The house is clean for the second and last time 2016. Relatives have arrived and for the next few days I get to be called mom and call someone else mom. Our slightly lopsided potted tree that will go outside and spring is covered with quirky homemade ornaments and reminders of special years — our first Christmas together, Our first year with Thing1 and then Thing2. The tree and the collection of gifts in the basket in front of it are smaller these days — part of an effort to focus more on presence and less on presents.
I’m sitting here listening to grandparents unpack and smelling tonight’s slow cooker peasant food and the world outside our door disappears. I’m making a choice to delete social media apps from my phone for the next few days to focus on moments we’ll want to remember in the months to come. The only connection I want to have with the outside world and the next two days is when my mom and kids and I (my dad will certainly be asleep by then) sit down on the couch after our holiday feast and put on the Sound of Music as we did every year growing up when much of the country watched it on TV every Christmas night.
That movie inspire so many revelations each time we watch it. I find myself thinking not just about following dreams, but about how the redeeming power of love, about courage it takes to get off the sidelines and about small acts of defiance against injustice. Mostly what I think about is that while bad times in history can indeed be very hard, and they can last for a long time, but they don’t last forever.
As 2016–a year marked by uncertainty and rancor draws to a close, I don’t harbor any illusions that things will suddenly get better. I don’t know what it will take to get our nation past the divide or when or how we will lift up the most vulnerable among us instead of fearing them and each other. When we sit down to watch our favorite holiday movie on Sunday, however I’m going to remind myself and my kids that, with courage and hope, things do get better. That would be the best gift they could take into the new year.