A found poem
I’ve been thinking a lot about the changing shape of Christmas. No surprise there: this is a Christmas season like none other. This Christmas will be smaller, quieter, and much more contained, for reasons I hardly need to mention.
But with our children grown and our family living at distant points all over the West, Christmas has been reducing its dimensions for some time now. Every year, as I trim our tree — once a twenty-foot extravaganza, whittled gradually down to a 3-foot tree-let sparkling in a niche by the fireplace — I’m caught for a time in wistfulness for what was.
Those big, busy holidays were so full of life and energy and excitement. They were also full of stress, exhaustion, and usually at least one of us with a serious case of the sniffles. I sometimes felt like an event manager more than a mom, and there never seemed to be enough time.
I was recently scrolling through a file of pieces written and filed away, and unearthed this poem from about four years ago. I’d forgotten about it — but it seems to fit this Christmas season. I offer it to you with warm wishes.
In the Wake of Christmas
In time gone, when the big house filled
With children and food and the breath of relatives
Marking together the sparkling zenith of
Days and weeks set apart
All for the purpose of coiling a sense
Of urgency, of expectation,
Limned with brightness glowing or garish,
The annual yearning toward magic
And belief that it could be. So much to
Be done, I would start months ahead
Hoping to manage the spiraling build
Toward that one day
Gifts purchased and hidden, cards
Addressed and stamped, dates held
In reserve for parties and visits, school programs,
The ritual drive to witness the lights
Displayed to render sacred the ordinary.
The stakes were once so high
And inescapable, insistent music everywhere
A goad toward action
All effort mounting to the singularity
That swept each of us into our ordained spaces,
Hosts or guests, keepers of the feast,
Children with fevered eyes whirling in the midst.
Years remake us, advancing us to the spaces
Once taken by those we lose. Sons grown
To manhood, parents and lovers vanishing behind
Us, ourselves continually surprised
At what we’re becoming. Meanwhile, things
Calm down. We are satisfied with tokens, quiet days,
And the memory of breathless uproar, noting
How so much becomes simpler as mystery approaches.