What we experience at Christmas is not a different kind of life or description of it – but rather a snapshot, a few days in slow-motion reminding us who we are and what we are made from; we are made by our mothers and fathers, we are made again by your mates and our children. We are, hardly ever, made wholly by our own actions – it is all interdependent, but in a good way …
As our lives shift stages and phases, as children and grandchildren develop their lives and connect with and blend with other families, something new emerges. They and we become part of new families, new family trees and connections morph, one to another, and life moves along different paths for everyone. It’s a bit like that old line about never stepping into the same river twice – and I think we never are the same family we were before – because change is always happening.
What I mean is the shape of the family – who is in, who out, who is moving into deeper connection and who is moving away; some are obvious, some is less so. It is like a play with a large ensemble cast – some characters are taking on more significant leading roles, some stepping back to smaller parts.
For all of us, this time is a blend of new and old, of happy and sad, of inevitable change – and one day, without having really tried, pushed, or pulled – everyone’s landscape will look a little different. Over a handful of years, it is hard to notice; over decades, it become more apparent, and we have to wonder how it all happened right before our eyes.
Who we are is part of defining what we are part of – a family. Some close, some distant, some for now and some for later – some for forgetting, and some for never forgetting what happened, who said what, and how we felt when we gathered to laugh and play.
There is something unique and defying accurate description about watching excited kids ripping packages open – their urge to play with everything new at the same time. It’s an ‘equality of all toys’ day because never again will they be equal. Soon, favorites will be chosen – and those memories will last – the remembering, years later, of what they got and who they got it from will be largely lost to time. On the other hand, some gifts, some people, and some words will stick with us all our lives.
Every year we make some memories – and leave some behind too. One lovely thing about getting older is that it seems easier to forget things we prefer not to remember while remembering some better than we ever did before.
To all those who have, as I did, an opportunity to spend time with family in recent days, it is time for pause – to realize there is never a good time to get old, or to feel old, but surely it is better than dying!
A year from now, another Christmas will have passed, and again we’ll be facing a new year; the choice to be younger, feel younger, and act younger can be a conscious one. A year from now, let’s all be a year younger rather than a year older.
If we can dream it, we can make it happen. Go to a gym, eat less, and sleep more. Eat better, live better.
And read more.
And write more.
And think more about all the above – that’s my plan.
What would Dickens write about Christmas 2019 if he were here? How would he see the people around our table, how would he bring us visions of Christmas past, of Christmas future – what roles do we all play in the morality drama we call family?
A year from now many families will have new faces around their table, the shape of family will change and merge or diverge; some tables will have fewer people around the table as blended families mix and match who goes where, and sadly some faces will be gone – and inevitably some new babies will have their first Christmas debut.