There was a little joke-ful dialog on Facebook about my Christmas spreadsheet. Yes, I have a Christmas spreadsheet and it goes back at least twelve years and has all the gifts and food and all the holiday hoopla. I can tell you what we got for my brother-in-law in 2006 and which year the toffee turned out the best and what temp we boiled it to. With full disclosure that it is my habit to overdo the season. . . we have a playmobil nation and legos to the moon and back. . . I still enjoy my list and felt slightly injured that the true meaning of my list could be misunderstood. Is it a materialistic OCD data base? Or a family history.
There are people on my list, and I keep their little boxes and columns sacred, who are no longer at the table with us. I thought about those people and started to think about their gifts this year. Thursday was the anniversary of my grandma Hope's death three years ago. An enormous eagle flew--wings outstretched--a full circle around my yard and showed his full and fierce grace ten feet from my kitchen window. He was so close that you could have touched him, and then he was gone. I'm not sure if that was my gift to Hope, or perhaps her gift to me--Merry Christmas Mama.
Sunday morning I woke early and headed to church alone to accompany the choir. No one from my family came to watch, Bill and my mom were home getting the kids ready for their own song at the next service. Sometimes the simplest anthem cuts through the static. Mary, Mary, whacha gonna name that baby? Whatcha gonna call that holy child. . . Every phrase was clear and shaped and the simple piano counter melody haunted me. I was pleased. My dad would have been pleased with me. Driving home with the light snow falling it came to me that it was his favorite and I suspect it was this exact simple arrangement that the Park View Lutheran Church sang, with my sister taking the solo, 35 years ago, Daddy gently quieting the accompanist and the tenors at the candlelight service while I drifted away on my mom's lap. So, that simple accompaniment is my gift to my dad. Merry Christmas Daddy.
The grown-up Christmas list isn't just a mail-order record. It's a Christmas journal. Yes, Santa brings a few too many playmobil fairies, but it won't be long until toy-land is over and the toys are passed on to charity and all we have are photographs and memories. The gift of our time together is the one that will last. I feel blessed to have so many memories of Christmas past--sleigh rides with my dad and snowy walks to the grocery with my grandma. My Christmas journal is a crazy attempt, admittedly Microsoft and OCD, to chronical every last moment of these sacred times.