It's my great delight to invite my dear sister, Kathy, to share a Guest Post about a memory at Christmas that's special to her own family.
by Kathy Hillacre
When my three sons were wee lads, our celebration of Advent centered around the handcrafted felt calendar which would hang on the kitchen door. I took much joy from sharing with my youngsters the ritual of the daily calendar activity. They took turns choosing the decorated felt circle that would represent each passing day.
As they grew, there was always a bit of jockeying for the privilege of starting the calendar and one year, the eldest discovered that if he waited to be third in the ranking, he would be the one to put up the last circle, the large one that depicted the manger scene and marked the day they were most excited about: Christmas Eve, which in our house, meant Presents!!
In between the high excitement of the beginning and the end, there would often come a period the doldrums. If the calendar would have been hanging in a sailing ship, those days would have been marked by a distinct lack of wind; going nowhere fast!
The circles went up one by one, inching closer to the climax, but still there were teeth to brush, school to attend, chores, and homework to do -- the humdrum of daily life. Some days, a feeling of exhaustion and frustration hung in the air, enough already, let’s just skip to the end. But, in its own good time, the end never failed to arrive, with a kind of a great exhalation, a release of all the pent-up energy, a big sigh of relief and happiness.
Suddenly, it was Christmas Eve, with presents to open, new jammies for bedtime, reading of the familiar Gospel account of Luke 2, stockings with treats on Christmas morning, and feasting with extended family.
The calendar would hang, completed, for a few more days, ignored now by the youngsters. But for me, there was a great satisfaction to see it, every circle in its place, twenty-four themes, some grand and some mundane, but all speaking to me, with a thrill, of past, of present, and of the hope of best days yet to come. For after all the excitement had calmed, there remained the contemplation of the abiding reason for our celebrations, epitomized for me by the words of the apostle John (second last sentence in the King James Bible), Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Now my small boys are all grown men, and the calendar has lost its allure for them -- but not for me. Every year, the calendar grows more cherished; it reminds me with startling poignancy of those early days of family life, of precious, precious times, now just memories made misty by the swirl of time.
The calendar also serves as a link to my own childhood, as I cannot think of Advent without at least a passing thought of my grade 4 teacher, Miss Grandfield, as it was she who made the season come alive with a deeper, broader meaning than my 8-year-old self had hitherto been aware of. I take the greatest pleasure now in being the one who places the circles each day. And the thrill of the large circle with the nativity scene never palls!
The calendar is almost thirty years old, made of simple things like felt and bits of ribbon and sparkle, the love and care of its creator still evident in the way it has endured through the years. Year after faithful year, it constantly offers me the opportunity to fix my thoughts on the steadfast and eternal messages of joy, of peace, of divine goodwill to all humankind. It seems to relish its symbolic sacred duty as the gatekeeper of this marvelous season of anticipation. And I am grateful!
Kathy enjoys a quiet life of home and family. She occasionally blogs at Endlessly Delicious. Every year, she is grateful to Brenda, her sister, for the idea and the creating of the Advent calendar that has become such a treasure.