Outside Circle by Jan Swan Wood: Christmas Time | TSLN.com

Outside Circle by Jan Swan Wood: Christmas Time

I don’t know how it happened so quickly, but Christmas is here. As I am now over the ridge past middle age, it seems to go faster and faster. Everyone around my age tells me the same thing. A year goes by too quickly.

My family, like far too many others, are facing a Christmas celebration with some precious faces missing. The faces missing at ours are my brother and brother-in-law, both very big, important parts of our family. Unlike some families, we still get together for holidays as best we can. Christmas especially draws a big bunch, with three generations gathering to visit, laugh, eat and enjoy each other. For the past half decade or so, we’ve gathered at my brother’s house for Christmas. Though he is no longer with us in the flesh, he is in spirit, as his grown son is opening his home to all of us so that we can enjoy each other there as in times past. It will be our first Christmas there without him and his accomplice, my brother-in-law, spending hours preparing prime rib for our enjoyment. We will still eat a wonderful meal, prepared by many hands, but it’s sure going to be different without those two in the kitchen slaving over the hot stove, as they would say. Certainly there will be a bit less laughter, as they were the instigators of much levity.

My family was blessed to have my paternal grandmother with us until she was in her 90s and she was the hub of the wheel that kept it all turning. A fantastic matriarch, loved and adored by all who ever met her, she in turn loved and adored all whom she ever met. Over 40 of us would gather at her little house and celebrate the love of the siblings and cousins. Naturally, those first Christmas get-togethers without her were sure hard and her absence was felt by all. But, we grew accustomed to it, though we still remark about how much she would be enjoying all the little ones.

My Mom and Dad lived to their mid and late 80s, with good health until near the end. After Gramy died, they were then the hub and we congregated at their house for Christmas. Babies were passed around and admired, stories were told, too much food was consumed, laughter would nearly lift the roof, along with the happy noise of the many grand and great-grandkids they had.

After Mom was gone, it was sure different, but then my brother stepped up and started hosting Christmas at his house, thus changing the scene and making Mom’s absence a little less painful. Dad could sit and enjoy the fun and noise, though I know Mom’s absence was particularly keen for him. He got to enjoy the little people, the college kids and their adventures, and the warmth and love of his big, gregarious family.

Many Christmas evenings were spent watching the fireworks my brother prepared, reflected off the snow and seen for miles. We’d stand out on his deck, bundled against the winter weather, and ooh and aah over every one. The sparkling eyes of the little ones were sure worth the cold.

So now, this first Christmas without two more very important people in our family will be a different experience. I’m anticipating a joyous, noisy, boisterous time, with a few bittersweet tears mixed in. My nephew, the host for the first time, will be processing his new role, as well as the loss of his Dad, with the loving arms of his exptended family wrapped around him. I don’t even doubt that. That’s how we are.

What this past year has taught me is that time doesn’t stand still. It goes way too fast. Things we thought we’d do, people we thought we’d have for a long time, and opportunities we should have taken, all make us look back with some regret. I’m striving each day to not have regrets of time not spent with those who are important to me, but it’s a hard habit to break. We are all so busy, or think we are.

So, at this Christmas season, I remind you to make the most of the time you have with your loved ones. Make time, take time, spend time. Time is precious. We don’t get any more once it’s gone.

Have a blessed Christmas, my friends. For God so loved the world that He sent his only Son, a baby, born in Bethlehem, to become the man who took our sins as His own and died for all. Christmas was when that promise came, and it has never been revoked. God bless you all.

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