Today’s post in the Advent series Let Us Wait As Children Wait, is written by Bonnie D. Harr. Bonnie is a singer, poet, psalm-writer and artist, clothed in the vocational garments of a clinical nurse specialist and Christian psychotherapist. She is known for her work in creating healing spaces and possibility places within the context of brokenness, or for those challenged in life by disease, relational struggles, spiritual complexities and unanswered questions. Bonnie lives with her husband near Pittsburgh, PA.
At a time just before Christmas when we were rushing around preparing for the larger family to gather for all the December birthdays — his included — my only son, approaching his birthday, clutched my hand and said, “Slow down Mommy, you’re going too fast to be my best friend today! Everything will happen, just slow down, and wait with me.” His words literally stopped me in my tracks! Sensing a larger than life moment, I asked him then, “What will we do if I slow down?” His answer was simple and profound. “We’ll light candles and drink our sparkling apple cider out of your special glasses and wait.”
I was in the middle of cleaning out the hall closet to prepare for the arrival of guests who would need a place to hang their coats. I looked at the blue-eyed towhead before me and knew there was nothing in this world more important than lighting candles and drinking sparkling cider from my good crystal glasses with this child. A deeper glance told me that the years were passing all too swiftly, and that someday soon I might long to have a candlelight chat with a grown son who might not want to have one with me. I turned out the light in the hallway, and the light in my heart simultaneously affirmed that I was making a right choice.
I got two champagne flutes down — my very best — and the bottle of sparkling cider I had been saving for the celebrations. I sent my child to the drawer where candles are kept, asking him to select his favorite two. He reminded me we needed four of them and a fat one for the middle. “It’s mine and Dad’s birthday coming up,” he said, “but Jesus’ birthday is the big one. I want to light His candles!” And so, four unmatched candles and a fat one, found their way onto our dining room table, as my child sorta-kinda reminded me that three of the candles should be alike, and one different, but we didn’t have three alike!
As our small ritual advanced, the boy decided we needed a sparkling dish, too — something to put a “wee-snack” on. I invited him to make the selection, and we ended up with peanuts on the dish between us. In the soft golden light of it all, he decided something was still missing. I waited, watching the wheels spin in his mind. “We need a special doily, maybe one of Gran’s to put under everything.” I knew this meant digging through the cedar chest to find one of many treasures my mother has crocheted over the years, but off we went together to find the doily. He chose my favorite of them all, and we came back to the table to undo what we had previously done and place the doily beneath everything. It was time to light the candles.
“Will you teach me how to light them?”, he asked. We had a rather firm rule about matches in our home, and we had promised that a time would come when we would teach him to use them correctly. I knew the time had come. It took a while. In fact, it took a long while. I taught; he practiced. The match did not light. I taught; he practiced. He was afraid he would burn his fingers — and so was I; I worked hard to not feed his fears. I taught; he practiced. He decided something was wrong with the matches, so I struck and lit one! “WAIT!!!” he shouted. He tried again, to no avail. Finally, a match ignited. The priceless look on his face, the glow in his eyes, was worth the wait! He carefully lit one candle, blew out the match and looked at me. I wasn’t sure what was rolling through his little mind, so I waited. “Only one candle before Daddy’s birthday on the first of December. That’s how I remember it. We have to wait to light the other ones, and we have to slow down and do it right.”
In that moment, I realized that what I had hunched before about three matching candles and a different one, was right. With fanfare created in his own way, my little son was talking about Advent.
As we shared our cider and peanuts that evening, I let him lead the conversational way. We talked about many things — why we cry when we’re happy and when we’re sad; that peanuts and “even raisins” might taste better from a crystal bowl; why it was okay and yet sad “once in a while” to be an only child; why he was afraid some nights to go to sleep — “it was that movie three years ago on the kids channel” — hmmm…; my pigeon walk — “You do walk funny, Mom, but I think it’s in style now”; and then we got to his point of that particular evening.
“Mommy, sometimes I feel bad because all my friends have really dark hair, and I have this color. I’m so different.” I felt it all. I left my chair to kneel at eye level with him, as I noted the candlelight beaming in his glistening eyes and the golden fire-sheen dancing through his equally golden head of hair. “I’m so sorry you are hurting,” I whispered. I waited watching him struggle with intense feelings. “My sweetness, you are different, and you are special — so very special to God and to Daddy and me. A lot of people have hair like mommy’s, but yours is like the sunshine or the moonbeams. Yours is how mommy imagines the angels’ hair to be. It is so beautiful to me.” He started nodding his head. I continued as he looked right at me with what he calls “almost tears”. “Remember that sometimes being different is very special to someone, or for someone. When I come to pick you up at school, I can always find your head bouncing among all the others because your hair picks up a different light! That is so special for me!”
It was his turn to jump off his chair and throw tight arms around my neck. “I love you, Mommy,” he shuddered through his almost tears. He immediately turned around and blew out the candle, went to the wall switch and turned on the lights. “I have to write something”, he said. What he wrote was worth waiting for, keeping and treasuring to this day. The next day, he followed it up with a post-it note on the refrigerator door, right near the handle. That note was worth returning to after I dropped him off at school.
You see, everything will happen if we just slow down and wait. Advent, like my child that day, invites us to do just that. Our God has written his love note in a sparkling eyed babe who lights flames of adoration, each time we wait anew, for His return to us again. Let us, then, slow down and wait. bharr © 11/21/12