Thursday, December 06, 2007

Broken Advent

My children and I have been enjoying a nightly Advent devotional with its paper & sticker advent wreath, lighting a real purple candle on our circular metal frame (which we still have to decorate with real greens from our backyard), then popping one small chocolate from their advent calendars before bedtime. This is something I did not grow up doing--ushering in the birth of Christ for 25 anticipatory days of prayer and devotion. Sure, we had the chocolate calendar, as my sister reminded me--so opening these daily boxes with my children is nostalgic--especially since the Trader Joe's versions we purchased this year are decorated with retro artwork.

But Tom isn't here, so our hearts miss him.

We put our chili lights up for him tonight--he would appreciate the slight dips in each window, visible to all passers-by. He was here to assemble the tree, but the children helped me decorate it. We did share the first Sunday service and couple nights of Advent together, though, and he read the prayers & scripture for our family. So, even though we are without him now, he has, thankfully, been at least a part of this season with us. We still have next weekend and Christmas week to look forward to, thankfully.

But, look--see that countdown on the margin of my blog? December 25th is coming far too soon! I am NOT ready--materially or spiritually. I come, tonight, broken. The past eight months have worn me down and I do not know how to approach the manger except tearfully. I look at that vulnerable naked baby in a harsh and cold environment and imagine--my salvation lies in that level of intimate reality. Yes, baby Jesus grew into a strong and capable man...he endured more than I can ever imagine in his final hours--but in his first minutes, he was just like you, and just like me on our first day of life--naked.

Two years ago, today, was my daughter's first day. December 6th, 2005. Hers was a swift delivery--torturous for me, but, of course, full of joy afterwards. She popped into this world so immediately that I am still shaking my head with wonder at my mere 35 minutes of hard labor. She has been a wonder, since her first moments sucking air. Aware, conscious, beautiful. So many people who met Teagan as an infant found themselves in awe at her wide open eyes, her peaceful expressions and her silence. We all remarked that she was like a bird, even cooing into our ears.

Today, as her brother threw a four-year-old temper tantrum, she squatted beside him and simply watched. Then she joined in sympathetic whining. Then she touched him. I am certain she has gifts of mercy and grace. She is a helper--so tender-hearted and sweet.

But I have slapped her hand a couple times in the past six days, because she cannot stop playing with the ornaments on the tree. We have gone over this rule with both children time over time this week: "These are ornaments, not toys," after which she smiles at me and confidently says, "OK." But, still, she climbs the couch and reaches for the fragile out-of-reach forbidden trinkets.

I let Teagan decorate the bottom of the tree, handing her only those symbols of the season which I was not afraid would be broken. She got to put cloth hearts across a couple boughs, some crocheted snowflakes wherever she desired, a hand-sewn flannel snowman beside the others, and so on. I gave her a couple jingle bells, strung only by one ribbon a piece. She was happy loading the low branches each with five or six ornaments. Now, however, in six days of Advent, she has broken at least six ornaments!

If we continue at this pace then I shall have to say goodbye to 25 ornaments by Christmas morn--something I'm really not willing to do. Some are so very precious to me--like this one, unfortunately...

When Tom & I first moved to Virginia Beach in 2000 we used money from his parents for our 5th anniversary to buy ourselves a pet--her name was Cocoa, and she was a short-haired guinea pig--the funniest little creature I've ever held. She had an amazing personality & loved hopping in outbursts in her happiness. It's a cavy thing.

After a while we could see that Cocoa was missing the presence of other piggies in her life, so we got her a friend from the SPCA and named that dark-haired swirly wonder Coffee. Finally, we were addicted to our new life as GP-slaves (as the ring of cavy owners like to refer to themselves), and introduced Cocoa & Coffee to their new sister, Hazelnut, a runt.

Hazey was a lot like Teagan--she wanted to appeal to her sisters--she loved them and wanted to be near them even though Boss Pig, Cocoa, often shunned her (as Logan does Teagan). But Hazey eventually became my favorite. I advocated for her with Cocoa as our middle piggie, Coffee, tried to stay out of the fighting. Funny. We loved those girls. The older girls were with us for a while until we had Lo-Lo, but our little teeny Hazelnut died in my arms on the way to the vet within a year. Christmas, 2001, she hadn't been gone long, and I saw these three reindeer ornaments at Hallmark. Something about the movement of each deer, the expressions on each face...they seemed to epitomize our girls. So, I gave each a matching name & hung them on the tree. Under the belly of this now-broken one (I think I can Superglue her leg...), I wrote, In memory of Hazelnut, d. 10/19/01.

I buried her in my grandparents' backyard, left her photo there as well, and surrounded her gravesite with a little gardening wire.

So, when I found this little ceramic leg on the floor today I was sentimental, and wondered, how can I keep the children from the tree!? Tom suggested hanging the tree upside-down, as many small-home-dwellers do these days. I don't care what has to be moved around in my house, upside-down trees seem sacrilegious somehow! So, it's a new thing to think about--I'd prefer to not have to repair or discard 25 ornaments in 2007.

Next to-do: Plan how to save the tree!


Jen S. said...

You might want to try one of those corral-type baby gates. They used one on "Jon and Kate Plus 8", a reality show about a couple with 6 year old twins and 3 year old sextuplets. (Say it with me...YIKES!) Anyway, it seemed to work for them. They put all the presents behind the gate too, so it kept the kids away from the tree and presents at the same time. Those gates aren't the prettiest thing in the world, but maybe you can hang some ribbon on it and make it a festive holiday baby gate!

ModMomMuse said...

I have thought about that, but there isn't an easy (or inexpensive) way to gate this area--the tree is between a coffee table and the couch--there isn't a wall to press a gate against...I have a great gate, collapsible and adjustable...but it definitely won't set up there. Thanks for your offering! ;-D Merry Christmas to y'all!