I will be the first to admit it. In constrast to my five Christmas-maniac sisters, I’m a Scrooge. I find December by far the most stressful month of the year, thanks to papers, finals, grading, parties, overflowing malls, cards, baking, jammed airports, stressed-out travelers, delayed and cancelled flights, and the short, gray days that inevitably kick my chronic depression into overdrive. When the holidays begin at Thannksgiving, I’m always irritable and grumpy about them. I let my husband decorate the tree, hang the stockings, put the wreath on the door, and play the Christmas music and tell him not to bother me with any of it until the semester ends. I’m not much of a shopper or a socializer under the best of circumstances, and I always spend the first weeks of December feeling too exhausted even to think about Christmas as I pull all-nighters writing papers I no longer care about and memorize paradigms and fantasize about watching Infomercials and reading nothing more challenging than soup cans. Every year I threaten to buy myself a Bah, Humbug T-shirt.
But the semester inevitably ends, the papers get written, the grades get submitted, the shopping gets done (oh, bless the Internet), and about this time of the season it always finally hits me. Last night my sister Melyngoch called me from Utah to figure out what on earth to give my husband, the most impossible man alive to shop for, and I could hear my sisters all talking and laughing in the background over Kiskilili’s gorgeous Renaissance Christmas music as they made fudge and something called “apricot surprise” for the neighbors. As I was rummaging through my husband’s closet to recommend sizes to Melyngoch, Kiskilili “sent” me some fudge through the wires. I told her it was pretty good, except for the slight taste of phone, just to hear that inimitable Kiskilili laugh. And I realized that in just a few days (we’re going to Utah after Christmas this year; airline prices were just too outrgeous) I’ll get to see my brother, his wife, my nephews, and all of my sisters, most of whom I haven’t seen since last Christmas, as well as one of my oldest and dearest friends, who lives in Salt Lake. There will be the gag gifts commemorating various legendary family events I sent with Melyngoch for stockings and all-night Settlers of Catan and Apples to Apples marathons, and Melyngoch will teach me anagrams again, and there will be all the usual memorable remarks from the nephews. (Last year as we all sat down to Christmas Eve dinner, everyone talking at once, as usual, the older one said to Lynnette, “I have an idea! Why don’t we have just one person at a time talk while everyone else listens?” You could tell he’d been to kindergarten that year.) Ziff will patiently explain his research to me without a trace of condescension, even when I still can’t remember what a regression is, and I’ll swap stories about our wards with my sister-in-law. Kiskilili and I will go on the long walks we went on last year, up into the hills overlooking Utah Valley, if the snow isn’t too deep. I’ll get to see Elbereth’s new apartment and watch some deliciously non-educational TV with Amalthea. We’ll celebrate Lynnette’s birthday at the beginning of January, and maybe go to a movie or two (last year the whole family went to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe which I couldn’t resist subjecting to a vigorous feminist deconstruction). And in the meantime, my husband and I will watch A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life and Christmas Story, make some cookies for the neighbors, and find a candlelight service to attend Christmas Eve.
Tonight I’ve got the meditative Christmas music on (“In the Bleak Midwinter,” “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”) and the lights on the tree. My husband is cheerfully installing tile in the upstairs bathroom (new tile for the bathroom is his combined birthday/Christmas present). In a little while I’ll go outside in the rain–not a flake of snow here–to see if I can catch a glimpse of the stars through the clouds and think about how abundant my life is, in the inexhaustible beauty of the earth and sky, in the languages, ideas, poetry, and music that bring me such fierce joy, in my irreplaceable family and friends, in my conviction of the Christian message, of God’s never-failing mercy and grace. All that I love most is infinite in Christ, who preached good tidings to the meek, who bound up the brokenhearted, who proclaimed liberty to the captives–and who was wounded for my transgressions, bruised for my iniquities, and with whose stripes I am healed.
On this holy night, let there be peace.
- 21 December 2006