Christmas wish lists and the people who write them are a lot alike. Over the course of time, they both change: from bicycles to blenders, from blenders to memories of Christmas past, from childhood to parenthood, and from parenthood to memories of Christmas past.
Tonight is Christmas Eve, and I am with Mama and Daddy. I am always home for Christmas. In my entire life, I have neither been with anyone else nor been anywhere else this time of year. I’m always at home with them. My brother is with his wife and children. They’ll come to Mama and Daddy’s tomorrow, and we’ll celebrate together. But tonight, it’s just the three of us.
I’m the last to go to bed. The folks have been asleep for some time. One of them is snoring. I peak in their room, and all I see are two motionless mounds of bedding and linen. Neither of them stirs. I can safely bet there will be no clandestine activity during the middle of the night in order to offer proof that Santa Claus was here. It’s almost the New Year, 2008. Not, 1978. Hence, no toys will be left by the Christmas tree for surprised eyes to see. No snacks have been left on the kitchen table for an after-hours “do-gooder” who ventures inside the house with a sack full of toys. No Christmas morning debris, including an empty Coca-Cola bottle and paper plate, will be strategically scattered in the driveway to demonstrate Santa’s carelessness in dashing away.
Times have changed. So while Mama and Daddy sleep soundly, it’s just The Weather Channel and me. Me and a passing low-pressure system that has produced partly cloudy skies, mild temperatures and slight precipitation. The yuletide routine isn’t the same as it was thirty years ago. I’m not the same as I was thirty years ago. And, my wish list is much different than it was thirty years ago.
My letter to Santa Claus doesn’t ask for a new basketball. No sense in getting a portable phonograph. No interest in a cell phone or laptop computer. My wish to Santa Claus is to just be home for Christmas next year with my family. And the year after. And the year after. I’m not sure I would ever be satisfied being here at Mama and Daddy’s house without them. The inviting sense of home would be missing. Food wouldn’t taste the same. The house wouldn’t smell the same. The same brown paneling, the same pictures, the same recliners, and the same floral arrangements, which have shared residence all these years, just wouldn’t be the same. The worst part about being home at Christmas without my parents? If it’s just The Weather Channel and me, it means I’m alone. And if I’m alone, it means I’m no longer someone’s child. I’m no one’s son anymore. I no longer belong to anyone.
During the course of our lives, we assume many roles that seemingly define who we are. Job titles, social positions, and romantic relationships consume our time and require commitment. These roles detail and outline both responsibilities and entitlements. And regardless of the role, each necessitates a status level or label. But, it is the status as child that implies an inherent claim to belonging. Sons and daughters belong to mothers and fathers: all over the world, in times past, and in times to come.
In a world rife with conflict, despair, turmoil, and fear, one of the greatest sources of strength is a sense of belonging. In a world equally filled with miracles, magic, and wonder, one of the greatest joys is the ability to celebrate with those who share our lives. To celebrate with those to whom we belong.
For when we belong, we have access to guardianship and safekeeping. As long as we remain someone’s child, we live in the safe shadows of those who accept our shortcomings, imperfections, disappointments, joys, successes, and triumphs as their own. As children, life’s journey is less the challenge because parents provide the ease and comfort of transition and progress. As long as we remain someone’s child, we belong and we are never alone.
Though complicated, my wish list is short. Surely, St. Nick can figure out the logistics of filling my stocking with an eternal wish: to remain my parents’ son and to always belong. Delivery of this special wish shouldn’t be a problem for Santa and his reindeer this night. According to The Weather Channel, a high-pressure system is moving into the area later in the evening. Clear skies are forecast.