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A Tradition of Anticipation

December 24, 2013

snow in maineThe holidays are upon us, and as I sit here writing this message, I’m very aware that this year the spirit of the season seems to have passed me by. It doesn’t help that it was 75 degrees yesterday, and in the mid-60’s and raining today.  Such weather is not my idea of Christmas, but I’m not sure that snow would make any difference. Change is in the air this year, another in a long line in recent years.

My earliest memories of Christmas are set in our family’s little house in the backwoods of Maine. I was the youngest of five, two brothers, two sisters and me, spread over thirteen years. My grandfather lived with us from the time I was born until he died when I was ten. Christmas was a magical time for me, as it is for most children and although I waited eagerly for Christmas morning and gifts, there was much more about the season that made the air percolate for me. There was always snow in abundance, tree trimming and lights, sipping hot cocoa in my pj’s, lying under the tree arranging and re-arranging the little log house my Granddad made out of tree branches whose lid lifted off so you could put the people inside, and singing Silent Night by candlelight at midnight services. Christmas gifts were more often slipper socks, warm flannel jammies and new woolen hats, than toys, but one new toy was more than enough for me.

My family outgrew the magic of Christmas before I did. One by one my siblings left home and went on their merry ways, adding a spouses and children and children of their own. In time, my grandfather passed on to snowier pastures and I was an only child. I felt the magic of Christmas longing for a home. In high school my traditions were those outside of my home, as our chorus made the trip into Manhattan each year to sing Christmas Music in the Port Authority and the lobbies of several NYC banks; and Christmas caroling for shut ins with the church choir, and three services to sing in Christmas Eve.

Later on, marriage and children changed the season again. The holidays were about creating the magic for my children. I lived vicariously through their excitement, trying to collect a few pieces for myself, to fill the spaces that had been left empty in my own childhood.

Now, our children are grown, the extended family has died or dispersed, and our family seems very small. Previous holiday traditions have fallen by the wayside and I’m not eager to try to resurrect them just yet. I would like to mark the occasion in some way, however. I miss the feelings of expectation, hope and joy that lay beneath the surface so many years ago.

As I reflect upon this eventuality, I’ve decided to view and accept this holiday season as a fallow one, an in-between year, for reflection; to take a look at what has gone before, and to rest awhile in the empty space. I’ve come to appreciate the gifts that can come out of those empty spaces.

We are often propelled through life, our traditions coming to us from previous generations and carried on by habit and external expectations. I would like to trade some of that in for something of my own choosing, something that carries deep meaning for me and my loved ones; to consider long-standing traditions that I might like to keep, and new ones I’ve yet to discover.

I do believe there is value in maintaining traditions. They provide a means of celebrating the beliefs and values we carry in our heart, that too often go unacknowledged. They also give us a sense of security and structure, in a world that changes more quickly each day.  I neither want to get lost in mindless observations handed down to me, nor do I want to do without.

So as I lay in wait, an anticipation begins to grow, a wonderment at the creative spirit that dwells in each of us. I am reminded of the Three Wise Men, who traveled far and wide and waited patiently for the birth of their Savior and King; or of the mamma bird that sits on her egg, waiting, watching and warming in anticipation of the gift that the universal life force provides. In time, I am certain, joy will come again.

Dorothy Sander © 2013

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. December 24, 2013 1:20 pm

    Dorothy – May this holiday season smile gently upon you and yours, and may the New Year bring you light and joy.

  2. December 24, 2013 1:22 pm

    This time in our lives is different, difficult. I too miss a lot but now the empty space is being filled with the wonder of my 3 yr. old granddaughter. The others are grown and gone. Blessings to you dear Dorothy !

  3. earthnskystudio permalink
    December 24, 2013 1:34 pm

    Merry Merry & Happy Happy, Dorothy. You are a breath of fresh air! Ever-changing & evolving. How great! Blessings to you & yours in 2014.

  4. December 24, 2013 2:43 pm

    Happy Holidays, Laurie, Joan and Diane ~ The world shines brighter with you in it…you are a gift to me…and many others! May all that is good and wise and true grow ever stronger and bolder in you!

  5. December 24, 2013 2:56 pm

    Dorothy, I hope the peace and quiet of the holidays will bring great inspiration, as you sit on your nest and incubating newness and change. It is the perfect time of year for such work. As the days grow longer and the sun warms us, the promise of discovery and growth take root.

    • December 24, 2013 3:33 pm

      Same to you, Joan! I’m ready for some cold weather so I can get down to hibernating!

      • December 26, 2013 1:11 pm

        Family and friends think I am crazy because I crave short days, the darkness that comes in late afternoon, and the New England cold that keeps us indoors, snuggled up. Joan, you so brilliantly articulated how I feel about this time of year…a time to incubate newness and change. With the holidays an integral part of the solstice season, looking at past Christmases, old traditions, the longing for new ones, the both/and of family, makes the time especially poignant for me. I find myself getting up at 5 to sit in the light of the tree only, coffee in hand and cat at my side. Just Being present with whatever feeling emerges. Life, including your thought-full blog, Dorothy, is teaching me to be mind-full, present to the moment, not judging what I find floating through my consciousness, just Being. Making kinder, wiser to body and soul decisions. This Aging Abundantly community is such a source of comfort….bravo ladies!!! May we all find authentic peace as 2013 slides into 2014.

  6. Wilhelmine Estabrook permalink
    December 24, 2013 3:57 pm

    Every Christmas is different for me. This one is quiet. We have over two feet of snow. (I live across the border from Houlton, Maine.) A neighbor was just in with a pan of warm rolls. Lots of phone calls and emails. My black lab sit on her golden cushion watching the snow fall. Four cats serve as blankets around my feet. Peace and joy are all around.

    • December 24, 2013 4:26 pm

      That sounds so lovely Wilhelmine! I wish I could join you for a cup of hot cocoa! Merry Christmas.

  7. Wendy permalink
    December 26, 2013 4:34 am

    This blog is very touching. I am in the exact same time of my life. I was feeling the same way today, but you articulated it beautifully. I was sitting by the fire the other night realizing that so much is gone. My parents have passed, my kids have moved on, and it is so much smaller. I also realized that I am sad at this transition, but I sat there and said to myself, it’s okay to be sad. I watched the flames as I embraced the saddness and it was all okay.

    • December 26, 2013 9:45 am

      Oh, yes, it is so much smaller. And, you are so wise in accepting that “it’s okay to be sad”. In the midlife transition we often not only need to grieve the loss of loved ones, but the loss of a life that once kept us so busy. We must grieve the loss of many of the roles we once place, mother, daughter, sister, and for some wife. Our understanding of who we are and our place in the world is changing, and making room for something new! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and insights, Wendy.

  8. De De permalink
    December 26, 2013 10:24 am

    I am exactly in the same place as you Dorothy. I have been and continue to be sad at times throughout this holiday season even as I go through the motions of traditions and expectations of celebrations with family and friends. I miss my parents terribly who passed in the last 2 years, and my grown daughters and families that have spread across the country. I did the same as Wendy did and just let myself be sad at times and think about the past and then decided to accept what is and enjoy the blessings that I have now! A wonderful loving husband and a family though far and wide do love me and showed that with calls, emails, pictures and sharing.
    TImes are definitely changing for me and I know for others in our age group. Change is not always easy but it comes whether we are ready or not! I enjoy your writing so much. You touch my heart and always let me know that we are truly not alone that others feel as we do. Best to you in 2014.
    De De

    • December 26, 2013 12:38 pm

      Thank you for your words, De De. It does help to know we’re not alone and the comments I receive here are the only thing that keep me going some days! I guess that’s part of the reason I keep writing. I really believe we are all in this together and that supporting one another through the process is so very important and meaningful. I wish you and yours a joy filled new year. Thank you for being a part of my world.

  9. December 29, 2013 4:58 am

    Dorothy, I must admit this was a tough blog to read. Your emotions so echo mine this year, it was eery. Though both parents passed between 2008 and 2010, this is the first year I have truly felt the loss. My sibling are all in the States, as well as my daughter and her family. We live in Europe, due to my husband’s job. The emails and Christmas cards are silent this year – no contact from my siblings. Funny and yet painful, how wrapped up we get in our own lives that we forget our closest blood. Yet….if I return to the MIdwest and fail to contact all my siblings….!!! I’m called rude and inconsiderate, via email of course.
    My husband has no contact with his family, due to the nasty divorce between his parents long ago. Only an aunt, whom we chat with on a rare occasion.
    My lifeline is my daughter, our son-in-law, and our grandson. I hope someday to build new traditions with my kids, once we return to the States.
    So like you,I sit on my nest here in Germany, and wait………

    • December 30, 2013 1:37 pm

      The waiting time gives us time to reflect. The quiet times give us an opportunity to question our own values and to listen more closely to our hearts. It is there that we will find the answers to our loneliness. Then we will know how to proceed. I hope the New year brings you all the love you deserve, Chris. You matter.

  10. December 30, 2013 9:37 am

    As each year passes I find we get busier and busier. I have noticed as my grandparents passed and then my father, traditions seemed to lessen and family participation diminished once the ‘glue’ that held us together passed away. It is sad and we must redefine what the holidays mean to us in new ways. Happy New Year!

    • December 30, 2013 1:38 pm

      I think every family has one or two members who provide the “glue”. My mother was that for our family and we’ve had to work a little harder to stay in touch.

  11. December 30, 2013 11:09 am

    Thank you for articulating what so many of us in our age group feel. I’d rather spin right through Christmas and avoid all the hoopla, but I do enjoy sitting quietly in the early morning meditating on the new year coming and enjoy this time to reflect on where I am in life.
    Sending you wishes for happiness and peace in the new year.

    • December 30, 2013 1:41 pm

      Thank you, Angeline. The new year is upon us and I feel much the way you do. Endings are a wonderful opportunity for new beginnings and the resurrection of hope. Most of us could use a little extra hope now and again!

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