The Ghost of Christmas Present: Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow. . . . .

The weather outside is frightful.

And. . it really is or isn’t. . .depending on your point of view.  Winter this year in Northern Virginia has been amazing.  Maybe karma realizes that so many of us have recently moved here from warmer climes, that she is taking it easy on us this year.  I really like being able to walk the kids to school in the morning without having to worry about coats, hats and gloves.

But tonight, frightful is best described as very wet and rainy.  The precipitation matches my mood. . . .a bit dark, fairly dreary. .  .downcast.  Agreeably, it is Christmas and I am grateful.  Believe me, I am grateful.  But I am waiting. . . . .

The recent visit from the Ghosts of Christmases Past has been exhausting.  Which, under the circumstances, is really not that bad.  For every year, as long as I can remember, the weeks leading up to Christmas were a fantasy dash through a lengthy to-do list that began with writing finals and ended with writing syllabi for the following semester.  Over the years, I would use the few days between finishing grades and Christmas to push everything out the door. . . . .tree up, let’s see. . . tree up. . . . I am beginning to feel like the GOP candidate who can’t remember the third agency he would cut.  What this really means is that, for as long as I can remember, getting the tree up was usually the one task that I could ever adequately accomplish during Christmas.  Presents for friends, usually a hit or miss. . . one year, I might . . .three years, I might not.  The once hand-created Christmas cards for 300 have now been replaced with an order to Tinyprints and a typed letter. 

Standing in the rain, I see that I have been joined by the Ghost of Christmas Present.  If the chicks from the past serenaded me with calls to wake me up when December ends, this peaceful presence gives voice to the Beatles’ Let It Be.

Let it Snow. . .Let it Be. . . 

“How are you?” her voice is kind.  I shiver and fail to answer.

Once again, she asks, “How are you?”  I have no answer.  There are no answers. 

She watches me warily and leans back against the wall.  Surprisingly, unlike what you see on television, ghosts don’t necessarily just seep through walls.  This one just stands there waiting for me to answer her.   When I don’t, she takes my hand.  Holding it for just a moment, she is determined. 

But I am very stubborn, very strong and very resilient.  I can outwait her patience. 

“I don’t have to answer you,” I tell her defiantly.  She laughs. . . .”well, of course, you don’t.  It’s why I am here.  Come on.”

 Let it Be. . . .whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

The lights shine throughout the house.  Every television in the house is turned on.  If it is at all possible, every outlet throughout this place is running electricity into some product, appliance, or device.  There are five Christmas trees of varying sizes, garland is hung everywhere and I see that I have even managed to place outdoor decorations around the front of the house.  We are prepped for Christmas.

Or, at least, I like to think that we are. 

“Lovely, isn’t it,” she asks me. 

All I can see is what isn’t done.  The presents, while purchased and currently residing at Stealth Santa’s house a few blocks away, are not wrapped.  The trees are up, but the big one, the one with all of the special ornaments is incomplete.  I keep intending to create the Christmas card, but something always diverts me.  In other words, it isn’t enough.  I haven’t done enough.  Overwhelmed is all that is left.

The Let it Be chick acknowledges all of this.  She reminds me of the time in graduate school when, seeking solace from my priest, he told me that I needed to be mindful.  To be present.  To stop living in the future.  Reminding me of the previous night’s visitors, she points out that living in the past will not do too much for you, either. 

“Stop,” she advises, “stop and look at what you have done.”

I look at Elle.  Eight years old and already worried about getting into the right high school.  Life is tough when your mom is a Tiger Mom.  But, she is so very happy.   A couple of months ago, Elle told me that she needed to have a serious discussion with me.  Watching her eyes fill with tears, we sat on the bed together while she asked me if Santa was real.  Not in the mood that day to deal in flights of fancy, I asked her if she was ready for the truth.  As the tears dribbled down her skinny face, she told me that she had to know.  No, I told her then, Santa is really mommy and daddy.  Her reaction is visceral.  She drops the questions for awhile.

Now, in December, she has announced that she is willing to suspend belief for just one more year.  She writes her letter to Santa and makes pretty pictures to entice him to fill each request.  She tells me that this year, we will not be leaving cookies for Santa, though.  We are going with carrots for the reindeer.  You know, she tells me, because sometimes it is fun to be different.

Yes, I tell the current visitor. . . .she is growing up. 

Let It Be chick takes me into the front room. . .the room for which we still don’t have a name.  It had, in the beginning, been where we had located the bar, but it overwhelmed me when I walked through the door, the furniture too big, too much for the small room.  I moved it all out and brought in smaller pieces. . . this is where the Nativity has been laid this year.

“Look at what she has done,” she says, pointing to the nativity.  Because of where I have placed it this year, I have to kneel down to see where she is pointing.  The Baby Jesus figure is missing from the manger.  I remember that Elle had moved the Baby Jesus earlier this week to another location in the room.  Looking across the carpet, I see that she has taken the small caramel-colored ceramic figure and placed it in front of one of my Christmas decorations, a small wooden block with the word “HOPE” spelled in block metal letters.  I want this to be like it is at church, Elle tells me when she makes this move.  Raising one eyebrow (to the best of my ability) in a silent request for clarification, she tells me that the manger is empty until Christmas morning.    

“See?”  Christmas Present Ghost asks.  “You are helping her soul to grow up, too.”  Suddenly, the unbaked cookies do not feel like such a big deal.

I take a deep breath. . . and we turn to see Jack.

For the past six months, Jack has watched every Christmas movie, on television, youtube, or dvd.  I have, approximately, seen The Polar Express well over 300 times this past month alone, I can recite the script to Frosty the Snowman and, probably most exciting, is that I have listened to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in more languages than I probably ever knew existed.  That youtube thing is really amazing.

Two months shy of his 10th birthday and Jack has put together the puzzle:  Christmas, trees, Santa, presents, Rudolph, snow.  We have had a Christmas tree up in the playroom since the middle of October.  He gave me his list of toys a month ago.  Just last week, he decided that if the weather wouldn’t cooperate, he would create his own snowstorm.  Amazing how much one piece of styrofoam can remain after it has been decimated.  Everyday, I vacuum.  Everyday there is more styrofoam to clean up. 

“This is the year that he has blossomed,” my guest whispers.  Watching him collect his toys and place them around the still unfinished Christmas tree, I nod.  This has been the year, his year.  We have used the concrete aspects of Christmas to teach Jack so many things this year.  Christmas has been a motivator, a reinforcer, a reward.  We have used it to help him figure out calendars, learn the days of the weeks, work on his patience.  If he isn’t quite ready for the abstraction that is the true meaning of Christmas, I am ok with that.  I look over at the Thief that resides in my house and, for once, I cut him some slack.  Autism:  the gift that keeps on giving.

I look across my studio and see that Jack has fallen asleep outside my door on the floor.  Two more days, I told him earlier.  No more school for awhile.  His anticipation has finally worn him out.  Wearing the same night clothes that he has used to act out a character in one of his many holiday movies, his fedora next to his face, he is racked out. 

My Ghost of Christmas Present leans over and lightly brushes my cheek with a kiss.  You did so well, she tells me.  These are such happy children.  From the other room, I hear Elle singing “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. . . .”

She’s gone, the visitor from the present.  Next to me, my IPod lets Paul sing. . . .”there will be an answer, let it be.”

I love my journey.




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