I don't know why it is, but Christmas often makes me melancholy. It has nothing to do with the hustle and bustle of the season...although I can't imagine that being tired helps. I am prone to sit and think, and over think, and regret all that I neglected to do in years past. Lot of good that bit does.
This morning, as the boys left for school, or maybe it was in the shower, or maybe it was even earlier when my alarm was so quiet that I could hardly make out that it was ringing at all, I remembered a letter I wrote about 14 years ago. At the time I had three little boys, the youngest of which was only a few months old. Both he and I had ruptured ear drums. I dug it out....my Christmas letter from 1998....think of it as a gift from me to you.
CHRISTMAS....does any other word evoke as large a response from so many people? There are people who start planning the holiday celebration on January 1st, and there are people who would just as soon be rid of the whole thing. People celebrate Christmas, or not, regardless of religious convictions, regardless of whether they believe the ancient story of a babe in a manger, regardless of whether there is love in their lives. Most remarkably, how one may feel about Christmas is irrelevant. Christmas comes anyway! And so I find myself thinking about friends and family, about gift giving and the annual ritual of letter writing - exchanging bits and pieces of our lives. This is the most precious gift I give every year, this short glimpse into the lives of my family and I. My letter is intended as a gift from me to you on this most special of holidays. I hope that it finds you well.
1998 was a very busy year in our home. We sold our house in Coppell. We built a new one in Frisco. We moved. We had a baby boy - Benjamin Walker Sharp was born on June 26th. And Noah started school. Through it all the march of time continued, unabated, unconcerned as to whether we were in step with it or not. The nerve!! At any rate....
|Our "new" house - We still live here.|
|Noah circa 2012|
Noah started school this August. It doesn't seem like he should be old enough to be going to school...but he is (he turned six in September) and he is loving every minute of it. It is thrilling to watch his mind awaken. For years his dearest toys have been paper and pencils and books. He'd play with them for hours without really knowing what it was he was playing with. Now his doodling has real words in it and his books have come alive. His brilliant blue eyes blaze each evening as he reads Daddy a bed time story.
|My Johnny - December 2012|
John misses his big brother, yet he too is enjoying the revelations that school brings. Without Noah to make up games for him, John is discovering that he can be his own person. He can make up games, and make animals talk, and have things of his own. One of his favorite games is "I'm Johnny." In it the idea is for someone to say, "Hi --," and no matter what you call him he says, "I'm not --, I'm Johnny!" Then he will go on to list his favorite things, "I got Kitty. I got Noah. I got Ben. I got Dragon. I got Dog." The list goes on and on until he flashes his dimpled grin at you and insists, "I'm Johnny!" and laughs.
|This is what my 14 year old boy thinks about having his picture taken.|
|Gilbert doesn't like his picture taken either....so I snuck this one.|
Gilbert is still working for PageNet. He is a systems developer for executive information systems. When we moved to Frisco the plan was that he would be closer to work (about a 10 minute commute rather than the 30 minutes from Coppell). As it turned out his office moved about one month after we did. They are now located in downtown Dallas and the commute takes 40 minutes. On the up side it wouldn't have been any better from Coppell and our new home is really much better suited to us. Additionally, PageNet, aware of the potential blunder of moving into the city, instituted a telecommute program. Gilbert now commutes 2 - 3 days a week during flex hours - so he is usually home by 4:00 and works from home the rest of the week.
|"Cumbustion" by Gwen Maharg|
When you hold the camera you have no pictures of yourself.
Lastly I come to myself. I am surviving. I do enjoy our new home. It is big and sunny and has room for company (hint, hint). My family is healthy and for the most part happy. I am content. However, in all honesty I have to admit that I am not well. In the wee hours of November 1st I awoke to the clatter of shifting pressure within my left ear. The sick headache I had gone to bed with was gone...but so was a portion of my eardrum, and with it a good deal of my hearing. I guess the sinus ick that I had finally settled in my ear and the drum ruptured to release the pressure. It doesn't hurt, at least not very much, and my doctor assures me that my hearing should return to normal in 6 to 8 weeks (please pray that it is so). In the meantime I am somewhat deaf. It is from this perspective that I find myself contemplating Christmas.
So much of the Holiday is in the sounds that surround it. The crunch of wrapping paper behind closed doors, the crackle of a well built fire - a Yule log, the sizzle of roasting turkey, the pop of cranberries as they are cooked into relish...all of these remind me of the holidays. The most blessed sound of all, however, is the sound of voices, voices raised to tell the story in song, young voices, old voices, high voices, love voices, quiet, loud, soft, harsh - all of them singing and laughing for the joy of it. I often wonder a the number of people who join in the singing. How many of them have sung carols for years, know the words by heart, and yet have never heard them? They know not of what or Whom they sing...and yet they sing and their voices are heard and the beautiful story is told anew.
Dear friends, beloved family both of womb and God, listen for me this year. My ears do work, but there is a great deal that I do not hear (as of today the sound is something like listening through a wall). Listen for me this year. Close your eyes, and put away your feelings about Christmas. Pack up the tinsel and lights and gifts and set them aside for just a little while. Crate up the disappointments of a lifetime of holidays and the fear of disappointments yet to come. Stick them in a corner. Stifle the excitement and busyness. Sit quietly and listen. Listen with your heart to the voices and know that the story they are telling is true. It is not fiction. It is not a history that is dead and buried in dust. It is the truth, alive and waiting for all who have ears to hear. Listen for me this year and may the beauty of the songs linger in your heart for a lifetime.
A lot has changed since 1998...but the carols are the same. My favorite is "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." Listen to them again. Really listen and enjoy them with me this Christmas and always.