But we are only coming up on the first season. And I've been reading the advice to the newly bereaved: Stay out of the stores. Cut back on the decorations and other household traditions. Know that everything will remind you of everything. Go away.
The Lovely Daughter is coming home for Thanksgiving, something she did not do during her first three years of college, and we are going to the Quiet Husband's parents' home for a day or two. Gregarious Son announced that he and his sister had vetoed what he described as "a pathetic dinner at home with the four of us and a microwaved turkey." "Forget the turkey," I said. "Our point exactly," he responded."
And then comes Christmas. For awhile I was loathe to abandon our 20-plus year tradition of hosting many of our friends for a sit-down feast and conversation late into the evening, but the same son pointed out that I am only just now up to a dinner out on occasion. And then the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I do not want to be here at all. Christmas has long been a time of deep religious significance for me, but memories of the last 24 of them are completely intertwined with joyful memories of our children, and many of those memories are specific and individual to Chicago Son.
What to do? Where to go? Where can we flee from Christmas? Pakistan? offered the Quiet Husband. Baghdad? suggested a friend.
Of course, one cannot flee from Christmas. One cannot flee. One can run away from the commercial trappings, from the traditions, from what now register as oppressive expectations. But not from Christmas itself. The insistence of the calendar means that it will come, whether or not we are ready. And the readings at our son's Memorial Service - Psalm 139 and Romans 8 -- take on a new layer of meaning.
I don't know yet what we will do for Christmas. I don't think that it will be here, but the decision will only come after much family discussion. It may involve palm trees, or a desert, and candles at midnight in a place we've never been. I just don't know.
For myself, the lone religious voice in our household, there will need to be something more. Advent in past years has been a time of quiet reflection for me. This year I am not going to be looking for cosmic significance. This year I am going to try to look for a moment of peace in each day. Such a find would be momentous indeed. This year the hope resides in one of the readings from our Lessons and Carols service last year: Will you come into the darkness of tonight's world?
(Image: Stained Glass Window by Barbara Joyce, here. )