Compiling Christmas

This was on my Quotations widget on my homepage this morning (without the picture, of course):

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.
Arnold Lobel

I did a search. My brain wasn't clicking on the right name, but I knew the name Arnold Lobel was in the file somewhere. Oh!!! Of course! It's the Frog & Toad guy! Those are the most wonderful books! Now, why didn't I know there was this little volume of verses? My children would have loved this book. I am going to have to go find a copy in the store and add it to my collection soon.

I do not currently have books to the ceiling, books to the sky in my office, however. Well, not really. I mean to say, the books to the ceiling, books to the sky are not the ones that were piled in here a couple of weeks ago because of school. I took all those books back to the library libraries from which they came. Next quarter, the piles will be compiled once again. (Best use of the word "compiled," don't you think? Compiling: verb, indicating an action taken with books, done by a researching student during the school term. Compile: To pile books higher and higher.)

About ten years ago, my daughter once threatened to switch my piles with the piles of a family friend - and then sit back and see how long it would take the two of us to figure out we were working on someone else's piles. (She's got a mean streak, that kid.) There are fewer piles in my house these days, though. I don't think it's less stuff - it's just more selective. Fewer categories of time and attention = fewer piles.

Piles I want to compile in the next few weeks are food piles. I want to make bits of things on sticks and toast dollops of things on little toast triangles, and then pile those up onto pretty plates on the table near the bottles of lovely things to drink. The Great Husband seems to be thinking along the same lines. He just sent me this picture of Stilton-Pear Crostini drizzled with pumpkin seed oil. That's what was on his home page this morning. (You can click the pic for the recipe.) See how the little crostini are piled up? There are only two, and yet the photographer/food stylist person felt the need to pile them. We're in a compiling time of year.

People compile lists of things at this time of the year. Gifts, and shopping items, and people being invited to the party. Soon, it will be annual resolutions - and receipts. My lists of compilation are mostly interior right now. I've been compiling memories and prayers and perspectives, largely due to the fact that I've now got three adult children who are spreading my inner world to four corners of the earth. It's an interesting thing nobody ever told me. If you expand your heart so that your children all have access to it, and yet are not confined by it -- if your heart allows their growth and their comings and goings and successes and failures as theirs, not yours -- then you end up expanded and pried open and broken and renewed much, much larger than you'd ever meant to be. It's very odd.

Right now, there is a pile of UPS and FedEx and USPS boxes compiled on a side table, unopened. I'll open them - wrap them - and that pile, all things sent to us by our soldier daughter, will become the bulk of our presents pile under the tree. It's a lean year - for us, and for a lot of people. Those expansive offspring have also expanded our financial obligations for now, and so their Christmas piles are going to be a collaboration between Santa and their soldier sister, with their parents providing bits of things on sticks -- and duck a l'orange -- so it's not like anyone's doing Christmas with Oliver Twist in a cellar or anything. There just won't be compiled toomuchstuff this year. No one will be sad, I'm sure.

We'll compile heaps of branches and clippings in the middle of the living room floor in a few days. Someone asked me if I was going to buy decorative greenery this year, and I had to tell 'em. I live on forty acres of decorative greenery. I just have to go outside and cut some of it. To that pile, I'll add a whole tree for decorating. That I'll have to buy - but I'll go and pick it out where it stands now, growing in the good Pacific Northwest earth, waiting for me to find it.

Then we'll pile up the boxes of decorations, and somehow, inevitably, there will be people in the living room, leaning to the left and right, watching the television while I walk back and forth between them and it. Why is that? Why is there something on the television when the tree is being decorated? Decorate it at another time, you'll say. Yeah, yeah. The theory's sound, but it just never works that way. It's one of life's mysteries - like the fact that the less distance there is to travel, the more likely you are to be late to an appointment. And when the tree is decorated and the various annually displayed oddments are nested into random bookshelves or perched on picture frames, the boxes will all be compiled in the cupboard for a few weeks until they're filled back up and stored away for the year.

Here we are, at the compiling time of the year. We heap up the piles of This Year's Stuff - or, I do, anyway. Look it over. Set it out where I can see it. Take some of it back to the libraries (seasonal work that's over now), throw some of it away (because some packaging's just packaging and how you learned that or where you did that isn't the point of it), wrap some of it for giving to others (right now, I'm very busy packaging a lifetime's study, learning, experience, and enjoyment for a suddenly larger Sunday School), and some of it gets displayed where everyone can see it.

But some of this year's compiling is private. After the shepherds came to worship the Baby, after they left and noised it all abroad, the Blessed Mother began a life that was about to hold all the pain and difficulty of the best of blessings. That Baby of babies was God, and she knew it. Yet she didn't feel the least bit like following the shepherds out the door to help them prove their story. She didn't show that tiny bundle to the folks in house after house, saying, "See him? This is the Incarnate God! Isn't it wonderful?"

No, the Blessed Mother did something I am very glad the Evangelist included in the story. I'm glad I know about this part. I feel a particular fellowship with her this year. She "kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."

Some compiling is private. This year, on my fiftieth Christmas, pay no attention if you see me cry. I'm just compiling.

1 comment:

Wifsie said...

Great post! I love piles! Piles of laundry, of mail, and, my favorite, piles of BOOKS!
thanks for sharing this!