Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Getting Ready for Christmas

Despite seriously good intentions, I have found myself making the final preparations for Christmas in a huge rush. I’m never quite sure how this happens. I make every effort to be the traditional domestic goddess, serenely offering up trays of cookies, the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger wafting from the kitchen, the house perfectly tidy and welcoming. The reality is sadly somewhat different. There are good smells wafting from the kitchen all right, but it is also full of dishes queuing up for the dishwasher as I struggle to get all the last minute cooking and baking done. There are unwrapped presents and wrapping paper in the living room, despite my best efforts to wrap as I buy. The washer and dryer are going non-stop and the ironing board is set up in the kitchen as I try to make a dent in the ironing monster that seemingly grew up overnight. Oh, and because I kept all the gifts in our guest room, I have not managed to get it ready for our guests, the first of which arrive on Monday.

I suppose I could use the weather as an excuse. We have had some appalling weather these last few days - well, appalling for us. It’s pretty every day for North America, but here in England there is a real refusal by city councils to accept that despite global warming our winters are getting colder and snowier, and that investment in ploughs, rock salt and grit would not be considered an extravagance by their constituents! Seriously, this is how much snow it takes to snow us in here in England.

Getting out in the car is nigh on impossible because so few of the roads have been ploughed, salted or gritted and even though some of the snow has melted, ice is making driving really hazardous. It took my husband six and a half hours to get home from work on Monday night. (It’s only thirty-five miles from his office to home!) Over two thousand people in our area alone were stranded and had to sleep in shelters. An American lady interviewed by Sky News in the airport the other evening pretty much summed it up. She got to the airport through nearly two feet of snow at home, and then got stuck at Luton Airport because of a few inches. I find it embarrassing. It makes us all look silly. It has also made last minute Christmas preparations a nightmare. Thankfully I arranged to have most of my groceries delivered yesterday by companies that use large vans with chains on their wheels. For everything else, I walked - from the store to the post office. I’m just hoping I don’t have to walk to the butcher tomorrow - it’s two miles away and I’m collecting an eighteen pound turkey, two-four pound cooked hams and a two pound pork pie! It should be okay as they are promising a thaw tomorrow, a good thing as we have to drive to my husband’s parent’s house nearly a hundred miles away. However, I’m really not ready for Christmas and it is making me feel frazzled and inadequate.

I amaze myself with how even I get caught up in the delusion of domestic divinity this time of year - an impossible vision of how I “should” be. Seriously, have you ever caught sight of the elusive domestic goddess except in the movies or in glossy magazine spreads? That’s because she truly does not exist. I love being a housewife, but I have to accept that it means embracing life in all its glorious imperfection and just doing the best I can. I cannot judge myself on how close I get to my vision of the “perfect” Christmas. It, like the domestic goddess, doesn’t exist.

When I think about it, a perfect Christmas for me would be just one more family Christmas with my Mom and Dad. I don’t care what we would eat or drink, or whether there were presents, or even if it snowed. Just to be with them for even a few hours one more time would be more than enough. I know so many other people feel the same way about people they have lost. So why am I, like so many other women, rushing round like a headless chicken today? We need to enjoy the people we have with us now, and not worry about the stuff that really does not matter. And if anyone gives us a hard time about something they perceive has made the day a tiny bit less than their vision of perfection, we need sit them down with a nice cup of tea (or even something a little stronger) and remind them that our time here on earth is short and it Really. Doesn’t. Matter.

Most of all, we need to take time out to remember the reason for this season. It wasn’t about luxury, or presents, or tables heaving with food. It was about a very frightened teenage girl, miles away from home with nowhere to stay, giving birth to her first child in a stable - a child who would change the universe forever.

“In a world of injustice, God once and for all tipped the scales in the favor of hope.” Max Lucado

Christmas is about the hope that child Jesus brought us then and still brings us today, about family and community, and most of all, about a Love so big it takes infinity to hold it.

Merry Christmas from my home to yours.