On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Early Christmas 001No, I don’t mean that gifts appeared under the tree before December 24 or 25 – depending on when Santa traditionally makes his visit to your house. It’s just that yesterday, December 18, seemed to be particularly filled with Christmas-y things and feelings.

First, we had our Christmas lunch at the Senior Center. In honor of the occasion, I donned one of my two Christmas sweaters, one of my two pair of Christmas earrings, and one of my two pair of Christmas socks. That in itself made me feel very festive. There was lots of other holiday wear at the Center, along with smiling faces and happy chatter. There was a special table filled with desserts prepared for the occasion by various volunteers, and there was a small goodie bag for each of us – a pen and calendar provided by the restaurant that caters the meals, a candy cane and a few miniature chocolate bars, and a card signed by all the Center employees. It wasn’t much, but it felt like Christmas joy.

When we got home from lunch our neighbors were in our driveway waiting for us. They had just returned from a week in Branson and Early Christmas 002wanted to thank us for watching their dog while they were gone.  We visited for a few minutes, and they gave us a small peace lily in a red pot adorned with a few glittered curly twigs. They left us with hugs and holiday wishes, and it felt like Christmas love.

I went to the church at 4:00 pm for a rehearsal. The youth group is leading a carol and Communion service Sunday night, and I’m subbing for the regular pianist. Some of the kids were already there when I arrived, and there was lots of laughter and teenaged energy bouncing around the sanctuary. The guitarist arrived with a ukulele – a pinched nerve in her neck called for a lighter instrument than normal. I could tell her pain meds had kicked in when she started playing a blue grass version of “Away in a Manger.” We struggled to stay focused and to sing and play songs that were too high or had difficult phrasing or unfamiliar words. It was chaotic, but through it all there was a sense of Christmas worship.

After practice was finished, the teens left to get ready for their ugly sweater party, and based on some of the pictures I’ve seen on Facebook, they did a fine job of getting ready. The quiet didn’t last long. The younger kids began to arrive with signed permission slips and flashlights – it was caroling night. After Ms. Carla gave instructions for the evening and everybody chose a buddy, we loaded 41 kids and 10 adults onto the church bus and headed for the Katy Subdivision. We practiced our carols on the way, and sometimes the front half of the bus was even singing the same song as the back half.

When we arrived at our destination, the kids piled out, hurriedly found their buddies, and formed a ragged group in front of the first house. Ms. Carla pointed to one of the boys, and he ran up and knocked on the door. When a woman opened the door, we began a strangely tuneless version of “Joy to the World,” and a smile appeared on her face. Her smile remained through “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”- complete with all the extra phrases the kids like to add. We ended our presentation with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Waving and shouting “Merry Christmas,” we straggled on to the next house.

We repeated our performance at a dozen houses around the circle. Sometimes we sang “Jingle Bells” instead of “Rudolph,” but we always sang with enthusiasm. And we were greeted with equal enthusiasm. Some people ran back into the house to bring family members to the door, some stepped out on the porch, and some sang along. Everyone smiled, some applauded, and one little boy danced as we sang. We got back to the church without losing anyone and were treated to cookies and hot chocolate. It was an evening of organized confusion, but watching the children bring happiness to others felt like Christmas hope.

It was quiet when David and I got home. I warmed up some soup, and then we settled down to check our e-mail and read.  When I dozed off in my chair, David decided it was time for bed. As I lay there in that twilight between waking and sleeping, the memories of all the joy and love and worship and hope of the day floated in my mind, and it felt like Christmas peace.

May all the blessings of Christmas be yours both now and throughout the coming year.


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