In a dream I heard a voice saying “fear not, come rejoice
It’s the end of the beginning, praise the new born king”
“Christmas Must Be Tonight” by The Band
This is one of my favourite Christmas songs and when I hear it? I drive my husband B crazy by singing, over and over, “How a little baby boy brought the people so much joy”! So much joy, in a baby boy, and in the Christmas season.
It’s interesting that Robbie Robertson chose the above words to describe this season of rebirth: “the end of the beginning”. A riddle, a play on words, perhaps? For what else can occur at the beginning’s end, but another beginning? As American novelist Louis L’Amour once wrote, “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.”
As a child, on Christmas Eve, did you not just plead for the dang night to be finished? The anticipation was unbearable; you did not know the anticipation was the point.
Remarkably, my favourite Santa gift came by rocketship not sleigh. It was 1965, I was 7. The space race was on and there’d been no snow so far for Santa’s sleigh to work properly. Adults in varying stages of drunkenness, some of them smelling exotically of cigarette smoke – my parents did not smoke and I did not know yet I was allergic to it – took turns coming into my room to settle me down, give my parents a break. Pulling aside my ballerina curtains, they’d peer out my window to spin fantastic stories of Santa’s rocketship being on the way: “Oh, there! I think I see it way off! Lights in the sky! Lay quiet. Listen.”
I was afraid to look myself; he’d see me, not come. Far too excited to do my normal kid-mind-trickery to get to sleep – picking a word, like say “bay”, then perusing the entire alphabet to see how many words rhymed with it – I lay there vibrating, eyes twitching, ears trying to drown out Hank Snow on the Hi-Fi: “I wonder where you are tonight.” I pictured the adults out there in the living room, all dressed up, spinning around – one, one-two – like the way my dad taught me to dance, standing on his shoes, one hand holding his hand, the other holding his pocket. Why can’t I stay up later? And where, exactly, is Santa tonight?
I slept, eventually, and, like every child on Christmas morning, at the first sign of daybreak – or perhaps the first sound of a sibling – I raced from my bed. Down the hall with my brother to see, shining, glowing under the tree: a golden piano?! For me? How on earth could Santa know I wanted a gold piano when I didn’t even know myself? It was truly magic of the highest order.
No natural musical talent here, though. I wasn’t like Springsteen in “Thunder Road”: “Well I got this guitar (gold piano), and I learned how to make it talk.” Squawk maybe? Or, to put it more succinctly: plink. Plink, plink, plink. But she was a beaut, that golden goddess, and she stayed around long after losing her legs, and I’d slouch over her, like Schroeder on Peanuts, pretending.
Pretending, like childhood, can end. Hormones turned me into a serious, sullen teenager, distantly observing Christmas through the eyes of my much younger sister. Tolerating family moments to get to the moments that mattered: time with friends, listening to hard rock, talking our talk.
My own early parental years were a frantic blur of activity and lists: decorations, gifts, groceries, Xmas cards, all while working full time. I wondered: Where is the time for wonder?
And now that I’m older, with less actual time ahead, ironically, I feel I have more time, for time, for wonder. Slowly hauling out decorations and placing them with care, painting a hairy beast and turning it into a Xmas card, spending an entire afternoon Xmas shopping with B even though there really aren’t that many on the list anymore.
The end of the beginning? The beginning of the end?
The omniscient eye of Santa is now the omniscient eye of the Creator. Year after year, laying a dying season to rest, making way for something new.
But, as time diminishes, who needs an entire year for renewal? Twenty-four hours could be enough?
Here’s my journal entry from December 1st: December is here, with all its madness, its hyper-active energy, its fun. There is a beautiful orange bruise on the eastern horizon this morning. Day! It’s happening again! Something to be joyful for, yes? Another day.
Another day. Another year. Savour the season, every sparkling moment of it.