I’ve been reflecting just a wee bit lately on Christmas letters. Yes, it’s coming on that time again, and once again– as I do every year– I have hopes of sending mine out early. We’ll see about that.
Last year’s Christmas letter was a reflection on what is “ideal.” Our culture creates it for us constantly, you know, and then posts it on the covers of all the magazines that pander to us as we wait in line at the grocery store. There was a time that I fell for it. I subscribed to Martha Stewart’s magazine for years. And I’m still taken in– if only for a minute or two– by the beautiful images that beckon me in all their glossy perfection: why don’t I have hair like that? Why doesn’t my living room look like that? Why aren’t my pies that pretty?
It’s a harrowing experience, going to the grocery store.
But I’m wiser than all of that, of course. I know about air-brushing, about the messes behind that perfect pie crust, about how Completely Impossible it is to have a living room look like that while it is being lived in. Yes, I know that the ideal is a gollem, a mirage, a hopeless if enticing deception that, even when achieved, Isn’t.
To say that my weekend wasn’t exhausting would be a lie. To say that, in the last hours of the school day today as I was writing writing writing comments for my students’ report cards, I wasn’t Just A Wee Bit exhausted would also be a Lie. So when I exited (finally) the school building and found that (Most Suddenly) it was Cold and that, moreover it was Raining (if only slightly), I was ever so eager to find my children. And when I got them from their various sites of afterschool care, we were all happy (So Happy) to climb into the mini-van and Head Home.
The fact that Bill was working from home only sweetened our arrival there, and in No Time At All he had a fire going for us in the fireplace. At around the same time, the kettle began to sing. And as autumnal darkness pulled damp curtains around the house, I lit candles in the dining room (where we eat our winter-time dinners). We ate a beautiful meal of (honestly mostly) organic food, and we laughed together. And afterward we did homework in front of the fire.
I will confess to becoming a little cranky when the children had trouble focusing on homework, and a little crankier still when they didn’t get ready for bed Right Away. I did do a little vacuuming, a little laundry folding, a little sweeping of the floor. But things are quiet now and my children are sleeping. I am drinking tea next to a dying fire, enjoying the concerto that is playing on satellite radio.
Things are not perfect. Not now, not ever. Mine is not likely to be a living room for the cover of a magazine, and the only dessert currently in the house is cookies that have gone Stale. But I am very aware of the Goodness, rich and sweet and Nonetheless. And I am grateful.