Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas in a Box

I watch my kids play and sit in bewilderment at the things they do when they think no one is watching. Every Christmas when the tree comes out, my son grabs his action figures and plays on the branches with them like it was the only thing he desired to do in his entire life. I used to do strange things like that too. I still do sometimes. I still lay in front of a small heater with the window open, freezing my wife into frustration. I do it because it helps me fall into sleep, which is something I have always had trouble doing.

When I was a kid, I would lay in front of the heat register when everyone was sleeping and just stare at the tree twinkling despite anyone but me being awake. I would wait for the clanking sounds that the furnace would give off minutes before it would push hot air into the house. I remember the smell of the heat as it hit my face. If I didn't fall asleep by the time it gradually produced cooler air and turned off, I would wait for those noises again and feel real peace when I heard them. Those moments were mine. I would get up and play in the tree just like my son would. We had these little elves that we would put on the tree and I wanted nothing more every year than to play with them. All year, they would wait in that box until late November when they would become my muse. I like to think they are still on some tree right now and not in a box waiting for eternity. My mother bought me similar ones off of Ebay a few years ago when we couldn't figure out where the elves had gone. At Christmas, in my mind everything was crystal and the heat vent was my closest friend.

I played a stuffed bear in my church Christmas pageant when I was a very small child. I had a handful of lines that were aimed at making people laugh just because I was cute. I remember watching all of the costumes and old people sewing together last minute mistakes by the children. I remember the crowd smiling as if there was no violence going on in the world. There were little old ladies in grey and red blazers with poinsettia lapel pins and old men with pinstriped tweed slacks. They all called each other brother and sister and greeted with a hug for the women and a handshake for the men. After the play, we would all go deliver groceries with the Goodfellows of River Rouge to people that needed food on their doorsteps.

Christmas is one of those things that science cannot explain. It is every much an emotion as it is a calender holiday. Those emotions are driven mostly by our memories of the way we experienced this holiday as kids. I think that is why it is so perfect. As kids, most of us can only see the light, where no violence happens to us. So these memories bring back this feeling that is stored in a box all year and brought out just as strong as it ever was in us. Everything becomes crystal and beautiful again. It makes us remember that we are all the same and yet have such different experiences. No wonder why Christmas is the holiday that people most donate their time, money, and services to give to someone else. The absolute spirit of Jesus.

I hope that Heaven is a child's choir singing peace into the world, and recreating every precious memory we have ever had of something beautiful.