Another Christmas has come and gone. The tree is outside on the deck for the birds to enjoy; the wreath, brown and dry, is feeding the soil on the other side of the fence.
All the lights are wrapped up (with their extension cords this time!) and put away.
And the letdown after Christmas begins. Every ornament carefully placed in the box, each stocking taken down reminds me of the family time I still crave and so cherish.
My son and daughter at 31 and 28 are adults, each with significant others (one to marry in the spring). Each is seeking to carve out their own Christmas traditions. The one to be married (my daughter) is just beginning the juggling we used to do with family from both sides in close proximity.
Christmases used to be hectic and exhausting and now they are quiet. Be careful what you wish for!
While we still go from house to house there are only two we need to visit now. My parents are gone and my sister lives far away in Alabama.
The gift-giving is simplified (no more stockings); it is easier to appreciate what each person has received and revel in the reactions of those receiving that special gift.
[Tweet "Christmas for empty-nesters can be melancholy; @susanbailey discovered the joy."]
A quiet Christmas has the dark side of melancholy; this was particularly true as I attended my first Midnight Mass (singing with the choir). The sadness had already cropped up on Christmas Eve as I felt the pangs of grief while missing my parents. At church I longed for the company of my children who, for the time being, have stepped away. The pain was so great that I almost had to leave the church. After taking the Eucharist, the grace from my Lord began to soothe my soul.
I finally accepted the empty nest and even enjoy it most days. I take great pleasure in the activities of my grown children; we chat often and still talk deeply at times. We’re down to the home stretch on the wedding plans; May 27th will be a glorious day. But the grief from their leaving lurks underneath and the holiday season brings it to the surface yet again.
This is the cost of love and I would not have it any other way. The years of active motherhood were filled with the competing interests of husband, kids, job and a creative life that demanded my attention at the most inopportune moments. I am glad I don’t have to do it again and yet I would do it in a heartbeat.
I think of my cousin whose baby was born a few weeks before Christmas; she will have to do that same juggling act. I reached out to her and offered a seasoned ear. Motherhood definitely requires a village!
Life never follows a straight line though I often wish it would. It’s messy with twists and turns, filled with heartache and great joy. You live it and then you wonder how you ever did it. Somehow at each turn, grace provided the means to navigate the course, even when you didn’t ask for it. God is never far away.
So as I turn the page of another Christmas I am thankful for the many blessings that came from the joy, the grief and the unexpected places where it took me. Keeping our Lord in view, pondering the mystery of God come down to us in the most vulnerable of all forms (a newborn baby) and in turn, lifting us up to Him, makes sense of the messiness of the holiday season and beyond. Gazing upon the Madonna and Child and reflecting as she did upon the mystery that cannot be solved can put everything in perspective. The Blessed Mother knows what this mother is feeling, having felt it herself. There is no better companion for the journey.
Copyright 2017 Susan W. Bailey
About the Author
Susan Bailey is the author of River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times (Ave Maria Press), and Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message (ACTA Publications), part of their Literary Portals to Prayer series. Along with her blogs Be as One and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion, Susan writes for the Diocese of Worcester newspaper, The Catholic Free Press.