The longer I thought about writing a very special, very personal message in time for the holiday, the solstice, or the deepening darkness, the more anxious I became. I couldn’t think of a thing to say. I found myself trying to offer a message which could’ve found me back at square one: trying to post something that wasn’t all together genuine, that was forced and, as a result, against the values this space holds dear.
So, I didn’t.
And then I forgave myself.
Not for passing on the post, but for trying to force myself to offer something that meant well but fell short on sincerity.
In the few days since, I’ve had the time to reflect on just how I spent the last week or so and I find myself experiencing a renewed sense of peace. I enjoyed baking cookies - both old, ethnic favorites and new recipes - and the old ethnic ones tasted best. We didn’t decorate outdoors but hung an ancient red cellophane wreath with a candle in the center and the power cord long gone, unable to survive decades of being left in the un-insulated attic on Center Street. That old wreath is still my favorite and I can’t part with it.
I watered and dead-headed my flowers, fed the wildlife, walked through night-time streets lit by the moon, stars, and Christmas lights. Reflected on how we managed to make this time of year feel real, wrapped in the humid breezes off the gulf stream rather than woolies and heat from the furnace. Griping - just a bit - about the record high temperature of 87 degrees on Christmas day but thankful sub-freezing temperatures are no longer a part of our traditions.
And it dawned on me, slowly, that the reason why the ethnic food tastes best, why the old wreath sits in a place of honor, is that they allow me to experience a sense of connection with where I come from and integrate it with where I’ve landed. The traditional foods and customs from my childhood hold distinguished places in my adulthood because I hold a place in the march of my ancestors and continue the legacy given me by them. Quiet routines like making coffee after baking our Slavic nut rolls and still talking to my mother, who is now on the other side, about the price of the nuts and how fresh they were - all are personal treasures. I cherish those old, cardboard Christmas village houses, now paper-thin, even more so since I have to touch up the “snow” on the church steeple with baby powder to cover over years of rust-colored dust and the marks made by chubby children’s hands over time.
These are timeless traditions for me and this year, they quietly mingle with an elusive ability, newly acquired, if not to forgive the sins and omissions - real or imagined - of the past, then to at least get to a point of practicing forbearance toward them. The realization that I come from a long line of strong women, even if they didn’t show their strength in ways I might show my own, warms me. The ability to celebrate without the stress of hosting “expected” dinners for extended family brings joy and relaxation, both of which often went missing in years past.
The old recipes and the new. The well-used, well-loved Christmas village and the newer practice of decorating less in order to celebrate more. Young and old. New and used. All form and fill the vessel called Soul. The past to be blessed for whatever it brought; the present to be lived here and now, in the moment; a future that fills one with hope.
Each of which brings us all in connection with each other and can bring each of us to a place of grace and gratitude.
I wish you connection. I wish you grace. And I am so profoundly grateful for all of you.