This a guest blog from Barb Perry a fellow spiritual director with her thoughts on preparing for her first Christmas as a Grandma. Can you relate as a parent or grandparent?
I became a grandmother in July this year. A Gammy, to be exact. I’m a third generation Gammy. As I remember that moniker and think of Christmas, I know the bar is high. My mother and grandmother shaped my Christmases, and now, just a few days before my darling granddaughter Cora arrives at our house with my daughter and son-in-law, I aniticipate my path. What direction will this Christmas take?
I must admit I’m a bit unsettled at the moment. A friend’s death last week and another friend’s cancer’s reappearance has brought sadness to my days. Could this malaise open my heart to greater joy at the sight of darling Cora? I hold onto the hope that it will. The shortened days remind me that the solstice is coming and I’m grateful for the imminence of Christmas. We need the brightness of Christmas when the nights are so long.
As I wait, I keep busy by wrapping gifts, preparing the house and making soup, all quotidian tasks that calm my heart and occupy my mind in a gentle way. I’m preparing for the arrival of a baby 2000 years after Mary and Joseph readied their lives for the arrival of Jesus. Their example of honoring their babe will guide me.
My daughter loves Cora by spending all her days and nights with her. She feeds her, she sings to her, she bathes and dresses her. She takes her everywhere she goes. Cora’s dad’s life happens to be extremely busy with work these days and isn’t home much. He loves her by providing for her, taking naps with her on the couch on the weekends and delighting in her presence. When they come to stay with us for a week, they’ll break from their routine, settle into our house, spread out their stuff and share little Cora with us. How will I love Cora and her parents for the week of Christmas?
My preparations help me focus: get the house organized and make the beds, wrap presents, clean and cook, think about and make plans with family and friends so all can welcome Cora to her first Christmas. I’ve planned a brunch, a Christmas dinner and a game party to gather with family and friends. And what about my heart? How can I prepare my heart for this holy arrival? What do I hear as I still my soul for the busy time ahead? Clear the clutter of too much activity. Allow for open space and open time. Put a puzzle together, drink hot cider, dig out the Christmas music, dust off the guitar and sit down at the piano. Allow time to just sit around or get up and do yoga. I’m grateful for our spacious house, which gives us room to gather a crowd, sit for an intimate conversation or find a tucked-away corner to be alone.
As I ponder the week, I wonder what place Christmas morning will take. Cora’s great-grandmother knit her a stocking with her name on it. We’ll fill it with gifts and Cora won’t understand, but she’ll see us having fun opening presents from each other. She’ll reflect our joy. I sometimes worry that I put too much stock in Christmas morning. Every moment is important and it’s unrealistic to strive to have all of life like Christmas morning. I love it, it’s a magical time, sitting around surrounded by presents to and from the people I love most in the world, now including Cora. But this year I will remember those who are experiencing a less joyful day. I will think of those who have lost loved ones recently. I will think of my own father, who died this year, of my mother who made Christmas so special for me, and of my Gammy whose love I always felt.
Whether I consciously think of those sadder times on Christmas morning or not, I will have them in my heart. Cora will get passed around from the loving arms of her parents to those of Dadoo, her grandfather, and her Uncle Doug and back to me. Little Cora, surrounded by and filled with love. How grateful I am.