LOCAL VIEW —Christmas Homesickness—

December has been snowless so far, and I’m rather enjoying it. Last year we’d already had enough snow to shovel, and I was numbering the storms. Even though a warm wave was in the long range, and it turned out we had a green Christmas (with bluebirds and robins in the yard as the yearly Christmas miracle), it also seemed down in my bones that we were in for a test, and spring would be a long time coming, and I was right.

This year has been kinder, (though I feel the end of the winter may have a lot of snow). I actually am rotor-tilling the spring garden, and we’ve gotten some late house painting done. Considering I work a lot more slowly than I used to, I like having extra days to be ready for the time the snow clamps down and life becomes more limited.

I don’t relish storms the way I once did.
Perhaps this simply goes with aging.
I’m in the driver’s seat, don’t want to skid,
And have burdens enough without raging
Winds and whirling snows. When you’re young the blows
Fall on others, streets are cleaned by magic,
Hot water comes from the shower and flows
Over you, and you need not get tragic
About how you must cut wood to heat it,
Nor even think much about food on the table.
So the ease gets boring, and to defeat it
Youth makes problems, challenges it’s able
To feel vain about conquering, until years
Teach that life’s best without brewing such fears.

One thing I deal with every day, because I run a Childcare, is the problems modern parents have doing something as normal and natural as to have children and raise them. To me family seems more like a “given”, than a “problem”. To call family a problem is like calling the ground we walk upon a problem. Family is simply there, and it is amazing to me the degree some are able to make it not be there.

Often both parents work, and their child is dropped off at Childcare at 7:00 AM and then not picked up until 5:30 PM. To me it seems so much time is spent working to pay for a house that hardly any time is left to make it a home.

The kids seem to get especially homesick during the dark days of December. Perhaps the homesickness happens because the all-pervading, ever-present Christmas music is so suggestively sentimental about home, with songs like “I’ll be home for Christmas”, but I also think it is during the dark days that a warm hearth, and keeping home fires burning, becomes especially meaningful. During the long days of summer the outdoors is welcoming, but during the early dusk of December a warm place by a fire, (hopefully with cookies and cocoa), becomes a solace to the human spirit, especially if you are a little child, in a big and sometimes frightening world.

Parents sometimes seem to spend even less time at home around Christmas, as they work overtime to afford presents, and then go to malls to shop for the presents, seemingly quite unaware that small children can have just as much fun with a cardboard box as what comes in the box, and have a deep craving for the parents themselves.

What the kids seem to need most is the interactions. But parents get fooled. A kid who has been happy for hours may throw a fit as soon as the parent arrives to pick them up. It is as if the child has been saving all sorts of grievances up, and dumps on the parent the moment they appear. The parent is fooled because all they hear are demands for chocolate and dolls and bikes and computer games and what-have-you, but that is not what is really important to the kid. What is important is the interaction. What is important is the parent. Parents need to be told this, because they too often tend to feel their child only cares about stuff, and not them.

I get to see what the parents don’t, which is that sometimes a child is homesick and sulking, and is asking over and over, “When is Mom coming?” or “Is it soon that Dad will be here?”

During these dark days I often build a bright and cheery fire in the pasture, as much as for the light as for the warmth, but today the final kids were not all that cheered by its flames.

Boy by Fire IMG_1511

What I heard from the kids was basically, “I want to go home,” over and over. To a certain degree I could distract them with gathering wood, and making an especially big fire, and stirring the coals and making showers of sparks rise into the purpling sky like fireworks. But, as I thought, watching the kids, I got to thinking about how “I want to go home” is such a powerful part of Christmas, even when one gets old like me.

She was dying but didn’t really know it
And as I visited her the past seemed
More present than the present. She’d show it
By how she saw me as one dimly dreamed
About, while her childhood home’s least detail
Was vivid. It made me think about how
We launch from the nest, yet strangely fail
To ever leave it. Her old, care-worn brow
Had ever fretted over slung arrows
Of worry, and yet now mere memory
Soothed and smoothed it. I wonder what narrows
Our lives, and what it is that sets us free?
For the farther we wander and restlessly roam
The more we are yearning to find a way home.

Of course, I don’t subject small children to my sonnets. (I’d likely get arrested for child abuse.) Instead I decided that, if I couldn’t beat them, I’d join them, and I started to sing songs about wanting to go home. There are a lot of them.

They liked “Sloop John B”, though you would think children couldn’t relate to sailors getting thrown into jail for being too rowdy in Nassau. However kids always surprise me with their ability to regurgitate adult music that you might think was miles over their heads. (I knew one small girl who, at age four, had what was seemingly a photographic memory, when it came to country music she heard on her father’s radio, and, in a sweet, piping voice, would sing about picking up babes at a bar.)

Abruptly a memory came back to me of the first Christmas after my own parents split up, and of how at age eleven I memorized a song miles above my head, that was a hit on the radio at that time, and could belt it out at the top of my lungs. The kids liked it as much as “Sloop John B”.

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