The end of idealism

The love of Christmas still haunts me. As soon as the malls hang their garlands and the first snowflakes flutter, that holiday feeling rushes in. It is full of memory: weeks-long vacations, tobogganing, lingering late on Christmas Eve to watch the moon rise, long evening games of Pictionary or rich conversations with family, endlessly primping into my Christmas finest before sitting down to a turkey dinner laid out in candlelight on the table. The season, in all its beauty and romance, fills me with expectation, even now. 

What these holiday memories do not tend to include, however, is my mother sweating over the stove or flying around to clean the house or rushing out for some last-minute gift shopping. Somehow, those tasks just magically completed themselves, wholly unnoticed by herself, Lady Emily of the Christmas FEELS.

That tingly holiday excitement has diminished significantly now that it is me at the stove, bent over the greasy sink, slugging back a glass of wine among the bubbling pots rather than sipping it before a crackling fire. When you are doing the cooking and cleaning, you tend to miss the rich conversations and end up too tired for games at the end of the day. The holidays are such a blur of tasks and deadlines, it can be difficult to savour anything. Lately, as December closes, a generalized feeling of disappointment prevails, as yet another season has fled untasted.

In this, as in so many areas of life, I’m realizing that parenting is the antithesis of idealism. Just yesterday, I couldn’t wait to tell our five-year old that we were going to get our Christmas tree. I could just picture a beautiful family outing, all four of us breathing the fresh scent of pine and laughing in harmony as we picked out the perfect tree whilst gentle snowflakes fell on our toques. But rather than the blissful “Oh Mommy, are we really?” that I was looking for, Clare stamped her foot and said she would rather stay home and watch a movie. Romance, magic, idealism, stamped out by a pre-schooler.

Dish by dish

This year may be much the same. I may be wasted with fatigue come January and unable to recall a single uninterrupted moment. I may resent every pine needle that works its way into my furniture and wonder why we bothered to put up the tree at all when no one sat by it. But the hard work of my new role in the festivities is changing me.

When you have to make, rather than receive, the magic, you see it for what it is: just gift wrap, created at someone else’s expense, quickly crumpled and tossed – transitory at best. As all the DaySpring cards will tell you, the real magic, the momentous arrival of the Bethlehem babe, happens within. The cliché ends, however, where the work begins, for it take effort to notice what is happening.

I’m not talking about emotional navel-gazing. It is not a deep search for meaning or an attempt to savour the moment. Rather, this gentle turning inward, this careful listening, is a deliberate effort to silence the busyness and tune into the Christ-life blazing at the core of each of his children. It is felt light, not seen; it is the rich, thrumming aliveness of the Vine; it is eternity already occurring within while chaos reigns without. I may not have time to meditate in zen-like silence, so I will have to tap into it while standing at the sink, while wrangling two flailing children into mittens, coats and hats, while sweeping up a shattered ornament or wrapping yet another set of Lego. The beautiful image of light born in the darkness is Jesus’ light born in my darkness, in the stable where my selfish idealism has flourished. My darkness is being displaced dish by dish, diaper by diaper, opening wider spaces for glory. 


  • Emily Cramer

    Emily Cramer grew up in the Toronto area and spent most of her twenties living nomadically. She completed her English B.A. in New Brunswick (1999), burned through some existential angst in eastern Ontario and in Scotland, and finally wrapped up a Master’s in Christianity & the Arts in British Columbia (2008). She now lives in Barrie, Ontario with her husband and daughter, where she works as a college Communications teacher and hopes to stay put, at least for awhile. She has been privileged with a number of writing opportunities over the years, such as a summer newspaper column on the natural environment and a novella for her graduating thesis, and is now feeling honoured to be able to explore the next leg of her travels - parenting and family life - with the CC.

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