My wife is addicted to the Hallmark Channel, especially at this time of year.
When I come home late from work, especially if there’s a chill in the night air, I will frequently find Betty Gail lying down in our guest bedroom, wrapped up in a fleece blanket, usually napping, while the latest “Countdown to Christmas” movie winds merrily along toward its predictably happy ending on the nearby television screen.
I sometimes get caught up in one of those movies, too, even though I know within the first 10 minutes exactly how it’s going to end. There’s always a man and woman, both attractive and young, who, at the beginning of the movie, seem too different or too involved with someone else to ever get together, but, of course, they will by the end. The only suspense, if you could even call it that, is watching how the initially mismatched pair eventually get to the finish line together and kiss.
Betty Gail and I both know the movies present a picture of life and of Christmas that doesn’t exist, but they’re clean, wholesome, uplifting escapism, which is only interrupted by a plethora of commercials that drag out the story, sometimes past my level of patience.
What is real about the Christmas season is that it’s rarely like a Hallmark movie or, for those of an older generation, a Norman Rockwell painting.
It’s hectic, expensive, diet-busting, stress-filled and even disappointing, if you don’t watch out.
My daughter, Elizabeth, was getting frustrated trying to get her home in Nashville looking its holiday best for her three young boys. She had been to Target four times for the exact wraparound lights she needed to finish decorating her shrubbery, only to be promised that they will definitely be there by Monday. She wanted to put up garland, but when she saw how expensive it would be for such a short time, she crossed that off the list. The star on the top of her Christmas tree won’t light because it doesn’t have the same type of plug as the rest of the lights. And her two boys who are old enough to decorate decided that Christmas tree ornaments look best in clumps, rather than evenly dispersed.
When she was about to lose her bearings, a friend’s wise words of advice reeled her in: “Sometimes we get so caught up in chasing perfection at Christmas that we miss the beauty that’s all around us.”
Here’s some of what I find beautiful about the season.
Elizabeth and those three boys, ages 4½, almost 2 and 2½ months, came to visit us this weekend so that her children could take in Greenwood’s Christmas parade for the first time.
Our guest room is not really equipped to handle one adult and three children, so the baby is sleeping in a temporary crib in our room. That means being awakened at 3 a.m. for a feeding, then again a couple of hours later for another. Meanwhile, our cat, who wants to hide under our bed to get away from the company, can’t understand why we won’t let him in the room and paws at our door handle, thwarting our efforts to sneak in some sleep before the sun rises.
As I left for work Friday, I looked back at our kitchen and adjoining dining room. Toys and art materials scattered all around. Half-eaten bowls of cereal on the kitchen table. Betty Gail dressed in a mismatched bath robe and leggings, her hair in need of a brushing.
But everyone’s happy and smiling. No matter how sleep-deprived the adults are, or how messy the house is, the boys don’t care. They are thrilled to be at their grandparents’ house, and their grandparents are thrilled to have them.
This chaotic fun won’t last. On Sunday, they’ll load up to leave our home and go back to theirs. It will become “too quiet and peaceful around here,” as Betty Gail’s late father would say. That’s how he would describe his own home after one of our weekend visits came to an end when our own children were young.
In that quiet, though, can be found beauty, too.
Our church, on the first Sunday of Advent, had an Advent wreath workshop. Betty Gail made ours, and now it sits prominently in our home.
It reminds me of my own childhood, when we would make Advent wreaths in art class at the Catholic elementary school I attended.
The three purple candles on the wreath represent hope, peace and love, and the lone pink candle, joy.
Looking at that wreath, simple in its creation but rich in its symbolism, reels me in when I’m feeling frustrated, worried or overwhelmed.
It wasn’t expensive to make, but what it represents exceeds all value.
Hope. Peace. Joy. Love.
Who could want anything more?
• Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or email@example.com.