Yesterday, driving from home to Springfield, Missouri, where we’re spending Christmas with Ken’s sister, I took the wheel after lunch. While everyone in the car — my kids, husband and mother-in-law — succumbed to the post-carb-induced stupor of sleep, I drove. Up long hills and down. Around subtle curves and along batches of bare trees. Through the valleys and rises that mix tallgrass prairie with Ozark woodlands.
It was peaceful. It was easy. Mostly, cruise control did the trick, and I just steered, occasionally checking my rear-view mirror to see sister slumped onto the leaning arm of brother, Ken leaning back against the headrest, my mother-in-law leaning forward beside me. I appreciated the time to drive fast and safely with my sleeping family, and I was grateful for resisting another piece of cornbread at a restaurant where the bowls and ham and beans were larger than my head.
Christmas has for many years been a tricky holiday at best for me, full of years of intense family drama played out to the tune of “Silent Night,” great hopefulness twisted into strange distances, and often just a feeling of restlessness. As a Jew, I find this holiday both lovely and a little isolating in its overreach, and for decades I’ve puzzled over how to respond to a culture that mashes and compresses everyone and everything into all-things Christmas from mid-December (or earlier) onward.
Yet in recent years, I’ve moseyed my way toward a truce with Christmas. Celebrating it with people for whom it opens the doors to great love and depth, I’ve decided to let the past drama, angst, confusion and chips on the shoulder go and instead simply be present for the peace available breath by breath. Like now as I write this while I watch a flock of black birds lift and head north, my daughter calling to me that dinner is getting put on the table. Like yesterday driving the dreamers south.
Wishing everyone joy and ease, wherever you are, whatever you do or don’t do, however you find the real and breathing world.