It's amazing how quickly the present becomes the past. How easily the current moments become the moments we wish we could relive again, and how little we notice as they pass in front of us. This year, I'm reminded of the importance of cherishing these soon-to-be-past moments and letting the simple things be enough. It sounds cheesy. Maybe it is. But it's true.
As winter spreads out its icy arms once again and hugs the world with wreaths and mangers and holly, the familiar sights, sounds and smells of the season churn up otherwise forgotten memories of Christmases past.
Suddenly I am seven years old again, and the air mattress in my grandparents' den is like a bed fit for a princess when I fall sleep with the anticipation of Christmas coming the next day. The clock tick lulls my sisters, cousins, and me to sleep, and the chime of every hour brings us closer to the excitement of the morning. We wake each other up earlier than the adults would prefer only to find that a ribbon across the doorway is deterring us from going to see Santa's bounty too soon.
Then I'm twelve, and colored pencils are the perfect instrument to write out my long awaited yearly Christmas play for the grandchildren to perform. I have been planning the script and writing the songs since October, and if I can only get everyone to do it my way, this will be the best Christmas play in the history of Christmas plays. With only a few fits and fights, we pull off yet another modern take on the Christmas story as written by the illustrious playwright, yours truly, and the adults even seem to enjoy it.
Soon I am fifteen, and my family is making a long road trip to visit my grandparents' home in small town, Kentucky. We arrive, and the snow capped roof tops around the town square make all the Roberts girls squeal with delight at the picturesque scene. When we reach the parsonage where Grandy and G-Daddy live, the warmth of the fire and the smells of Grandy's baked goods lure us inside where we find ourselves engulfed in the hugs of people we love and miss so dearly the rest of the year. My dad challenges me and my cousins to our traditional game of Monopoly, and we spend the days soaking up every minute of family time.
It is even somehow sweet to remember when I was sixteen, and I had jaw surgery just days before Christmas. My face was the size and shape of a basketball, and I could only eat liquid food. My mom put dressing and gravy in a blender, and it tasted like a feast. I felt happy for a moment until someone tried to take my picture and I yelled at them the best I could with an almost immovable mandible. Yes, even that Christmas brings a smile to my face now.
One more blink and I am 19. It's my sophomore year of college, and my (then) boyfriend Jeremy takes me on a day trip to Chattanooga to see a light display. We are eating Italian food by a roaring fire and a Christmas tree, and I can't stop thinking that this is the best date ever and hoping I get to spend my life with this guy, although he doesn't even know yet that I love him.
And now here I am--writing this blog and nearly crying with the fullness of all of these memories. The strangest thing is that I didn't even know they would be such important memories when they were only moments.
This Christmas season I will be living through lots of moments. Some will be magical even as they pass through my fingers, and others will need time to season them into something sweet. I pray I will savor the moments while still allowing them to pass freely. I can't hold on too tight, and I know that the Lord has a season for everything.
I spend a lot of time planning for how I will celebrate this season. I peruse pinterest for hours looking for the perfect Christmas tablescape. I plan a "to do" list of things that I hope will somehow make Christmas more complete.
But Christmas is simple. It's a king being born in a manger, for crying out loud. There were smelly animals who didn't use litter boxes, and they didn't even have Christmas cookies or anything. It's shepherds listening to the voices of angels to go see this baby in a barn. It's God's humble descent to earth. I love the holiday parties and the presents and the shopping and the Rockefeller tree and the hooplah, but the sweetest parts of Christmas are the simple things. I think simply capturing those moments as they pass and remembering the event those 2000 years ago that gave us a reason for those memories, is the only thing on the bucket list that really matters.