*The Shortest Day*
By Susan Cooper
And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
I spent 36 years never thinking much about the Winter Solstice because I really liked winter. I liked the early darkness and the cozy nights and the snow. And then I had you and much like daylight savings time, things became a little bit more difficult. Yes, lots of good things came with your arrival (you can read more about them below) but winter is undoubtedly a lot harder for me now than it used to be. I feel sad when I didn't used to. Instead of greeting snowstorms with tears of happiness, I feel an undercurrent of anxiety about how I am going to entertain you when we are trapped inside and you have all. this. energy. to. burn. So yesterday was the Winter Solstice and for the first time in my life I celebrated it and the poem above seemed a perfect expression of the holiday. We all wrote down our wishes last night - yours was a very definitive scrawl of red crayon - on pieces of paper and threw them into the fire. I am driving the dark away by looking ahead six months and dreaming of the garden and fresh peas and tiny strawberries sweeter than anything I have ever tasted and you running around the trellis pulling beans off the vine. I checked the lettuce in the cold frames today and tiny tiny little lettuce sprouts are coming up in spite of the snow all around. It seemed like a miracle and it gave me a little hope that spring will come again and things might get a little easier.
Everyone told me that 18 to 24 months were the worst and that 2 year olds were really nothing compared to those tough months. That and 3 year olds. Three is supposed to be just awful but this last month has been so grueling that it is hard to think it could be worse than this. I suppose that you adjust to your realities and if this is my life right now I'll just have to find a way to live with it. But, oh, you have put us through the ringer this month. For starters, you are back to waking up at the crack of dawn. And the independent streak I knew was going to surface because your father and I are just a wee bit stubborn ourselves (your father would say it is just me) has at last fully emerged and it is a beast. "No, I do it," entered your vernacular two weeks ago and really everything has gone downhill since then. Everything, and I mean everything, must be done on your terms. Getting dressed involves high levels of negotiations I didn't know possible. I am fairly certain that a pack of mothers of two year olds would be able to settle the Mideast peace talks in pretty quick fashion because the mechanics of just getting out the door in the morning are truly incredible. I was talking to someone the other day about the decision to have kids and he noted that no one ever wants to be totally honest and say they don't want kids if they already have them. I agreed that this was true but noted that you usually cannot give your kid back once you have them.
But I don't want to give you away. I love you too much. I love your unruly hair and the way that you say, "Hey! There's some lights!" as we drive around looking at Christmas lights. It's a good thing that people in Salt Lake leave their lights up for weeks and weeks after Christmas because you absolutely love looking at lights and for once I can drive around with you largely entertained. I also love that you have now watched The Polar Express approximately 78 million times in the last three weeks and can now quote large portions of the movie while watching it. I love our new game where you suddenly yell out, "I know!" and I ask, "What do you know?" and you respond, "I know I love you!" because I said this to you once and you found it hilarious. I realized the other day that you don't volunteer a lot of information when you talk to us; you just repeat what you have heard us say.
I love that you tell me you want Santa to bring you a Toby train because I suggested you might want to tell Santa that when you met him. When you did meet Santa, you were amazingly composed and quite ready to go through the motions; perhaps this was because we had talked about it for a week and rehearsed what you were supposed to do. You walked right up to him, turned around so he could put you in his lap and approximately five seconds later you were done. This didn't surprise me really since you like to do everything with great speed - slide down stairs, run down the street, sing songs (jingle bells song very very very fast! is a frequent request in the car) and eat your meals, if you eat at all. Of course, if I ask you to do something like walk out to the car you suddenly adopt a snail's pace. In any case, your contact with Santa was brief but this has not stopped you from being very excited every time you see his face, a figurine, lawn ornament or advertisement on television.
Getting ready for Christmas this year has been an exercise in great restraint for me because I have this overwhelming desire to get you everything, if not to see your face light up, but also to have some new toys to distract you from your general crankiness with the world. Isn't that a terrible Christmas wish? Actually, I have found that this year, even more than last year, I am prone to choke up over the smallest things because it seems that when people talk about seeing "Christmas through your kid's eyes," you actually can. For a long time I thought it was odd that people would say, "Oh Christmas will be fun now that you have a kid," because I have always really loved Christmas. But I have found that you have made it a million times sweeter. And so perhaps I should tell that person I was talking to to have a kid just for the wonder of seeing Christmas with you. Although you still don't quite get the whole Santa/stockings/presents deal you are so excited about everything from the tree to the tree lights to the stockings and the smoking men all lined up on the mantelpiece. You even asked to watch a Charlie Brown Christmas the other day, which thrilled me to no end because it is one of my favorites.
In a few days it will be Christmas and I hope you like your presents, 99% of which are Thomas related. I also hope you know how much your father and I love you. Becoming a parent makes you acutely aware of how lucky you are when you can give your kiddo the Christmas you always hoped you could give. When we pull in the driveway now coming home from school or errands or an outing, you shout, "home!" and I always think that is a nice way to come home. Home! Home! Home! I am so happy you and your father and Buddy and I are all in it together. Merry Christmas Little Bear.