I am “taking down Christmas.”
This whole routine started a month ago, when I hauled all the red and green bins out of storage. The garland, the lights, the beloved ornaments all come out and I greet them as long lost friends. (Hello, 1975 Peace on Earth ornament! I had such high hopes for our marriage and the world when I bought that for our first Christmas.) The Christmas village and all its adorable cast of one inch characters, the Fontanini manger set. (Hello Little Drummer Boy! Hello Baby Jesus! I’ve missed you!) For days, I arrange, rearrange, trim and retrim, step back and rearrange again. It’s a loving, weeklong project.
Fast forward to January 3. All the stuff I lovingly took out gets stuffed back in the bins in a matter of hours. The garland, the little trees, the lights, the ornaments. A couple of cracked ones get tossed. And then the Fontanini. Back in the box. I can get this done quickly!
Wait! Christmas reminds us that our God is the God of Second Chances. Christmas is the beginning of a season of fresh starts. And this is my opportunity for a fresh start. So, I get a damp rag and get to work on Baby Jesus, Mother Mary, Joseph, the angel, shepherds, 3 kings, the innkeeper. Even the camels and the sheep get a light dusting before I carefully wrap them and tuck them away. Then I remember the broken stable. It has been broken since the year Bruce got leukemia. Seemed appropriate. Everything else broke that year, too.
I turn and head toward the garage in search of wood glue, some small nails or brads and the hammer. As I walk by the family room, I see the lit fire, a stack of books begging to be read, and Shaina working on a puzzle, an empty chair across from her. Just in case someone finds a few spare minutes…
I open the door to the garage. It is cold out there and I’m in my bare feet. I begin to think that there are worse things than a slightly crooked stable after all and turn back into the family room.
“But,” my brain reminds my heart, “you are in the middle of a fresh start!”
… Shaina gently takes the green puzzle piece that I have been holding for three minutes and, in one deft move, puts it in place in the puzzle, flashing me her most patient smile. She then hands me a piece that contains a horse body in need of its head.
I return her smile with a rueful one of my own, signing the word “thank you,” as I begin to look for a head. I will fix that stable next year.