I love the way language changes and adapts and especially the way kids use it in new and unique ways. For example the new phrase is: “Tell me you’re old without telling me you’re old.” To do that I would show you my knee that’s swollen to the size of a grapefruit after one measly game of kickball.
The other phrase I’m fond of is the answer to almost any question phrased this way: “How old were you when you learned XYZ?” “I was today-years-old.” Somehow it conveys the shock of learning something that in retrospect, seems patently obvious. I had one of those experiences last night.
Let me start by saying it has been a wonderful Christmas from beginning to end. My brothers-in-law are extraordinary in their generosity of spirit. They come to Charlotte each Christmas from near and far, at great expense when you consider travel and also hotels. They all know that too much togetherness would not be a good thing.
Even though they have full lives in other cities and states, they always come to Charlotte. It made sense when their mother was still alive, but even after she passed away they continue to make the trek, something Paul and I are extremely grateful for.
I was an only child for the most part. (I have half-siblings, but they are much older.) We always had great Christmases though. My mom made sure they were fun and special, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. In fact, because of an intricate little dance with scheduling, we still enjoy a quieter Christmas with my own family and then the full-throttle Christmas that is Paul’s family.
So this year when Paul’s brothers arrived, we embarked on days of fun (kickball, softball, ice-skating), hours of sitting around the table talking and laughing after lots of feasting. We have told stories from the past and stories that have happened since we were last together. There have been practical jokes and teasing.
Last night after they left to go back to their hotel, we were all dragging our weary selves to bed, and I stepped out the front door to turn off the outside lights. I was immediately enveloped in the silence. The stars and moon were shining above, but there was no other movement or sound.
The full force of Silent Night, Holy Night hit me. It was true. “All is calm; all is bright.” For one brief, precious moment, I was surrounded by that profoundness that is the meaning of Christmas.
The moment made me think of the hope that Christmas brings. Sure, we hear about love, joy, and peace that the holiday is supposed to bring, whether in all actuality it does, but it also brings a little, at the very least, anxiety and certainly a level of exhaustion. We have a picture in our mind’s eye of what Christmas should look like, and we rarely get it right. But I’m beginning to think it doesn’t matter how close to ideal we get, it’s the hope for the future, the hope that we can DO better, BE better. The hope for a better year to come.
I have been to Christmas Eve services; I have left sanctuaries by candlelight singing quietly “sleep in heavenly peace”; I have felt the solemnity of the night, but I really was “today-years-old” when I truly experienced Silent Night, Holy Night.