Monday, December 1, 2008

On the First Day of Advent

Last year I didn't get to live the holiday season the way I wanted to experience it. I was carrying a baby that was not meant to live in this world and my body was overridden with the naseua that is mislabeled as morning sickness. My Christmas tree didn't have a single ornament hanging from its branches. I didn't bake any holiday cookies. I didn't go Christmas shopping with my brothers and Ashley. I didn't attend the annual Christmas Carol Festival at my church.

This holiday season brings its own challenges, but this December I want to experience Advent in all of its splendor. I want to play in the snow with my boys. I want to sled down the hill a dozen times before 2008 comes to a close. I want to attend church services and close my eyes and feel the music inside the part of me that I don't fully understand. I want to bake a dozen holiday recipes and wander through the mall with my family and hang a memory on every single branch of the pine-scented tree. I want to honor old traditions and make new ones. I want to sit in front of the Christmas tree, in front of my favorite chair and think about Mary must have felt, holding the newborn promised child in her arms, looking into her baby's eyes the way I did with my sons. I want Advent to be really special, the way God meant it to be.

We began the first day of December with a Lego Advent calendar, which is not connected meaningfully to Jesus' birth, but it sure has meaning for Max and Mitchie. Their eyes sparkled as they decided who would open the first tiny door in the box containing twenty-four small Lego models. Max won the chance to open today's miniature holiday figure made of bricks, assuring Mitchell and me, "I counted it out in bed this morning. If I open the first one, Mitchell will get to do the last one. That's fair." Max opted to create his own figure out of the dozen small bricks that were inside the tiny bag. We bought the calendar at a post-holiday clearance sale at the Mall of America (which until earlier this year Max thought was actually known as Mall of Come-erica).

The boys played outside for an hour this afternoon, with me watching carefully from the foyer as I swept the floor, put away music class instruments, threw at least six pairs of shoes in the closet, and sorted through accumulated mail, asking them every five minutes, "Are you sure you're staying warm?" I was too grateful for words to hear them playing so well together, building a snow fort, and not fighting. When they came inside, they opted for Brownie Bowls instead of the hot cocoa that never gets finished after the marshmallows have been cherry-picked out of the mug. Betty Crocker, bless your soul!

Before dinner, Max and I hung ornaments on the tree that we had cut down the previous day at the tree farm. Mitchell informed us, "I'm not into decorating. I'm into playing," as he continued another chapter in the daily adventures he masterminds for his "guys." He did manage to hang a handful of ornaments in between battles and mini-dramas. Max and I finished the package of 150 hooks before Max's attention span also waned. The tree looks beautiful, with its twinkling miniature white lights and bubbling 1950's-style candles, but both of us long for the tree we had two years ago, which was the fattest -- we never use that word in our family -- Christmas tree I have EVER seen in my life. We searched the far corners of Choose and Cut Fraser Firs in hopes of finding a replica of that evergreen. This seven-and-a-half footer can't hold all of our mismatched ornaments and collected memories.

Our Advent plans continued at bedtime, when we shared our evening devotion -- When Jesus Comes Again in the Clouds, based on several chapters from the book of Revelations; read a holiday story -- Trouble with Trolls by Jan Brett, one of our favorites -- and sang a Christmas song. Max picked his favorite holiday melody, Deck the Halls, and we sang two verses before the boys were ready to close their eyes.