I was on a holiday – a full holiday from work and a partial holiday from electronic devices. And now I have returned – with a celebration of all things advent-y and Christmas-y. I am thankful for:
– Advent candles; even in the middle of summer, the smell of a freshly-extinguished candle reminds me of an Advent wreath. The end of the Advent season got a little busy for my family, and for the first time I remember, we didn’t finish lighting all the candles. But we started out admirably and with a new (for us) concept. Instead of reading an Advent liturgy, we simply discussed the meaning of the words associated with each candle: hope, peace, joy, love. We often stayed late around the kitchen table on a Sunday night talking about our own experiences, understandings, and questions.
– an email from my Hungarian-Ukrainian friend Ildiko with an update from her family. The email itself came as a great surprise – Ildiko’s family does not have email nor access to the internet; I had not expect to hear much from them and despaired of a letter ever getting past the crazy Ukrainian post offices. However, Ildiko was able to borrow both the computer and email address from a neighbor. Her short Hungarian phrases were easy for me to read and full of love and care; I read that email several times and imagined the people and places it came from. I didn’t realize how disconnected I had felt from my life in Transcarpathia until I got that email and felt the rush of warmth (and tears) that accompanied it.
– the Advent season’s defiance of one definitive emotional space. We celebrate hope and peace and joy and love as we light each candle, but we are not required to feel those things, just to acknowledge them. In Advent we do not pretend to have arrived anywhere, or even to be sure that we are going somewhere. Of course we know that, liturgically, Christmas comes next, but Advent gives us plenty of space to wait and lament and fume and marvel. Christmas may be a season we associate with coming home and settling in with family, but Advent shares the same root as adventure, adventitious, venture, avenue, invent … it is a word of movement, of restlessness, of not-yet-arriving. Advent is the only season I know that takes discontent and holds it until it finally grows into something else.
– Christmas music, even the cheesy kind like Manheim Steamroller – as Mama and I always say, the Christmas season is perfectly adapted to cheese.
– Game nights with the fami-lami-ly; my favorites include long, late nights trying to memorize the capitals of all the Asian countries and the pictionary-telephone game that started with a minister serving communion and ended with a dancing goul perparing breakfast.
– Car rides + books on cd, especially Harry Potter. My sister the Bird and I, having listened to said cd during said car ride, have effectively addicted Mama to Harry Potter.
– sand castles and leaf flags; my brother Mr. Gershwin, the Bird, and I had grand sand castle dreams and labored long to bring them into fruition. The contrast between that golden leaf and that vibrant aqua sea kept calling me back again and again into wonder and praise.