January 5. Five days into a new year and I’m still struggling with the culmination of the Christmas season. I wrestle with this emptiness every year. The more I put into the planning, the preparation, the surprises, and carrying out the traditions, the more I miss it when it’s over.
This time it has been particularly hard to let go of the past. It was the year of The Gathering. One week before Christmas, my six children and their families, totaling thirty-one in all, met for a family reunion. It was four days of blissful memory making as we baked, decorated, played, and laughed. The cousins, a year older since our last gathering, were once again best friends. My adult children shared stories of growing up together. This is one of my favorite activities as I am constantly learning about their antics and misadventures that I knew nothing about. Where was I when that happened?
All too soon, the months of planning culminate in our last evening together. Even though it was December 22, we celebrated it as Christmas Eve with the children acting out the Nativity and a special visit from St. Nicholas who left a surprise in each shoe. This custom from our German heritage usually occurs on December 6th, but it was delayed this year to accommodate our timetable.
Several of the families traveled to our home to spend the rest of the Christmas holidays together. Feeding and sleeping fourteen extra loved ones proved to be busy, yet glorious. I never know when this will happen again, so I treasure each moment, clinging to it like a child holding on to her mother’s leg. Time is an enemy when it goes by so fast.
So, here I am on January 5th, pulling wrinkled wrapping paper from under the furniture, throwing away leftovers that never got eaten, and wallowing in self-pity. How I miss the blur of intense activity, loudness, and tight hugs. I have no control over time moving forward, so I adapt by holding on to what I can.
Instead of putting away the festive decorations, I dust them and set them back in place. My neighbors have ceased turning on their Christmas lights, but I flip the switch every evening as dusk approaches. I allow my thoughts to wander and review past conversations, cherished moments with my grandchildren, and the recently shared miracles of the season. Time marches forward, but cannot erase the light and joy of the past.
Moving onward, I think about a new year, full of promise and countless possibilities. How can I fill each day of 2018 with meaning? Just as I planned and prepared for last month’s success, I am responsible to continue creating productive days, making the most of each precious moment. Instead of compiling a long list of resolutions, I’ve decided to focus on family and joy. My hope is to find the kind of happiness that fills one’s heart with peace; the peace that comes by serving others. I will take it one day at a time, grateful to be the author of my new year.