Sunday, December 5, 2010

Merry Christmas, Jukie

‘Tis the season of gratitude and giving, and as always, I am loving every aspect of the winter holidays.

I was raised a Preacher’s Kid. In fact, I’m a PK two times over! (This is a subject for another entry -- trust me.) I will say that perhaps the one great part of growing up a PK was our living the magic of Christmas every year. Christmas surrounded us and sustained us for the entire month of December.

Now that I’m grown, I still start Christmas early. On Thanksgiving evening, I start playing all of the traditional carols, singing the harmonies that I learned in high school choir. I recall the many concerts my friends and I performed (as far away as Japan), and I remember that I was known for my tears on stage because I couldn’t help but cry through the performances; the music was just too beautiful.

My kids know that we (Mommy) must hang the Christmas lights on the house the day after Thanksgiving. Rain or shine – those lights go up. Driving around town in the evenings the kids “oooh” and “ahhh” from the back seat, marveling at the impressive light displays, while I bask in the feeling of connectedness that we all seem to share during the holidays. Menorahs are lit. Occasionally, we even see peace signs light some windows. Hooray! I have to fight the urge to knock on the door and give the peace-lighted people a hug. That’s just how silly I get this time of year. Fortunately my 13-year-old daughter would never let me do such a thing.

On my quest to create a magical holiday for the kids, I collect small items for Geneva and Truman’s wooden Advent calendars throughout the year. Each morning, they race downstairs to find what I have put in their little boxes while they were sleeping. (Silly bands, Matchbox cars, and Toy Story undies have been hits this year.) I may enjoy this activity even more than the kids do.

Davis, California is a wonderful place to raise children, an affirmation which never feels truer than during the first weekend of December. The Davis Art Center holds its annual holiday sale, which is guaranteed to be jam-packed with Davisites sipping hot cider while perusing the many fabulous wares made by local artisans, and catching up with all the friends they encounter. We look forward to this event all year long. Also held early in December is the annual tree-lighting parade. Families line up early outside of our natural foods co-op, gathering candles and glow sticks. Then the UC Davis Marching Band-uh leads us to the tree to be lit, with Santa sitting nearby. Walking slowly with my husband and kids, all of us in candlelight, seeing the shopkeepers on their doorstops watching us parade past their stores, I discover yet another opportunity to fight back tears. I think about the year we’ve had, and the feeling of community I feel with my family and friends in Davis. I see the wonderment in my five-year-old son Truman’s eyes, and I can’t help but cry.

And if it seems that Jukie is missing from all of the above, he is not. He walks with us (sans candle) in the parade. He chows on popcorn at the Varsity, watching the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas! He jumps around to the music in our house. As with just about everything, Jukie kind of has his own, unique take on the holiday season. I could feel wistful that Jukie doesn’t have an Advent calendar. But he wouldn’t want one (except maybe to rip the doors off, or eat the little pine cones). But I don’t feel bad that Jukie may miss some of our experiences of Christmas because he quite happily enjoys the holidays -- probably even more than the rest of us. Honestly, I envy the simple joy Jukie finds in the Season, and I learn a lot from his quiet peaceful absorption of the events around him. While many of us are running around checking off our to-do lists and feeling overwhelmed, Jukie gives us the gift of reminding ourselves to slow down and see life through his more patient eyes. As I returned home the other night, about an hour after Jukie’s bedtime, I pulled into the driveway and looked up to find Jukie sitting in his windowsill. He was looking out from his darkened bedroom at all of our neighbors’ Christmas lights. I did not chastise him for staying up past his bedtime. Instead, I went into his room and sat with him for a while, looking with him at all of the lights. After a few minutes, he looked at me, gave me a smile and climbed into his bed. I tucked him in, kissed his cheek and whispered, “Merry Christmas, Jukie.”