I dedicate this post to the children and the parents, everywhere, especially Newtown, Connecticut.
Every year, in December, a marvelous thing happens. At least I think it’s wonderful. And not for the reasons you might think.
Christmas comes around, bringing with it a sense of magic in the air, some thing that I felt as a child. And lest you think me not sensitive to the cultural experiences of those who do not celebrate Christmas, I say that no matter what the culture, children generally find the preparations for feast days an exhilarating experience. For festivals, and Christmas is a festival, allow us, as I have said before, to step outside of the ordinary and move into a space where things are anything but ordinary. There’s a sense of anticipation as mother or grandmother bakes gingerbread men and father or grandfather brings in the Christmas tree, the smell of sap and resin perfuming the air. Pulling out the old ornaments and adding a few new ones, stringing up the blinking lights, all twinkling with the colors of the rainbows and the stars and the sun, why, that’s sheer joy.
And now, every December, when I wander through the long hallway at the Inn at Virginia Tech, I relive that sense of magic. Why? Every year, several merchants or organizations in town put up decorated trees, weighted down with ornaments representative of their businesses or missions. Evergreen garlands sway above my head, tiny white lights winking in time with my pulse, as I meander down the hall, light from the floor-to-ceiling windows casts a diffuse glow, and for a moment, I’m back, in my mind, hovering at the top of the stairs, listening for Santa, checking to see if the milk and cookies are still there. Or not.
The chef at the Inn supervises the making of an elaborate gingerbread house, detailed with candies and all the trimmings now traditional for such confections.
The smell of the frosted lawn and the piped snow drifts sets my mouth watering and I hurry through my tour of the hall, anxious to return home to the frosted gingerbread I packed into a plastic container and froze a few days ago.
Just as I turn around and start toward the door, in comes Santa, headed for his plush red-velvet-covered throne, followed by several children, their eyes sparkling with only the light a child’s eyes can.
And I then remember the other children, the ones who look in their pictures just like my son did when he was six years old, so fresh, young, and promising. The ones who won’t be sitting on Santa’s knee this time.
Oh, how I wish that we adults could promise peace on earth this time around, for sure. It’s not just the children killed so senselessly by a deranged gunman, it’s the ones mowed down in senseless wars, too.
Peace on earth, yes. Yes. Yes.
We owe it to the children.
© 2012 C. Bertelsen