This year, on Christmas Eve, I found myself sitting next to my daughter at the National Basilica in DC, for mass. That in itself is VERY unusual for anyone in our household, as, truth be told, it’s not our holiday. I do remember, as a child, attending midnight mass a couple of times to see a friend play in the bell choir. I also remember it being absolutely beautiful, standing room only, and all lit up and decorated. I remember too, feeling a bit out of place, like I had a stamp on my forehead, or something, saying “non believer”, “different religion”, or “party crasher”. For us, traditionally, Christmas Eve is when we decide which movie or movies, as has happened, we will be seeing on Christmas Day. And then there’s that thing that while AT the movies, our family will actually be together for the first time since thanksgiving, which may not seem like such a long stretch, but, given the craziness that has been happening in our world, it always is for me.
This year has been even crazier…lots of change….changes of addresses, changes of circumstances, major losses, health issues, etc. My kids no longer live under my roof, and are, primarily, on their own. Well, give or take…
As a parent, one can never do enough to assure a child’s safety, and we spend a good portion of our lives looking out for our kids and teaching them how to keep themselves safe.
-The stove is hot, and if you touch it, it’s going to burn you, and that’s going to hurt a lot.
-Don’t run Into the street, because a car may come along, and hit you, and that would cause serious injury, and maybe even worse.
-Don’t answer the door when you’re home alone…don’t talk to strangers…don’t walk alone at night…don’t pick up your cup at a party once you’ve put it down…and the list goes on and on.
I remember when, my daughter, maybe around the age of 3 or so, ice cream cone in hand, was walking down the cement steps to the backyard; I watched from not so nearby and then noticed she lost her footing, and began falling. I moved VERY quickly, but a family friend swooped in just in the nick of time, to protect her head as she fell backward. No harm, no foul, and the ice cream cone even stayed in her hand the entire time! Had that family friend not been right next to her, she clearly would’ve gotten hurt, maybe even seriously.
It’s times like those, that you realize that as a parent, you really aren’t in this alone. There are a few others who are there to look out for your precious being, to teach them, and to assure their safety. It’s just finding the ones to trust that is the tricky part.
Just a few months earlier than her third birthday, at a family gathering, in our home, someone’s husband, whom she had never met before, had offered her a dollar in exchange for a kiss on his cheek. It was meant harmlessly, but I remember being VERY creeped out by that and intervening, asking him NOT to do that, and explaining to her that no one should ever try to offer her anything like money in exchange for her affection or otherwise. I was criticized by many for overreacting, but stood my ground.
As much as we want our children to make their own choices, they need guidance. You gently plant the seeds for future growth, provide water and sunshine, and hope that their branches will spread in the proper direction and remain strong.
You send them to college only a few short years after accompanying them to the bus stop, and hope that cutting a class or two is the worst that you will hear about…which isn’t realistic. You never dream that they won’t be safe on campus…shootings are unimaginable, and you caution them to stay in groups when they travel….and then there are lockdowns and news reports, and your head spins out of control.
We live in an age of technology that limits true social interaction. It’s our job, as a society, to teach our children to interact appropriately with one another. And though there is fear, we must continue to live. To grow. To learn. To evolve. To strive for better. In short, it takes a village. Even several villages…no matter the season.
And that’s why, two years ago, just before Christmas, we allowed our son and our daughter to go to Israel…together…to see the world…to explore a different country…to interact, socialize with others, and to explore. It wasn’t easy for me to agree to it…to send two of them together, because of other experiences of mine, but I told myself it would be a shared memory, and what better, than with a sibling?
I’m sad to say it, but I was a little nervous to even spend Christmas Day in a movie theatre, because of then, recent events, so the rest of us didn’t go, like we traditionally do. I thought about how glad I was that they they were probably safer in a country that knows how to deal with this kind of craziness on a daily basis. And, their constantly changing itinerary proved that. And, as for movies, there were plenty of those on their flights…and they didn’t even have to hope that the rest of our household agreed with whatever each of them chose.
Much has happened since they took that trip, and my oldest has traveled many times since, even internationally for a research grant, which, for her, was a dream come true. She now lives out of state, several hours away, with roommates, and commutes into the city, on a daily basis. I got to see it in full force when I visited, and she was, inevitably, my tour guide.
I wish my son had been with us at the Basilica…just to take it all in…the light, the warmth, the beauty, the feeling of rebirth, and the blessing. I didn’t feel out of place at all. In fact, it was everything I needed during a moment of darkness and loss.
I’ve decided, since I’ve returned home, to bathe myself in candlelight, if even only for a brief moment before heading to bed. Okay, maybe not bathe myself in candlelight, but ignite a spark, or a small flame, to remind me what a little light can do in the darkness. It took a trip to another city to and a holiday that others celebrate to remind me, that sometimes the answer is much closer to home than you realize; Sometimes, like when the word light, is actually a part of your new address!