During these last days of Christmas, I find myself taking down and taking stock.
Paul took down our Scandinavian wood candelabra from the window sills. Now over 30 years old, Paul must coddle the candelabras’ little, irreplaceable bulbs that provide such warm and cheerful light during the darkest days of winter. Two or three of our candelabra no longer make it to a window; they are retired to serve as bulb donors for the others.
Each year since the Internet’s inception, Paul has tried to track down replacement bulbs. Last night he had success, finally finding the manufacturer online. The model numbers on the box are no longer meaningful, so Paul has scanned and photographed, sending as much information as he can to a helpful Swedish employee. If we end up with replacement bulbs, it will be a wee Christmas-Epiphany miracle.
Paul also dealt with the Christmas tree, which is not the job it has been in the past, when dozens of ornaments and hundreds of lights adorned a hit-the-ceiling tree. We now have a cute table-top tree that stays decorated from one Christmas to another. I realize that, in a real and good way, I’ve changed my relationship to, and expectations of, a Christmas tree.
Some of our nativities are displayed all year round: the Palestinian nativity that places the Magi on the wrong side of the separation wall stays on a bookshelf; the African nativity tableau burnt on half of a gourd stays remains on a wall; the single-piece carved nativity, an unexpected gift from an ELCA missionary in China, has a place on a dresser.
It’s my job to put away the seasonal creches. For example, there’s our Slovak nativity carved from rosewood. I love that the baby Jesus has outstretched arms. Who can resist a baby’s invitation to relationship? I also put away the large, paper-mache figures of Mary holding the baby, Joseph and the three magi. I was a little girl when my dad purchased this set on an after-Christmas sale and its display heralds “Christmas,” to me.
There’s the wooden puzzle nativity that my mom purchased at a church Christmas bazaar and gave to Paul and me the Christmas I was “great with child.” It’s surprisingly tricky to reassemble for storage.
Three years ago, our darling Nicole (Xiao) could join us for Christmas. It’s an awesome experience to tell the Christmas story to someone who doesn’t know it religiously or culturally. Annie narrated as Nicole helped set up the nativities. “We hide the baby Jesus until Christmas Eve,” Annie explained. “We put the three kings off to the side; on Epiphany they bring gifts to Jesus.”
In the take-down process I found a bin filled with Christmas gifts: little treasures purchased on trips or on sale and quirky items saved for White Elephant exchanges. Sorting through the bin felt a little like an archaeological dig, discovering artifacts from the past. In a real and good way, I realize that I’ve changed my relationship to, and expectations of, a Christmas gifts.
Taking down and taking stock, I realize that while the decorations are the same, in a real and good way, I am different.
–Sue Edison-Swift (1/4/2011)