Sunday, December 29, 2013

After Christmas Blues

"Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree, Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes--Some have gotten broken--and carrying them up to the attic. The holly and mistletoe must be taken down and burnt, And the children got ready for school. There are enough left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week--Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot, stayed up so late, attempted--quite unsuccessfully--To love all our relatives, and in general grossly overestimated our powers.

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"The streets are much narrower than  we remembered; we had forgotten the office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen the child, however dimly, however incredulously, The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all."
    --W.H. Auden, For the Time Being

We hear a lot of talk during this Christmas season about depression. With all the advertised joy many folk, going through a hard time, wonder what is wrong with them. There's nothing particularly wrong with them. Life has just been lousy and they don't feel much like celebrating.

We don't hear much talk about the After-Christmas blues.Tomorrow my kids leave for Philadelphia and Atlanta. The old house has shaken for days with laughter, movement, constant eating and catching up. Tomorrow the house will. be quiet. We will look around and see that the decorations are already beginning to sag. There will be some left-overs in the fridge--but we are just tired of Christmas food. In a day or two we will begin the hard task of taking all the Christmas decorations down and getting back to what we call normal.

And we'll miss the kids and even the dog. We will miss the stairs shaking as the teenagers came and went. We will miss the wonderful feeling of having everyone under the same roof. There is a comfort in that. It doesn't happen very often these days. We are too busy and too scattered.

One Christmas Eve I served Communion in the tiny church where I worked. It was a come and go affair. In the sanctuary only lit by candlelight and a tall Chrismon tree--people came to the altar one by one. "What shall we pray for?" I whispered. And after we prayed for family members, for health, for people they loved, for the war and many things, I held out the Bread and the Cup and said, "Remember." But in between their coming I sat on the front pew in the darkness. I don't do this very often. Just sat in the silence. And something good happened there without cell phone or text messages. I remembered faces of so many people I love. I thought of all those who had waded through a hard time and made it. Like a rosary, I thought of blessing after blessing that had come unreservedly to me this year. I hope that I can save those memories for the months to come.

I began this piece by those powerful words of W.H. Auden. Toward the end of that poem he wrote:

"Remembering the stabled where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an it."

So we take down the decorations and pack away all the vestiges of Christmas. Yet we can all hold on to some personal vision or promise. Days when the light came into a very troubled world and the darkness has never, ever been able to put it out. Even after all these years--even after all the terrible things that have come down the pike.

(I first published this piece when I began my blog in December, 2008. Of all the writings I have published since then--this is the favorite or many people.) 

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