfway through dinner hops up from his chair and shimmies on the bench beside me. and when i ask (as mamas are wont to do), “why’d you just get up,” he melts me with his answer: “i wanted to sit next to you.”

now don’t think that he’s some mama’s boy. because he’s not. he’s this way with his papa, his grandma, and his big faraway brother.

more than once last week i found him sprawled across his brother’s lap, taking in a rough-and-tumble football game.

doesn’t matter that he’s fierce on a soccer field, or dribbling down a court. his essence, the one i’ve watched since he was born in a shaft of midnight light, is pure molasses gold.

he was the baby who wanted to be nestled, always, right against my chest, to absorb the lullaby of my quickly-ticking heart.

and somehow, some amazing somehow, he’s never lost that deep magnetic pull.

any minute now, i’ll be tossing on my coat and hopping on the train because, at 10 years old, he still wants me on his field trip. could not wait to tell me he saw my name on the chaperone list. could not wait to tell me i got to spend a whole cold and chilly day walking through the outdoor german market.

it is these sparks of innocence, his unfiltered exuberance, his lack of hurry in the growing-up department, that is the gift i hold in my palms as if a fragile robin’s egg.

as a mama, i straddle quite a canyon, the one that finds me taking in the college tales, and the worries that come with it, while with the other foot i am firmly planted in the giggles and the charms of fifth grade.

one night i might watch the little one smear on a slick of underarm deodorant before he tumbles into bed (“i like to smell something good when i first wake up,” he explains, as if anyone should know that), but next morning he’ll ask if i can help him cut his waffles.

it is this blessed holy middle place–not yet big and tough and smelling like a goat, still blithe enough to not mind holding tight my hand as we tiptoe through the night–that makes me whisper my unending thanks.

i am holding each and every frame, savoring the pure undiluted joy of this second round of life that came tumbling from the heavens.

bless you, my counting-down boy.

we all have gifts aplenty. as we count the days toward the longest night, and towards the holy christmas story, what might we find in your red-plaid pocket if you were to pull out but one magic parcel this fine december day?

counting the days

counting the days

already, the little one knows the routine. he wakes up early, just to run to the room where the numbers now hang. where the numbers, each one a pocket, come tucked with a wee chocolate bear, or a nibble of peppermint bark.

not finished, he runs, yet, one more place. to the corner where the old german calendar waits by the cookie jar. there, he scans the numbers, counts one more than yesterday, folds back a door. and, lo and behold, more chocolate.

for him, then, these are the days of the wake-me-up chocolates. two a day, every day, for 24 days.

december, he says, licking the little brown dab off his lips, is a month that’s mostly delicious.

for me, the mama who birthed him, these days are the birthing of something wholly as melt-in-your-mouth.

these are the days when, for the very first time in a very long time, maybe ever, i am practicing advent. really practicing. paying attention. giving in to the season in ways that wash over me, seep into me, bring me back home to a place i may never have been.

like a child this year, i have a just-opened sense of these days.

i am, for the very first time, not counting down. not ticking off days, and errands to run, like a clock wound, really, too tightly.

instead, i am counting in a whole other way. i am counting, yes, but the thing that i’m doing is making count each one of the days.

i am counting the days in a way that takes time. that takes it and holds it. savors it. sucks out the marrow of each blessed hour.

i am, because i’m on my way home here. i’ve not ever before seen december in quite this way. not known, quite this way, that it holds a deep and winding road into my soul.

i am this year embracing the darkness. i am kindling lights. i am practicing quiet. i am shutting out noise, and filling my house with the sounds of the season that call me.

i am practicing no. no is the word that i’m saying to much of the madness. no, i cannot go there. no, i cannot race from one end of town to the other. no, i will not.

i am practicing yes.

yes, i will wake up early. will tiptoe alone, and in quiet, to down in the kitchen, and on out to the place where the moon shines. where the early bird isn’t yet risen. but i am. i am alone with the dark and the calm, and i am standing there watching the shadows, the lace of the moon. i am listening for words that fill up my heart. it’s a prayer and it comes to me, fills my lungs, as i breathe in cold air, the air of december, december’s most blessed breath.

yes, i am re-dressing my house. i am tucking pine cones and berries of red, in places that not long ago were spilling with pumpkins, and walnuts, and acorns.

i am waking up to the notion that to usher the season into my house is to awaken the sacred. it is to shake off the dust of the days just before. to grope for the glimmer amid all the darkness.

december, more than most any month, can go one of two ways at the fork in the woods.

one trail is all tangled, all covered with bramble. you can get lost, what with all of the noise and all of the bright colored lights.

or maybe not. or maybe that’s not how you’ll go.

december, if you choose, if you allow it, can be the trail through the woods that leads to the light, far off in the distance.

the darkness itself offers the gift. each day, the darkness comes sooner, comes deeper, comes blacker than ink. it draws us in, into our homes, yes, but more so, into our souls.

it invites us: light a light. wrap a blanket. sit by the fire. stare into the flames, and onto the last dying embers.

consider the coming of Christmas.

i am, in this month of preparing, in this month of a story told time and again, listening anew to the words. i am considering the story of the travelers, the virgin with child, the donkey, the man with the tools, the unlikely trio, knocking and knocking at door after door.

i am remembering how, long long ago, i winced when i heard how no one had room. open the door, i would shout deep inside. make room. make a room.

i didn’t know then, that i could change it. i could take hold of the story, make it be just as it should be.

but i do now. i know now.

i am taking hold of that story, the way that it’s told this december. i am, in the dark and the quiet, making the room that i longed for. for the three in the story, yes, but even for me.

i am preparing a room at the inn. the inn, of course, is my heart.

i am for the first time in a very long time, paying attention. paying attention to the coming of Christmas. i am seeing the beauty of advent. the season of lighting a candle in the thick of the darkness.

i am noticing the whole of the woods. keeping my eye on the light in the window. but taking my time. filling my lungs with the sweet scent of the pine. hearing the crunch of the woods under my feet. wholly breathing an air that’s divine.

the walk to the light in the window is, for the very first time in a very long time, one that is sacred and hushed. i see the light, see it grow closer and closer.

it’s a glow that really is something, really is radiant. framed, as it is, in the dark of december.

oh my goodness, the forces today conspired against me. alarms didn’t ring. children missed buses. i had places to be, and the meander wasn’t yet wholly meandered. oh well. here it is, then, at the end of the morning. have you stopped to consider the power of a month that invites us to choose a path through the woods that’s not quite so trampled? how do you practice the coming of Christmas? or simply pulling in to the quiet that comes as the darkness grows longer and deeper?
my whole advent journey was sparked because i was asked by a church that i love to please pencil some thoughts on the subject. it was recorded and made into a CD. soon as i can i will share it with you on the lazy susan. keep watch and i’ll tell you as soon as i have maybe a minute to do some decembering over there on the page that i love, but can’t get to hardly often enough.