“Where Are You, Christmas?” is a song written by James Horner, Mariah Carey and Wilbur Jennings. The video is a visual palate of awe-inspiring scenery, reminding me of my beautiful Colorado, and Faith Hill’s voice is smooth and rich, so these things together bind my heart and make my eyes tear up almost every single time I hear the song.
Tonight I made a couple of pies, the kind my daughter likes, even though she doesn’t live here anymore. Maybe part of the reason I made them was to put a piece of her spirit here. The pumpkin filled my senses, and combine that with my odd, but beautiful, Christmas tree with its lights twinkling and Christmas music filling my home, that alone was enough to bring tears to my eyes. It was bittersweet, because it was just me, drinking in the moment of time, space, and memories. Then came this song, and all sorts of things came swimming into my heart.
We all know what Christmas means, mostly, to us. Deep down, we all have the knowledge of what it represents. But Christmas means other things. At least, it does to me. And as life keeps advancing forward at a pace I’m not certain I can always keep a beat with, memories come flooding back to me when Christmases past seemed new and bright and life was in front of me, and I couldn’t wait to share it with my mom and dad.
“Where are you, Christmas? Why can’t I find you? Why have you gone away? Where is the laughter you used to bring me, why can’t I hear the music play?”
Christmas time was spending cold, winter nights at my grandmother’s house in Colorado, when the snow was deep and with every footstep, the snow crunched. I’d slip into my dad’s boots and walk across the back yard to the edge of where the yard met pasture, and listen to my own footsteps chew into the snow. The pond looked gigantic to me then, and when the moon shone bright it illuminated a world I had never seen shine so vast and bright. Once, my cousins and I went ice-skating on the pond. Once, I saw a red fox standing near its edge, when the snow was thin but strong. Christmas was Colorado, and all of its coldness wrapped up beneath the stars was my entire world.
I found Christmas in watching my grandmother make carrot cookies. The laughter was in my heart, because I was there with her, my most favorite place in the world. The music was a feeling of love and perfect trust.
“My world is changing, I’m rearranging, does that mean Christmas changes, too?”
Change is inevitable. It’s a part of life. And good or bad, I’m terrible at change…but I’m learning, and I’m trying.
There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”
Yes, my world is changing. My childhood days in Colorado’s winters turned to a few good years in my teenage years where I spent my summers reading books in trees and spending time with my cousin on dusty roads. Then my world changed again and two babies were born. And everyone knows that Christmas and children can be as magical as anything, and Christmas takes yet a new meaning when we see our toddlers smiling beneath Christmas lights. Nothing is perfect, but in the imperfection of life, my children made me believe in Santa Claus all over again, and the jolly man would go round and round the outside of the house on Christmas Eve, ringing bells that Rudolph wears, clinking and clanking, and joy was contagious.
“Where are you, Christmas? Do you remember the one you used to know? I’m not the same one…See what the time’s done…Is that why you have let me go?”
The bittersweet time I spent in Germany for a short while was magical. Perhaps, a little too magical. Neuschwanstein Castle is as idyllic as it looks, and to see a light dusting of snow frosted on its walls and windows, to see winter-red birds cluster together, gives the Christmas season a new meaning. German castles in the dead of winter bring longing to the spirit and a hope I thought was lost. Hope was suddenly found. I had everything good in front of me once more.
Somewhere along the way, did Christmas let me go?
“Christmas is here, everywhere. Christmas is here, if you care.”
The German streets really are made of cobblestone, and Christmas shops are entwined and laced together like vines in a forest. The Black Forest cuckoo clocks are as rich in sound as they are charming to the eye. Add a chill to the air, hot chocolate between cold hands, and stars falling down on old towns one only thought existed in story books, and the brew is intoxicating. Overwhelming. This is Christmas, the heart says. This is what it’s all about.
“Oh, I feel you Christmas…I know I’ve found you.”
Fast-forward a number of years. We marry, we move, we venture back to where we left. Children grow older, parents grow older. In the blink of an eye, as one might say, everything changes. You can’t even pinpoint when or how it happens, but it does. My mother no longer picks my children up from the day care down the road, because I was in school and unable to get away. Now, I go see my mom and I’m taking care of her. My dad will never get into his little white VW bug and pick my four year-old up from a birthday party in late December, ever again. He’ll never call me on the phone and tell me that he’ll take care of her, and for me not to worry. His little Bug always got through every snow storm, especially up in the Colorado mountains, so a little storm here is nothing.
God, I hate change.
And when I say I hate change I mean: God, I love you. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. But I hate change.
“Where are you, Christmas?”
Let me tell you where it is.
It is where I left it.
It’s in my grandmother’s house all those years ago. It’s there near the coal stove and it’s in her little kitchen nine at night, the time of night where you can still smell the remnants of dinner but new enough to enjoy the peaches and cream she dishes up on a cold, snow-falling-outside-night.
Christmas is in Germany, where the streets are cobblestone and the air is crisp and the world is seen through the proverbial rose-colored glasses. I think we all need to see the world through these glasses, at least once, by the way. If nothing else, it makes for a good memory at some point. Like today.
Where is Christmas?
It’s in my daughter’s eyes when she received a gift from Santa Claus I never thought the old man in the red suit could possibly afford. It’s in my son’s eyes when he got his Talking Airport, and everything was put together into the early morning hours in good ol’ Claus’s workshop in that Arizona town. God, what memories.
It’s what I call a plethora of memories.
Good and not-so-good.
Today, my heart is bittersweet because my heart remembers days that were so happy I was soaring higher than eagles and today my heart cried, remembering the days when I never thought I would see the sun rise again.
But it always rises. The sun always, always, always comes up again.
“Where are you, Christmas?”
I think a part of us longs for a simpler time, even if it’s just a piece of yesterday. And if we are lucky enough, we can travel there in our mind, in our heart, and everything we remembered is made new again because our heart remembers.
And there’s another truth. And the truth is this: New tomorrows are coming. We’re living in one right now. And that’s good. In fact, it’s amazing.
Another thought: I like my hot things hot, and my cold things cold.
I’m not into luke-warm tea, coffee, or food.
But sometimes we have to accept the luke-warmness of our lives. And that’s good. Because that means change is coming. Things are going to get hotter, and hotter, and hotter. Maybe even colder and colder and colder…and I readily admit to loving the cold. There’s a comfortable calmness wrapped around my shoulders when I think of ice and snow and rivers.
Right now, today, I want things to get colder. And I want them to get hotter. No more of this luke-warm stuff.
My dad used to tell me to be patient. He also told me not to eat so many sweets. I was five at the time. I’m still not patient, and I still eat way too many sweets.
So…back to Christmas.
“Where are you, Christmas?”
I found Christmas all over again today. It’s in memories. It’s the way I feel when I smell cinnamon and look at caramel apples. I found Christmas all over again today when I saw a little old lady selling her treasures at the side of a building. I found Christmas when I saw someone buy one of the treasures the lady sold, and how her arms held her just-bought treasure and she walked to her car with a smile on her face. I found Christmas today when I remembered, once again, to look up and say “Thank you!” After all, everything we have is a gift, after all.
I found Christmas today in a stranger’s smile and when I looked at a big old husky dog, my heart swelled. I found contentment in hearing my own hound howling today. I have eyes, I have ears, I have a roof over my head. I’m thankful.
Over two-thousand years ago a baby was born in a stable, and He was surrounded by some of the richest, most beautiful gifts one could ask for: the humble animals of cows, camels, sheep, goats, and the ever-faithful donkey and horse. And his parents loved him more than anything.
Where are you, Christmas?
Since I started writing about where Christmas was, I found it, all over again.
Things will always change. Change is inevitable. Good or bad, it will always happen.
“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”
Today, I choose to do my best to build windmills, and not walls.
“If there is love in your heart and your mind, you will feel like Christmas all the time.”
I wish I could say I felt like Christmas all the time. I try…I always leave a few Christmas ornaments up year-round, to help me remember. I don’t feel Christmas all the time.
Yet, In this season of Hope and Life and Change, I know that even though I’m rearranging, God doesn’t change.
“I feel you, Christmas. I know I’ve found you…the joy of Christmas stays here inside us.”
Thankfulness. Whole heart-ness, if that’s a word. Hope. Strength. Perseverance. Light. Creativity.
I want to keep all of these things with me in my pockets every single day of my life.
Our pockets can hold lots of things, and the light of Christmas tops the list, like a star on a tree.
My pockets are a cornucopia of thanksgiving.
I hear the music playing, and my heart has peace.
And that’s Christmas.