before the pit-pat of little feets

once again, it is wrapped in black. before the black turns to purply, before the streaks of light begin to steal away the blackness of the magic of christmas that i have come to love best: before the pit-pat of little feets tromp down the steps, streak across the hall, shout, it’s christmas.

don’t get me wrong, i love that chapter. it’s just that i love this one better.

it’s just me and the darkness and the twinkling of the tree, and the clock ticking, and the simmering of “smell” on the stove. smell is my old pot that sizzles all through the winter with a great heap of orange peels, and cinnamon sticks and cloves and bay leaves and water that turns syrupy brown what with all the sizzling.

sometimes i make a fire when i know the coast is clear and poor ol’ santa won’t be singeing his bottom, or the soles of his boots.

i’m usually alone with santa’s handiwork. in fact the sight of his plate (up above) tickles me to no end. we have left food for the reindeer, a big mug of milk, and the best of the sweets we have stored in our tins. this year it looks like poor santa had time for just a bite of the shortbread star and one little square of peppermint bark. seems like the reindeer didn’t get much. this might bother poor tedd, but he’ll get on with the business of the day, which in this case looks to be the very thing he wanted, a rock-n-roll guitar. santa should have remembered ear plugs for papa. oh well.

back to the part that is my christmas gift: the shhhhhsh of the morning when it’s me and the tree….

it starts, like it has for nearly a half century of years, with that first semi-conscious awakening, as those brain cells kick into holiday drive and send out a newsflash, it’s christmas morn. and since i’m the mom now i don’t have to hold myself in under the covers, i can unfurl, i can escape, i can dart down the stairs in my jammies, and drink in the magic of the morning.

i plug in the tree, turn up the flame under the smell, haul out the makin’s of my christmas morn cake. the one that will have the windows steaming on the inside, the one that years ago i discovered made me feel like a mama on christmas. baking in the kitchen, while little heads up above still swirled with visions of sugar plums. that’s what moms do, isn’t it?

this morning is all about christmas from the other side. this is all about making christmas my way, stitching it with the great tapestry of sight and sound and smell that stokes my heart, stokes my soul. this is christmas the way i always wanted it to be. this is christmas before the cacophony unfolds. this is christmas hushed.

curled in my red-and-white checked chair, mug in hand, staring into the flames, drinking in the magic of making christmas for others, i inhale a deep gulp. i hold it in my lungs.

this is a moment i wait for all year, and i don’t want to let it slip away soon. each christmas, how it changes; i am the mother these days not just of wee little ones. in fact, just now i hear 13-year-old feets. they make the floorboards creak. they hardly pit-a-pat.

i wonder if, 13 years from now, i will still hear those feet up above. or will he be out in the world, sending me an email some christmas morn, from far on the other side of the globe? saying, dear mama, i hope it’s quiet there. hope the smell isn’t burning. hope you could manage to get down under the tree and plug in the lights. hope you don’t mind christmas alone.

guess i need to go make christmas for the boys i love best. it won’t be christmas forever. only once a year do i get that fluttery truth in my half-asleep brain: it’s christmas, get downstairs. the dark won’t last for long.

here’s my whispering for each of you: may you find whatever you are seeking this christmas, the wisp of a dream come true, a hug from someone who really loves you, the magic of unwrapping something that tells you someone was listening, really listening. if there is good possibility a tear is spilling down your cheek, may there be someone to wipe it, someone who loves you, and maybe that someone is me. all the way from here to there. i know what it is to find a little dark corner on christmas and fill it with light, and call it your own.

quietly, softly, before the volume is cranked: merry blessed christmas. i wish you were right here beside me. we would stare into the fire. we would breathe deep. we would hold on to the miracle of the day before it unfolds.

God bless you each and every one.