when i came into our den this morning, the light outside had a beautiful and golden, perfectly suited to the memories running through my mind the past several days. as christmas approaches, i think back to the christmases of my childhood, those perfect celebrations that the filter of the mind creates. i see myself with my many cousins in the home of our grandparents. wonderful smells float into the living room from the kitchen as the food is taken from the ovens and carried into the dining room. my uncle has his amazing home movie camera out, with its blinding light bar that causes us little ones to giggle and the adults to beg him to put it away. the tree is surrounded with presents, and the children want to hurry with the meal so we can begin unwrapping and playing with our new toys.
there is no hint of any unpleasantness in the memory of those glorious holidays of sixty or so years ago, but i know that those days were imperfect, just as our present celebrations are. there was one branch of the family that refused to conform to my grandmother's schedule, and every year there was a contest between my grandmother and them about when dinner would be eaten. the children whined about the delay in the dinner, because that meant a delay in the opening of presents. the other adults complained because the nonconforming group never came on time, despite the fact that the late-comers told my grandmother every year to start dinner without them because their own family plans made it impossible for them to arrive as early as my grandmother wanted them to. underlying every christmas of my childhood was this unnecessary animosity over who would control the christmas day schedule. then there were the snarky behind-the-back comments that some of the aunts made about others of the aunts, the political debates between my grandfather, an unabashed liberal, and my great-grandmother, a feisty little woman who disagreed with everything he said just because he said it.
those perfect christmases of my childhood were far from perfect, and the desire to control manifested itself then just as it does now. i am glad that my memory paints them in a golden glow, even though as an adult i know the petty arguments and resentments that were as much a part of them as the great joy we small cousins experienced. i hope that my family is creating happy memories for ourselves each christmas without the craving to control how the celebration happens.
may we remind ourselves that the perfect day never comes to pass, unless we give up the need to control each day. may we accept the day as it comes, grateful that we are alive to experience it. may we remember that our longing to impose our will, our insistence that events conform to our expectations, is a source of unneeded frustration. may we rejoice in the great gift of life. shalom.