Christmas Day-- Updated

We have beautiful new beginnings around here. On the eve of Christmas Eve, Isaac took his first step, and on Christmas Eve his first tooth shone up at us when he was eating his dinner, making him our earliest walker and latest teether. (Seven months- no teeth, eight months? Still nope. Nine months, ten months, nary a tooth to be found! But at nearly eleven months, one little white spot shines forth like a star.)

The temperature dropped about a week ago, making us all shivery and blue. It doesn't get that cold- the lowest has been about 6 degrees Celsius (43 Fahrenheit) but we have no heat and a very drafty, non airtight house with gaps between the boards--also, an outdoor kitchen-- so we shiver all over the place until the sun comes up at 10:00 and the temperature goes back up. We have headcolds. I had a hot toddy last night and my life was changed.

And Christmas is here. I have not cried, neither do I feel like crying, breaking tradition in a huge way, and I keep wondering why on earth I feel so good. I think I have put my finger on the November-December fast of Chinua and ease of life that living with the back up parent gives, and the relief and love I feel now that he is here. (He arrived on the 20th and we kissed the bus driver who delivered him to us. Not really.)

I feel like all my world shines with a bright light, I am not worried about whether I have done enough this year (I'm sure I haven't) or whether my kids are experiencing the Christmas of my childhood (they're definitely not) or anything at all. There is a fine glow all around, and perhaps it is that I focused on Advent more this year, though not in any craft-oriented way but in an inner constancy, every day waking up a little more excited. Jesus is coming, we get to live it again. And he has come and he is coming and the weary world rejoices. This is my life, to live a life of devotion to the one who shines such a bright light back into my little life, through fasting and feasting, through Christmases when I could barely stop crying from homesickness and anxiety, to ones like this one, where I keep checking my mental state like a watch, wondering why on earth I feel so normal, to live this life and invite others into it, to invite them into meditation and the warmth of God's spirit and the magic of God in a person who lived and lives and will live forever. And though sometimes it is very hard, and my loneliness feels like a tangible person, like a person standing beside me while I'm cooking outside in the dark on a cold night, or when I'm using the wrong Thai words in the market and embarrassing myself, or when I think of Goa with physical longing, it is such a genuine privilege, and I'm finally getting it (is this thirty-three?) that it couldn't matter less whether I do it all right or the same as anyone else, or whether this Christmas resembles all the Christmases before or whether it is only itself, a day like no other. We are here, we are loved, the wide blue sky is radiant with the generosity of God's spirit, the kids are happy, they're going to be fine, the presents are great, the food will nourish us, we'll keep trying to love each other, we could do it all better, and we're going to have all the days ahead to try.

And now I will go play Monopoly with my family, even though Chinua claimed the iron piece just minutes before I could.

Have the very best, most restful, joyful Christmas you can, beloved ones.

Update: I spoke too soon. There were tears, at the very end of the day, as I stood watching a fast-moving river with Isaac in the baby carrier and a frantic, not well-handled get-out-the-door-now exodus to a Christmas party behind me.

But really, it's probably good, because although we had a peaceful Christmas, it's good to know that I'm still Rachel after all. I might not even be me without the annual Christmas cry.

Also, a lot of my new, shiny! Easy-going nature! might be put down to the fact that Chinua and I were home by ourselves with the kids all day. The word "social" is in "social anxiety" for a reason, you know! But I'm still claiming it as a triumph! And everything else in the post still stands. Love to you all.