I didn’t do my Christmas shopping. I’m behind on my deadlines at work. My new home is filled with dark empty rooms because I haven’t had time to buy lights and new furniture. Half-assembled IKEA dressers lie on the floor; clothing is thrown everywhere. My children’s school has nearly put me over the edge: parent-teacher conferences, gingerbread houses, teacher gifts, PTA gifts, Brownie events, book reports to be typed up by parents … and the Christmas service.
This year I dreaded the Christmas service because I didn’t know how to tie my son’s tie. I resenting going shopping after work to buy my daughter white tights. I felt angry when my son had a tantrum about his belt. I had a debilitating bout of self-loathing because my skirt was too tight at the waist – when did that happen, damn it! I was close to hysterical because I didn’t have time to put on makeup because I had to watch YouTube videos instructing me on how to tie a tie. And then when we finally got out the door 20 minutes late and peeled up to the school, I saw that my daughter was wearing old sneakers with her perfect navy velvet dress and velvet headband.
And so the Christmas service finally made me snap. It made my eyes burn with tears because I knew I had to text my boss, skip work, and go home to find my child’s fancy shoes.
Yet I made it to the service somehow, cranky and sucking in my mommy stomach, and feeling more than a little bit mean and hostile towards all the happily married size 00 moms around me, even the perfectly nice ones.
I watch the freshly scrubbed children file into the cathedral, so orderly and quietly confident, sweet in their holiday dresses and hair bows and navy blazers. The nursery comes first, and I remember what it’s like to have such little pudgy little perfectly loved people like them. I spot my children later on. They file in with the older children, as the white-gloved choir plays the bells. They scan the crowd looking for me, and I want to run up and hug them.
I start to breathe and listen. I shiver, it’s so beautiful, perfect voices and whole entire lives in front of them, and soaring ceilings and stained glass and bells, and all the hope and love that are invested in these little children in this big cathedral. I half expect God to show up at any time, and then I realize that He is already there.
Later I will worry about work and gifts and divorce and the mystery credit card that has suddenly appeared in my name. For just one hour I listen and marvel at all the beauty and hope found here.
I have finally found the joy again.