I wish I'd purchased an Advent calendar this year. When I was little, the wait for Christmas day was agonizing in time’s slow crawl, and each miniature paper door marked a step forward, progress made toward the bliss of ripping off the wrappings and ribbons masking the presents under the tree.
Mystery beckoned in rectangular boxes, those deep enough to hold a doll. Such packages were eyed with near lust, turned, treasured, and checked for heft. Long flat boxes that rustled when shaken were shoved aside. Probably clothes. But… maybe not. Nothing could be totally dismissed because one couldn’t really tell. That was part of the exquisite pleasure.
Sometimes I would lie on my stomach beneath our Christmas tree’s fragrant pine limbs, haloed by glowing multi-colored lights, my chin resting on my hands. While I yearned to know what lay concealed in the surrounding parcels, I also sought to transport myself to the scene captured in carved wooden figures in the crèche tucked at the tree’s base. I’d close my eyes and seek the chill of night under a black velvet sky in Bethlehem. I strove to conjure steaming breath puffed from soft nostrils, bristly camel fur, wide brown cow eyes fringed with dark lashes. The scent of hay and manure. Rough men drawing ragged robes tight over sinewy shoulders. And always, a radiance around a young mother holding her baby.
When Tucker and Casey were born, Dave and I regained the magic of the season. Santa resumed prominence on Christmas Eve, and now, decades later, so easily can I picture Tucker in red feet-pajamas and toddler Casey in a red flannel mop cap and nightie, both children dancing with excitement as they listened for sleigh bells. Oh, the anticipation in reading “The Night Before Christmas” and setting out Santa’s snacks! I still have the notes the kids’ wrote to him, their words spidery and crooked, haphazard on the page, with polite inquiries about Santa’s summer and sleigh ride, an invitation to cookies and milk, and the list of toy requests, lengthy enough to require parental help to transcribe them. The passage of days to that night were a joyful march of projects, seasonal stories, baking, loving secrets, and the glitter-bright promise of Advent calendar doors to open every morning.
Having marked the past four months with chemo infusions, completion of each treatment was cause for celebration, as sure as opening doors #1, 2, and 3. In My Grandfather’s Blessings, Rachel Naomi Remen writes of her grandfather’s belief that, “To be alive was to wait for the will of God to reveal itself. And one waited with curiosity. A sense of adventure.” A sense that the next day, behind the next door, might be…who knows? A doll? A puppet? New hair? A healthy body? How my wishes have changed!
At this point, I feel a giddy bubbling inside. I no longer have the chemo countdown, and ahead lies the return of energy, taste, enjoyment of food, my hair. By January, I should have about a half inch, by March, a pixie cut. Well, a sparse pixie cut. By May, my wig – for which I have been so grateful – will be relieved of duty.
Until then, there are presents to buy, the tree to decorate, parties to attend, the kids coming home. So many blessings, and I awake each day giving thanks for the potential it holds.
Next year, I am definitely getting an Advent calendar.
* Yet another note: This year, I have one, and it's a beauty!