Last night Jack set fire to the Advent wreath.
It was a brief, small fire. The wreath is artificial, and plastic evergreens, as it turns out, burn slowly. Jack wanted so badly to light the first candle of Advent, but he doesn't know enough about matches to know to hold them sideways and not vertically. The flame consumed the match quickly and burned Jack's thumb. Jack dropped the still-lit match. The wreath caught fire. I blew it out.
You know, you plan things, you map them out, you dream of perfect results, and then real life kicks in. I had imagined the first Sunday of Advent as a holy day. I awoke early to read some Advent devotions. Jack woke early, too. So did Will. Will wanted to watch TV. I said no. Will threw a fit. I sent him to his room. Jack set up camp in my favorite reading chair. I barked at him to get out. Holy, holy, holy, indeed.
My husband had to be out of the house all afternoon. I planned on finishing the last bit of the sweater I'm making for my brother. I planned to knit in a meditative sort of way and think about hope and joy. For the last two months, my children have been wonderfully self-sufficient, so I thought I could get away with this. But yesterday they couldn't leave me alone for two seconds, couldn't find a thing to do that didn't involve me driving them somewhere or supervising. I didn't sit down to knit until 9 p.m.
I have found that when I want most to connect to the spiritual side of things, I am least able to. I think that happens to a lot of people at Christmas time. You want to feel the Christmas spirit, and what you end up feeling is irritable and cranky and hateful. You want to wait for the light, but what you're mostly waiting for is for everyone to leave you the heck alone.
Today, I'm not going to try so hard. I'm going to read my devotions and take a walk. I'm going to bake Christmas cookies and put them in the freezer. In the afternoon, I'll see if Will wants to help me bake banana bread. I'll try not to scream at the children too much for being, well, children. And I'll try to remember that Christmas is a beginning, not an end unto it itself. The light remains even after the last Advent candle burns out (or the wreath does).