Ginny was halfway up the pull-down ladder to the attic, struggling with two large plastic bins I was handing up to her when I had a question for her: “How long are we going to be able to keep doing this?”
By “doing this,” I meant hauling a dozen or so large plastic bins down from the attic and swapping out their contents for decorations throughout the house, an annual ritual that begins after Thanksgiving and ends after Epiphany each year. The movement of the bins from the attic to the living spaces and back again and then reversing the process eight weeks later takes a little time, some strength and good balance on those shaky steps with the narrow rungs. How long would we have the strength and balance to move several rooms full of decorations up and down those steps? How long could I lift a heavy plastic bin over my head and into the opening to the attic? How long could Ginny keep her balance going up and down those steps, pushing up or handing down those big, heavy bins?
The question behind my question was this: How long can we continue to decorate for Christmas in the manner to which we’ve been accustomed? That to which we’ve become accustomed has been a total transformation of the house: pictures, pillows, photographs, linens, dinnerware, rugs and books are replaced by accessories with a Christmas theme. The transformation has continued through two homes, the early excitement of our children and now our grandchildren, through at least two dozen Christmas parties and well into our “senior” years.
But my question, like the decorating itself, endures: How long can we keep doing this?
An earlier holiday provides an answer. At a Thanksgiving gathering that included most of our children and grandchildren, plus others, everyone was asked what they were thankful for. My answer:
I am thankful for more than 60 years of family gatherings as locations and characters changed over the years; for several hundred pounds of turkey, ham, dressing, veggies and pies and cakes consumed; for seeing me and my cousins in my children and grandchildren and their cousins; for the wisdom that comes with age and that youthful stupidity was not fatal. I am thankful that a woman I could never deserve chose to love me. I am thankful that my children grew to maturity, graduated, succeeded, married and are independent and loving parents themselves. I am thankful for life.
On reflection, I would add one more bit of thankfulness: I am thankful for my wife’s parents who welcomed me, a near stranger, into their family, who never doubted my love for their daughter or questioned my ability to support her.
For this Christmas season, we will haul the decorations from the attic and place them throughout the house, even though we can’t find the time for a Christmas party and cannot lure all the children and grandchildren to our home for a celebration, we can be thankful for lives so full of blessings and so defining of grace — unearned favor. With an attitude of gratitude, our Christmas will be full again this year and every year.