This morning we had our "final" at my professor Steve Bearden's house. Steve is this brilliant, kind, thoughtful, welcoming human who seems to embrace all that is best in the world while still knowing the depths of darkness and pain. At the end of Steve's classes he has his class over for celebrations. Today our Spiritual & Clinical Praxis class went to his home, ate lots of tastey food brought by my classmates, talked to one another and then Steve read to us.
One of my favorite things as a child in school was being read to every day after lunch recess. It was soothing. For me so much of my understanding of self, love, faith, life, comes from the words of others. Many don't think me much the reader, but I find that nevertheless my identity has been so influenced by the authors who have spoken their hearts and imaginations out onto pages that I have been fortunate enough to read.
Steve read The Polar Express, Polar Bear Scare, Santa Cows and Owl Moon. I had never read any of these books - I know, how have I never read The Polar Express? I thought it seemed boring - but he read it to us and it was wonderful. Then he asked if anyone had holiday traditions. And people began to share their family's traditions - cutting down trees, staring at lights, sleeping in the living room all together and watching It's A Wonderful Life - experiences, shared experiences. And I found myself crying. I was so very sad.
I don't remember us really having traditions growing up - and I really wanted some. We opened one present on Christmas eve - always pajamas and yet often seeming a surprise and I was ever enthusiastic about that one gift. But did we have more?
When I was married we decided that we wanted traditions, things for our family. And even though our family was just the two of us, it seemed right to begin our traditions when we were engaged. One was this "first christmas" ornament that had a scroll inside - every year we would write on that scroll. Another was how we got our ornaments - we got a special one for us each year - our tree was going to fill up with special memories building each year on the last and to the next - like our love was.
And I became so sad and I wept.
And I longed for my old life. That sense of family. That feeling of forever and building and togetherness, promises and hope.
Christmas to me is a lot about hope. Hope for new beginnings, for life, faith in something good and right. And since I love Christmas - the music, the lights, the smells, the traditions I have found that remembering can be bittersweet.
I couldn't understand why I wanted so much for this Christmas to be special for me and Kyle. Why I was so sad that we would be apart for 10 days - aside from the normal expectation of missing him. Why us not celebrating in some unique way just broke my heart. And I realized today in my professors living room, it's because I want to build on our story. It is hard when your stories have to change, when dreams end and starting over is part of life. And even when your identity is new and your faith renewed, your heart still has memories that your brain doesn't think of consciously.
So here I sit watching the lights twinkle on my Christmas tree and try to wrap my head around a world of feelings and I know, my lizard is not dead (if you go to school with me that would make sense). And it's okay for the lizard to still be alive - because then some of the kittens made it too. But some didn't, and for those and for parts of what the lizard meant, I cry.
10 months ago