Thursday, December 22, 2011

...there really is room in the inn

This world is wild as an old wives' tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

from The House of Christmas by G.K. Chesterton

My friend, Marsha, sent the photo of the driftwood, with this message:  “Christmas at St. Simons. Wish you were here. Just goes to show you that we Southerners truly will decorate just about anything! Love you and miss you.” We miss you, too. But you, my friend - indeed, all we are blessed to love - are with us.
Bill and I are spending a few days in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, at his grandparents’ beach house. The weather outside is, frankly, anything BUT frightful. Glorious, in fact. Warm, sunny...with none of the biting summer critters. The Gulf coast has been my “beach” for many years. Unless a hurricane approaches, the waves are gentle against the white “sugar” sand.  Beautiful. Here, the breakers of the Atlantic roll in noisily, one after another. I walk, then stop, stare at the water, walk some more. Bill doesn't call this exercise. But he understands.
We haven’t decorated anything here because we are in transient mode this Christmas. From here we will head north for a Christmas lunch with Miss Jean, Bill’s mom. A brief stop before we drive to Alabama for a reunion with Patrick, Leslie and Ciara. I will go into full-blown “Cece” mode for a few days and love on my grandbaby. She is, in her own words, “not a baby, just a girl.”  But when she wraps herself in her apres-bath hooded towel, she calls herself "Baby Ridinghood." After Tuscaloosa, we will begin our cross-country drive in “Dora the Explorer”, my 1997 Ford. 
After I quit blubbering, Adrienne’s post about rootedness percolated. I’ve moved many times in my life. Once, my house moved away from me in a storm. Stationary isn’t my middle name. If, as science speculates, life began in the sea, I must share some genes with the hermit crab. Just give me a shell. A port in the storm. Home is where love resides and I have found this to be quite portable. As a child, I could not have imagined Christmas alone. Yet, I have soloed several times. 
Who knows what next Christmas will bring? Or where? Rounding up scattered family is akin to herding cats. In this day of instant communication, we are never truly apart. I love it all: Skype, email, text messages (not while driving, please), FB. I even Tweet. Occasionally. Usually just to say I’ve published a blog. But I also love hugs. Hours perusing recipes followed by days in the kitchen. Long evenings at the dinner table with good food, great stories, lots of laughter. 
Next year, I will have located my angel for the tree, crystal garlands and ornaments, and the eight-hundred fairy lights that decorated my three-foot tree at the condo in Mountain Brook. It was visible on Google Earth. And we will decorate something. Tie a bow or two. 

This year, the marina provided us with proper send-off. A wreath on the dock gate. 

And the Wahoo, a large catamaran two fairways over, left no mast or rail unlit.

Meanwhile back at the beach house, I have plowed through my old journals. I found letters to Santa from my kids. Entries that track the years, the ups and downs. I thought of all my friends who now span continents. Some live where they were born and their holiday tradition is deep and rich. Some have large families: generations will gather this weekend in a riot of wrapping paper and rich food. Others will solo this year. 
Ah, family and friends. The “should’s” and “ought’s” of the non-existent “perfect” Christmas can blight the spirit: the gift that doesn’t fit, the turkey that fizzles, patience that crumbles in the face of super-charged offspring and generational guilt-tripping. Death and illness do not respect the calendar. We know too many who are grieving this Christmas.  
My parents didn’t get it all right. Neither did I. No one does. But I was loved and wanted. This trumps a litany of mistakes. My children, I hope, will come to see this in their own lives. And the next generation...and so on. Because this is the miracle. “The child must know,” Pablo Casals said, “that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.” 
Too many people have not heard this: “You are loved. Beloved.” But some tired, exhausted, not-getting-it-right folks will send a check to a shelter. With the best of intentions or maybe out of guilt. Who cares? Some child, some homeless person, some down-on-their-luck family will eat. For one day, they will eat a healthy meal because of that gift. Communion. You are loved. Beloved. A special thank you to all who work DAILY to provide a roof, a bed, a meal to those who have not. 

In the end, we are all family. 
A couple of snowbirds on the beach

If we care for each other, for this good earth, there is room in the inn for us all. 
If heaven isn’t now, perhaps it isn’t.

Our conversation is spent in talking
too much about the domestic,
too little in speaking our hearts;
too much about finances, 
too little about dust-covered dreams;
too much about laundry,
too little about cleaning temples within;
too much about going for groceries,
too little about food for our souls;
too much about earthly possessions,
too little about storing treasures in heaven;
too much chastising,
too little cherishing;
too much blame,
too few balloons.
Before it’s too late,
let’s speak of feelings that have been hidden
behind bank payments 
and orthodontic visits 
and the PTA

Before the music stops,
let’s speak our hearts
and laugh a star or two.

from Searching for Shalom by Anne Weems

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